Windbag the Sailor was filmed just after Hay went on an eclipse cruise and I’ve often wondered if he got some good ideas from that trip! I only realised how funny Hay’s films must have been in their day when I was invited to the launch of Graham Rinaldi’s biography of Hay. I’d helped with some astronomical data and managed to get a copy of Hay’s ‘Inkstain Theory’ comedy script to Graham (it was hidden in the RAS library!) So I was invited to the book launch in May 2009, at the BFI, which included a cinema screening of ‘Where’s that Fire?’ in front of an audience of about 200 people.
Hay’s films on DVD are highly amusing, but in front of a cinema audience they are hysterically funny. I’d simply not appreciated how funny they were just watching the DVDs, but they were clearly designed to trigger uncontrollable fits of laughter in front of a 1930s (and 2009) cinema audience. The chap in the row in front of me at the BFI was laughing so much he was in physical pain!
Clearly Hay was a master at making cinema audiences roll with laughter, something that I’d not fully appreciated until I had seen a Hay film shown to a cinema audience, as opposed to watching a DVD.