Spare a Copper
Song sheet
Directed byJohn Paddy Carstairs
Written byBasil Dearden
Roger MacDougall
Austin Melford
Produced byMichael Balcon
Basil Dearden
StarringGeorge Formby
Dorothy Hyson
Bernard Lee
John Warwick
CinematographyBryan Langley
Edited byRay Pitt
Music byLouis Levy
Distributed byABFD
Release dates
December 1940 (London, UK)
14 April 1941 (UK general release)
Running time
77 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Spare a Copper is a 1940 British black-and-white musical comedy war film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring George Formby, Dorothy Hyson and Bernard Lee. It was produced by Associated Talking Pictures. It is also known as Call a Cop. The film features the songs, "I'm the Ukulele Man", "On the Beat", "I Wish I Was Back on the Farm" and "I'm Shy".[1] Beryl Reid makes her film debut in an uncredited role, while Ronald Shiner appears similarly uncredited, in the role of the Piano Mover and Tuner.[2]

Working on the film as associate producer and writer, this production was an early assignment for director Basil Dearden: "it was relatively easy to fit the Formby films into the new demands thrown up by the war: whereas George had typically had to overcome rogues and villains in his 1930s films, these were now simply replaced by spies and saboteurs".[3][page needed]

The film title is a pun, using the colloquial term "copper" meaning a policeman, with the longer phrase "spare a copper" used by beggars - meaning can you spare a penny (which I might have).


Formby plays a bumbling War Reserve police officer called George Carter who aspires to become a member of the flying squad. The film is set in Merseyside where the battleship HMS Hercules is being built. A group of saboteurs are planning to blow it up. George manages to foil them. One of the saboteurs, called "Jake", is played by Bernard Lee. The saboteurs include fellow police officers who plan to shoot Formby in a remote area but he escapes in a motorised toy car. A crazy chase ensues ending in Formby going round and round a wall of death before foiling the plot.


Critical reception


  1. ^ a b "Spare A Copper". Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Spare a Copper (1940)". BFI Film & TV Database. 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Burton, Alan; O'Sullivan, Tim (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748632893.
  4. ^ "Spare A Copper Trailer, Reviews and Schedule for Spare A Copper |". Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Spare a Copper 1940". Britmovie. Retrieved 23 February 2014.