St Trinian's is a fictional boarding school for girls, the creation of English cartoonist Ronald Searle, that later became the subject of a popular series of comedy films.
In the 1950s, a series of St Trinian's comedy films was made featuring well-known British actors including Alastair Sim (in drag as the headmistress, but also playing her brother), George Cole as spiv "Flash Harry", Joyce Grenfell as Sgt Ruby Gates, a beleaguered policewoman, and Richard Wattis and Eric Barker as the civil servants at the Ministry of Education for whom the school is a source of constant frustration and nervous breakdowns. Searle's cartoons appeared in the films' main title design.
In the films the school became embroiled in various shady enterprises, thanks mainly to Flash, and, as a result, was always threatened with closure by the Ministry. (In the last of the original four, this became the "Ministry of Schools", possibly because of fears of a libel action from a real Minister of Education.) The first four films form a chronological quartet, and were produced by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. They had earlier produced The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), a stylistically similar school comedy, starring Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis, Guy Middleton, and Bernadette O'Farrell, all of whom later appeared in the St Trinian's series, often playing similar characters.
Barchester and Barset were used as names for the fictional county in which St Trinian's School was supposedly located in the original films.
St Trinian's is depicted as an unorthodox girls school where the younger girls wreak havoc and the older girls express their femininity overtly, turning their shapeless schoolgirl dress into something sexy and risqué by the standards of the times: skirts are short and show the tops of the dark stockings that the girls wear, and busts are emphasized by the cut of the tunic and shirt of the uniform. St Trinian's is often invoked in discussions about groups of schoolgirls running amok.
The St Trinian's girls themselves come in two categories: the Fourth Form, most closely resembling Searle's original drawings of ink-stained, ungovernable pranksters, and the much older Sixth Form, sexually precocious to a degree that may have seemed alarming to some in 1954.
In the films, the Fourth Form includes a number of much younger girls who are the most ferocious of them all. It is something of a rule of thumb that the smaller a St Trinian's is, the more dangerous she is--especially when armed, most commonly with a lacrosse or hockey stick--though none of them can ever be considered harmless.
In the first two films, St Trinian's is presided over by the genial Miss Millicent Fritton (Sim in drag), whose philosophy is summed up as: "In other schools girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world, but when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared." Later there were other headmistresses, including Dora Bryan in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery.
The Belles of St Trinians (1954)
Blue Murder at St Trinians (1957)
The Pure Hell of St Trinians (1960)
The Great St Trinians Train Robbery (1966)
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