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A Pair of Briefs

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A Pair of Briefs
Theatrical poster by Renato Fratini
Directed byRalph Thomas
Written byKay Bannerman (play)
Harold Brooke (play)
Nicholas Phipps (screenplay)
Produced byBetty E. Box
Earl St. John
StarringMichael Craig
Mary Peach
Brenda De Banzie
James Robertson Justice
CinematographyErnest Steward
Edited byAlfred Roome
Music byNorrie Paramor
Distributed byJ. Arthur Rank Film Distributors
Release date
  • March 1962 (1962-03)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A Pair of Briefs is a 1962 British legal comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Michael Craig, Mary Peach, Brenda De Banzie and James Robertson Justice.[1] The screenplay concerns a newly qualified female barrister who clashes with a male colleague when they represent opposite sides in a matrimonial dispute.

The title is a double entendre, referring both to the documents setting out the case a barrister argues in court, and also to an item of underwear. The film title and opening credits are shown over a scene of the female barrister in her underwear as she dresses for the office, and the publicity poster illustrates this.


The "Brief" of the title refers to the document which a solicitor in the UK court system writes to instruct a barrister who will present their client's case in court. Barrister Tony Stevens, as a junior, bemoans the fact that he receives nothing but routine briefs concerning sewers, with small fees. So when a high-paying brief concerning a writ for "restitution of conjugal rights" is given to newly arrived Frances Pilbright (who just happens to be the niece of a senior barrister in the chambers and god-daughter of the instructing solicitor), Stevens is outraged, and, by devious means, obtains the brief for the opposite side in the case. Pilbright works fiercely for her client, a woman whose marriage was disrupted by World War II, with the registration office and its record of the marriage destroyed by bombing. The woman claims that another bombing raid caused her to lose her memory and she moved to another part of the country, and has only recently recovered her memory and the knowledge that she was married. Stevens advocates for the other side, the man whom she claims is her husband but who denies that they were ever married. The two barristers squabble in their offices and in court.

Pilbright, about to lose the case, makes a furious declaration in which she declares "the Law is an Ass!".[2] Stevens, seeing how upset she is, joins her in this, but in their zeal, they offend the presiding judge, Mr Justice Haddon, who tells them that he intends to have them severely disciplined.

Outside the court, Stevens overhears an exchange between the two parties to the case and discovers that they really were married, but in the intervening years the woman had married another man who has become very wealthy, and she brought the case with the intention that it should fail and "prove" that she had not married previously, so as to prevent her being charged with bigamy and to remove any possibility that her previous husband could make a claim against her newfound wealth. The two barristers are both annoyed to know that their clients deceived them, but they realize that they are in love.



It was Michael Craig's fifth film for Box and Thomas and the last movie he did under his contract with Rank. He called it "a dismal comedy" in which he and Mary Peach "did our best but the material was pretty thin and in spite of some extraordinary overacting by Ron Moody... and Brenda de Banzie, there weren't many laughs."[3]


  1. ^ "A Pair of Briefs (1962)". BFI.
  2. ^ A quote from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  3. ^ Craig, Michael (2005). The Smallest Giant: An Actor's Life. Allen and Unwin. pp. 97–98.
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