A Shroud of Thoughts is the place to be this weekend for the 8th Annual Rule Britannia Blogathon courtesy of our host, Terence Towles Canote. Click on the highlighted blogathon title to access the contributions. My piece is a look at the old favourite from Ealing, The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.
"The events and characters portrayed in this film are fictitious and any similarity to any incident, name, or individual is coincidental."
The above disclaimer or any of its ilk make me somewhat dubious. Executives from The Bank of England helped devise the plot for The Lavender Hill Mob. The collaboration was pursuant to a request from journalist and novelist T.E.B. Clarke, who created many of the eccentric Ealing Studios comedies between 1943 to 1957. It makes one consider the inner life of bankers, doesn't it? Not to mention authors!
Alec Guinness as Mr. Holland (we may call him "Dutch") has carefully cultivated the persona of the loyal employee, the fussy little man with no imagination all the while devising schemes to rob his employers of the gold bullion under his watchful eyes. All that is required is a process in which the bullion may be smuggled to Europe.
When the artistic Mr. Pendlebury played by Stanley Holloway becomes the newest boarder at the Balmoral Residential Hotel on Lavender Hill, the way is clear. Pendlebury is the owner of Geegaws Ltd. His business is creating and selling souvenirs. The Eiffel Tower paperweights are a great seller in Paris. Pendlebury, like Holland, dreams of riches and is easily convinced to become a partner in the great bullion meltdown.
When Mr. Holland is kicked upstairs, that is promoted to an office job with an extra 15 shillings a week, plans for the robbery are rushed. Holland and Pendlebury ingenuously draw to themselves regular, working stiff crooks to assist in the caper. Enter Sidney James as Lackery and Alfie Bass as Shorty. They look to Holland as the boss and trust both Dutch and Pendlebury implicitly, babes in the woods though they may be.
While we cannot say with complete honesty that the heist goes off without a hitch, it does keep the police on their toes while the weeks pass, the bullion is transformed to mementos and the plan comes oh-so-close to fruition. We are so pleased to see that "Dutch" has made it to Rio de Janeiro and is obviously enjoying the good life. He has the regard of those who have an appreciation for his money, including the lovely and young Chiquita winningly played by 22-year-old Audrey Hepburn.
We quell our concern as our scheming dreamer relates the story of his misappropriation to an interested party. We know in our hearts that the interested party is in all likelihood a law enforcement official, but we hold onto the same hope we would have for ourselves in similar circumstances. What does that say about audiences and/or the paycheque to paycheque crowd?
The Lavender Hill Mob was directed by Charles Crichton who gave us the affecting drama The Divided Heart, 1954 along with great comedies through the years from The Golfer's Story segment in Dead of Night, 1945 to A Fish Called Wanda, 1988. The script is filled with sly asides and allusions, marvelous double-takes, and some delicious slapstick from Guinness, and the police who emulate their Keystone ancestors.
I selected this timeless classic for the 8th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon not only because it was one of my late father's favourites, but it has become one of mine over the years.