Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (UK, 1951)


Directed by Charles Crichton. Marvelous Oscar-winning movie (Best Story and Screenplay by T.E.B. Clarke) was one of those priceless comedies (mostly from the Ealing Studios ) that made British screen humor triumph in the 1950s. Oscar-nominated Alec Guinness is a milquetoastish bank employee who dreams up one of those perfect crimes - a gold-bullion caper -- that never turn out to be perfect. Successful at first, the likable malefactors are thrown into a desperate, frustrating chase after incriminating evidence -- miniature Eiffel Towers. The hunt takes them to Paris, then back to England. There is wonderful irony as the film climaxes with the duo tracking down the last of the statuettes inside a Police show.

The acting by Guinness and Holloway is perfect. They are excellently supported by their acolytes Sidney James and Alfie Bass. Audrey Hepburn, then a bit actress in her fourth film, has a microscopic part. Thirteen years later, in "My Fair Lady," as a big star playing Liza Doolittle, she would be reunited with Stanley Holloway who played her father.

"Lavender" is a delight of witty structure and briskly economical pacing. Guinness had come to world-wide attention with his multiple roles in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949). With "The Lavender Hill Mob" the comic, idiosyncratic Guinness persona itself was launched, in all its variations of quiet diffidence, cunning, stubbornness and that famous half-smile that seems to say "I know something you don't know."

"The Man in the White Suit" followed that same year,was also nominated in the straight screenplay category. Then came othe comedies: "The Promoter," "The Captain's Paradise," " The Detective,"" The Lady Killers," plus others in which Guinness had all sorts of roles: serious, funny or in-between, all unique.

"Lavender" is the kind of movie where you root for the thieves, but in its period films lacked the gumption to come out with the conclusion that often "crime does pay."


Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel