Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. United Kingdom, 1955. The Rank Organisation, Ealing Studios. Story and Screenplay by William Rose. Cinematography by Otto Heller. Produced by Michael Balcon. Music by Tristram Cary. Production Design by Jim Morahan. Costume Design by Anthony Mendleson. Film Editing by Jack Harris. Academy Awards 1955.
Positively hysterical comedy that makes for one of the very best of the Ealing films made in Britain in the fifties. Alec Guinness, under heavy makeup and a false Cheshire cat grin, rents a room from a doddering old lady (Katie Johnson), charming her with his gentlemanly ways. She insists that she does not mind when he asks if he can have his musician colleagues over for rehearsals, and she happily listens in her sitting room while the men upstairs play. Little does she know that they’re actually playing records while preparing for a robbery, one whose plan actually involves getting their hostess to help them (unwittingly), thinking her the world’s easiest dupe. When she begins to get wind of the situation, however, the tables are turned and just who is the smartest of them all is revealed. It works itself out with impeccably natural ease, chock full of witty sight gags and hysterical situations, plus it’s blessed by perfect performances. A real treat. Remade (vulgarly) by the Coen Brothers in 2004.