Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951)

“Most men who long to be rich know inwardly that they will never achieve their ambition — but I was in the unique position of having a fortune literally within my grasp.”

Synopsis:
A seemingly meek bank clerk (Alec Guinness) who oversees the daily transport of gold bullion is inspired by his new housemate (Stanley Holloway) to secretly steal a shipment of gold and smuggle it overseas in the form of molded Eiffel Towers.

Genres:

Review:
Alec Guinness starred in four top-notch Ealing Studios comedies between 1949-1955: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Ladykillers (1955), and this delightfully comedic caper flick. What’s most appealing about TLHM is how utterly likeable its thieving protagonists are: despite knowing that they’re committing a crime of enormous monetary proportions, we can’t help genuinely rooting for them — especially given how roundly underestimated Guinness’s character is by his superiors during early scenes. Both Guinness and Stanley Holloway (as the two primary movers behind the heist) are in top form, and T.E.B. Clarke’s Oscar-winning screenplay is consistently clever, throwing just enough loopholes into the mix to keep us guessing what will happen next. While some find the final madcap car chase to be a bit of a cop-out, I think it’s a fitting ending to the increasingly surreal scenario in which Guinness and Holloway find themselves. Watch for a truly surprising final shot, which places the entire film in a different context.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Alec Guinness as Holland (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Stanley Holloway as Pendlebury
  • Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography
  • A deliciously witty script

Must See?
Yes, as another most enjoyable Ealing Studios comedy.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Lavender Hill Mob, The (1951)”

  1. A once-must – for its generally appealing quality as entertainment and for the performances given by Guinness and Holloway.

    Of the four Ealing Studios films mentioned above, I prefer ‘Kind Hearts…’ and ‘The Ladykillers’ and find them both superior to ‘The Man in the White Suit’ and ‘TLHM’. Not that the latter two are in any way terrible films (far from it). I just don’t find them to be quite as rich or as edgy in their humor.

    Having just rewatched ‘TLHM’, I found the plot to be amusing without being a whole lot more than that. Part of the reason for that, of course, is because I knew the simplicity of its plot – so there was less to discover (which runs in contrast to ‘Kind Hearts…’ and ‘Ladykillers’ – which both have more layers to them).

    That said… I was nevertheless able to get totally swept up in the acting of Guinness and Holloway, who are both very committed to what they’re doing and viewers can gain quite a bit from giving over to them. ~Guinness esp.; almost anytime I’m watching him in something, I’m sort of amazed by his skill. He really *is* an actor’s actor and tends to be a kind of joy to watch in action.

    And, true: the final shot is a gem!

    Note: Audrey Hepburn fans will no doubt be charmed by her cameo appearance in the film’s first few minutes.

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