Thursday, June 20, 2013


George Bird, a tractor salesman, learns he has Lampington’s disease; his doctor tells him he has only weeks to live. As he has no wife, children, family or close friends to commiserate with, he decides to withdraw his savings and take a last holiday at a posh resort hotel. While there, he tells no one about his fate, and the workers and guests, mostly of a class higher that Bird's, begin to think of him as a man of mystery. Not only does he make friends and get respect, he wins money while gambling and discovers the potential for romance with the housekeeper Mrs. Poole. He gets a job offer, gives money to the Rockinghams who are in dire financial straits, and when the hotel staff goes on a 24-hour "sympathetic" strike, he takes the lead and gets all the guests to pitch in and keep things running. Then Dr. Lampington himself shows up at the hotel and when he finds out Bird's secret, tells him he has no signs of the disease and must have mis-diagnosed. Is this the beginning of a new chapter in Bird's life?

This pleasant comedy is almost a little too placid; believe me, I don’t need car chases or destructive slapstick to enjoy comedies, but this one could use some jolts of energy now and then. Still, it's fun (with dark edges), well written by J.B. Priestly, and the cast is superb, beginning with Alec Guinness as Bird in a subtle performance that I can imagine being bettered only by Peter Sellers. Other standouts: Kay Walsh (pictured with Guinness) as Mrs. Poole who is just right in the role of the self-possessed woman who almost falls for the sympathetic mystery man; Beatrice Campbell as Mrs. Rockingham who teeters on the verge of romancing Bird; Grégoire Aslan as Gambini the hotelkeeper; Brian Worth as Mr. Rockingham who, in a plotline that essentially goes nowhere, is involved in a currency smuggling scheme; Esma Cannon as Miss Fox, a shy downtrodden companion to a rich lady; and Ernest Thesiger as Lampington whose character has the potential to be quite eccentric (as most of Thesiger's roles are) but isn't fleshed out enough. Bernard Lee and Wilfrid Hyde-White also appear. It’s sweet and a little melancholy, and worth seeing. [DVD]

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