Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Classic Corner

The man behind the classic Ealing Comedies, Sir Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness has often been hailed as one of the greatest actors to have graced the silver screen, and after finally getting round to some of the 50s Ealing Comedies I had lying around, I can easily see why. The first of these comedy films I got round to watching was The Ladykillers.

The Ladykiller's brilliant storyline might be a bit dated, which is why the Coen Brother's tried (and ultimately failed) to do a remake, but you can't help but love this film. Five criminals succeed in robbing a truck, but then have the tough task of murdering the elderly woman who unknowingly played a part in the robbery. Every single member of the cast shines beautifully in their roles, especially Danny Green and Katie Johnson, but Alec Guinness' witty and all round creepy character "Professor" Marcus is wonderful to watch. If the character didn't utter a single word, Guinness' facial expressions still could've carried the film. The best scenes in the film come nearer the end, but I won't ruin it for everyone who needs to see this wonderful film.

In a completely different type of role, one of Alec Guinness' earlier Ealing roles sees him play inventor Sidney Stratton in The Man In The White Suit. Guinness' character is a stark contrast to "Professor" Marcus, which just highlights his ability and talent as an actor. After Stratton invents a fabric that won't get dirty and won't wear away, the clothing factories set out to stop him, as their business' would be in danger of going bust. It's a totally original storyline, and one I was interested in watching, and it just about manages to stretch out to the 80 minute run time. It's gently amusing, but not as funny as other Ealing classics, but Guinness is superb again as a shy and seemingly paranoid inventor. Shy and paranoid Guinness is something he pulls off with great effect, and he takes that role into the film The Lavender Hill Mob.

The Lavender Hill Mob is another crime comedy, which sees four men (two already criminals) try and cleverly export gold right under the authorities noses into France, where they can sell it for a whole lot of money. Guinness portrays a genius in disguise, Henry "Dutch" Holland, who works for a bank, in charge of gold bullion. He comes up with a plan after meeting Pendlebury, who owns a foundry that melts led into certain paper weights. The whole film is wonderful to watch, after a jumpy start, and the scene where the criminals (including the great Sid James) steal the gold is classic cinema. One of the best comedies I've seen, let alone one of the best Guinness films around. I'm still yet to see Kind Hearts and Coronets, but if it's anything like these three that I've seen, then I'm definitely in for a treat.

Sir Alec Guinness was a wonderful actor, who made fantastic films, and was best known in his latter days for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. His films and legacy will live on, and rightly they should.

Ladykillers - 8/10
Man In The White Suit - 7/10
Lavender Hill Mob - 8/10

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