The Lavender Hill Mob
d. Charles Crichton / 1951 / UK / 81 mins
There really is nothing like a good Ealing comedy, and whilst The Lavender Hill Mob is essentially a heist drama, it shares those shades of consummate brilliance that typified the best Ealing output in the 1940s and ’50s. Deceptively simple, yet totally clever, it never sacrifices dramatic progression for cheap gags, surely one of the principle pitfalls of so many British comedies of the immediate post-war period.
Alec Guinness plays Henry Holland, a reliable, unassuming bank clerk charged with ensuring delivery of gold bullion to the Bank of England for over twenty years, whose growing dissatisfaction leads to the hatching of a fiendish retirement plan, and coincides with a chance encounter with artist and foundry owner Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), the one man who just might supply a way out.
Via what seems like an endless supply of brilliant set pieces, The Lavender Hill Mob rises above the usual generic fare with a constantly progressing narrative and Ealing’s trademark English whimsy. In fact, it’s little wonder that T.E.B. Clarke beat the likes of Terence Rattigan and John Steinbeck to the Best Original Screenplay at the 1952 Oscars, whilst also helping to secure Ealing’s second straight BAFTA Best British Film award following Basil Deardon’s success with The Blue Lamp in 1951.
Let me say it again, there really isn’t anything quite like a good Ealing comedy. Seriously.