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Monday, November 11, 2013

Down-and-Out Blokes Breach a Bank


Rooting For The League Of Gentlemen (1960)

Jack Hawkins reunites disgraced military officers to knock over a London bank. This could have been a bigger score if one-time interested Cary Grant had pulled the trigger, but script drafts wouldn't firm him prior to commitment elsewhere (Grant later broke Hammer's heart by flirting with, then backing off, their Phantom Of The Opera re-do). The League Of Gentlemen was a caper where the robbery is less important than reasons for each participant getting involved. A mid-section scam played on an army base could well have inspired similar episodes in later The Dirty Dozen. Brit critics felt Gentlemen had it all over Yank effort at the same theme, to wit Ocean's 11, which they regarded a poor copy. Humor is never at a distance; The League Of Gentlemen isn't British noir in customarily grim sense. We'd actually like seeing these blokes get away with it (trade reviewers pointed out as much), but Code policy still in 1960 effect wouldn't permit scot-freeing them, at least insofar as a US release.


There was, interestingly, one Minneapolis showman who cited the unsatisfactory wind-up in his League ads, admitting to patronage that the censor-imposed end weakened what was "not a great movie," but one at least "thoroughly entertaining." London locations are said to represent the place before sweeping 60's change was made, so League was nostalgia for those who'd recall simpler time. Pounds and quid weren't readily translated by statesiders, that hobbling US prospects; in fact, it was independent distributor Kingsley International that handled The League Of Gentlemen over here (Edward Kingsley also picked up a Brigitte Bardot, La Verite, which he retitled The Naked Truth, during the same oversea shopping trip). The League Of Gentlemen had makings for wide appeal, but booked mostly into art houses (maybe the pound/quid thing slowed it); biz was brisk at some places, slow in others. In Los Angeles, it supported Tammy Tell Me True in a saturation opening (see ad here), that combo at the least a startling study in contrasts. Now it's US-sold on DVD through Criterion's Eclipse line in a box with three other Basil Deardon-directed thrillers, all worthwhile.

2 Comments:

Blogger Robert Fiore said...

My favorite thief procedural. The best line is where Jack Hawkins is gazing wistfully at a portrait of his wife, and his accomplice asks if she passed away, and he answers "I regret to say the bitch is still going strong."

3:56 PM  
OpenID John said...

A film that started o.k. but seemed to get weaker as it progressed: the 'tripped-up-by-a-detail' ending is particularly disappointing and the great cast deserved better from the writers (who may been writing against the clock,as Brian Forbes said he did for a truly mediocre Alan Ladd effort ("The Black Knight")).

2:49 AM  

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