Monday 15 December 1997
Every so often, a British film is released and desperate publicists invoke the word Ealing. In their dreams. The string of comedies produced by Ealing Studios were predicated on a view of England that is now unrecognisable in its economy, its politics, its social structures and, most importantly, its certainty. The studio closed on a high in 1955 with the brilliant black comedy, The Ladykillers, but this 1951 crime caper was a huge success from Ealing's peak, nabbing the Oscar for best screenplay. Alec Guinness (who lost the Oscar to Gary Cooper in High Noon) is the mild-mannered man who after years of service politely transporting gold bullion, suddenly decides it's time for a spot of grand larceny. Together with Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass, he melts down the gold into handy-sized statuettes of the Eiffel Tower and then the trouble begins.
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