Friday, 14 August 2009

The Ladykillers

1955 - Dir.: Alexander Mackendrick
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on April 24th, 2004

The last film in our third season is the last Ealing Comedy ever made at Ealing Studios. Fittingly "The Ladykillers" was directed by Alexander Mackendrick - who also directed "Whisky Galore" which opened the season way back in September 2003. This was Mackendrick's last film for Ealing, and when it was completed he left for America. Subversive, hilarious and more English than Elgar this is a classic Ealing confection of charm and whimsy coating a black comic core. Seventy eight year old Katie Johnson plays the deliciously dithery Mrs Wilberforce who totally innocently potters her way through all manner of hideous villainy and dodgy dealings... and never once suspects what's going on. Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and Herbert Lom lead a superb cast - even so they're totally upstaged by Mrs Wilberforce and her elderly cronies... It's a case of little old ladies rule, and an explanation for the triumph of Victorian Great Britain and the Empire. The film is strangely immensely popular in America, and is given frequent television airings. Its bizarre, almost surreal approach now makes it seem a decade ahead of its time. This is a film that proves how great the British film industry used to be. It's little wonder Hollywood has spent the best part of a decade trying to remake "The Ladykillers" - they'll never succeed!!!
• The producers originally refused to cast Katie Johnson fearing that she was too frail to withstand the rigours of filming. The younger actress who was given the part died just before filming began - Miss Johnson, who began her film career in 1932 playing a glamorous secretary in "After Office Hours", was recalled and went on to complete two more pictures before she died in 1957.
• It is widely believed that the voice of the parrot was supplied by Peter Sellers.

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