Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Last Holiday

Two movies...The Last Holiday - 1950 and 2006.  1950 starring Alec Guinness and 2006 starring Queen Latifah.  I have both films on DVD and they both have their good points.  The newer version has a happy ending, which is fine if you are in the mood.

The 1950 version has a screenplay by J. B. Priestley.  The ending is will not see it coming...and if you haven't seen the film, I will not spoil it for you.  It is certainly a film worth looking for.

The story is about a common working man, George Bird played by Guinness, who is diagnosed with a fatal disease and, having no family, how he spends his life savings on a last holiday fling.  George is a farm implement salesman when he goes to the doctor for a checkup and hears the bad news.  The acting is superb and I consider this one of the great classic British films.  Think of Basil Rathbone quality.

Once again we see that movies are held together by the small parts adding character to the overall mood of the film.  Of course, Guinness is wonderful in the lead, but look at the rest of the cast.

Bernard Lee, who later starred in many James Bond films; Wilfred Hyde-White, from My Fair Lady and too many other films (156 total) to list; and David McCallum's father as the "blind" fiddler, who in real life was the concertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Even the names you don't recognize had outstanding parts.  Muriel George (61 acting roles) as Lady Oswington, and her maid-servant Miss Fox played by Esma Cannon (73 roles).  Small parts but what atmosphere they bring!  They help to clarify what the others are thinking about why George is at the resort.

Sid James plays another regular guy at the posh resort where George is staying, so they hit it off right away.  James was in the "Carry On" series of British comedies.  I counted 36 Carry Ons, in his 143 roles from 1947 to 1976, the year he died.

Lastly let's mention Ernest Thesiger as Sir Travor Lampington, the doctor who named the deadly disease George has.  Born in 1879, he started acting in 1916.  Thesiger played Dr. Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.  He made The Last Holiday when he was 71 years old, then went on to make another 29 films until 1961.

The legacy collection of Frankenstein films pictured at left is in my film library and is a great bargain.  It includes LOADS of extra materials.

Classic British films are wonderful to watch because of the all important bit parts and the great actors who bring them life.

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