Last Holiday (1950 film)

Last Holiday is a 1950 British film featuring Alec Guinness in his sixth starring role. The low key, dark comedy was written and co produced by J. B. Priestley and directed by Henry Cass, featuring irony and wit often associated with Priestley. Shooting locations included Bedfordshire and Devon.

Last Holiday
Alec Guinness as George Bird and Helen Cherry as Miss Mellows
Directed byHenry Cass
Produced byAssociated British Picture
Watergate Films
Stephen Mitchell
A. D. Peters
J.B. Priestley
Written byJ. B. Priestley
StarringAlec Guinness
Beatrice Campbell
Kay Walsh
Bernard Lee
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Helen Cherry
Jean Colin
Muriel George
Sid James
Music byFrancis Chagrin
CinematographyRay Elton
Edited byMonica Kimick
Production
company
Warner Brothers
Welwyn Studios
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Associated British-Pathé, Ltd.
Release date
3 May 1950 (1950-05-03)
Running time
89 min
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Box office£109,084 (UK)[1]

Synopsis

George Bird (Guinness), an ordinary, unassuming salesman of agricultural implements who inexplicably speaks with a posh public school accent, visits a physician for a routine check-up and is told he has Lampington's disease, a newly identified condition which allows him only a few weeks to live. He accepts the doctor’s advice to take his savings and enjoy himself in the little time left to him.

A bachelor with no family or friends, Bird decides to spend his last days at an upmarket residential hotel among its elite clientele. By chance, a salesman in a used clothing store has acquired two suitcases, covered with international labels. The cases are full of a deceased Lord's bespoke tailored wardrobe that perfectly fits Bird. Bird acquires the wardrobe and luggage that give him the appearance of a wealthy gentleman.

Bird’s unassuming attitude generates a great deal of interest among the hotel's residents because he wears the same expensive clothes as all the other guests. He is seen as an enigma to be solved, with wild speculations offered as to his identity and possible noble lineage. The hotel's housekeeper (Walsh) guesses the truth, and Bird confides his secret to her. Bird quickly acquires friends and influence, falls in love (possibly for the first time in his life), sets wrongs to right, and is offered lucrative business opportunities. But these successes only serve to make him reflect on the irony that he will have no time to enjoy them.

During a strike by the hotel's staff, Bird comes into contact with Sir Trevor Lampington (Thesiger), the doctor after whom Lampington's disease was named. He insists that Bird cannot possibly have the disease as he has no symptoms, and contacts the hospital to ask it to check. Just as the hospital discovers its error Bird enters and it is confirmed that he indeed was given the wrong diagnosis.

Overjoyed, he is ready to begin life afresh with his new sweetheart, friends and business opportunities. In a twist ending, however, he is tragically killed in a car accident on the way back to the hotel, while taking a shortcut through the sleepy village of Fallow End. Meanwhile, the hotel guests, having learned the truth about Bird's identity and misdiagnosis, quickly begin to cast aspersions on him, but are interrupted with the news that he has died, which silences their gossip.

Cast

Production

The film was produced at Welwyn Studios with location shots at Luton, Bedfordshire, shopping parade, and Torquay, Devon.[2] Priestley has sole screenwriting credit. However, some uncredited work was done on it by J. Lee Thompson.[3]

Reception

Upon its New York City November 1950 release, Bosley Crowther called it an "amusing and poignant little picture" that is "simple and modest in structure but delightfully rich in character."[4]

However in Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, critic Robert Murphy asserted that Last Holiday was not as good as it should have been, given the excellent performances by Guinness, Walsh and James. In particular he described the film's production values as "shabby" and singled out Priestley's trick ending for even harsher criticism, calling it "disastrously inappropriate."[5]

Other releases and versions

The film was released on VHS in 1994, and again in 2000 by Homevision. It was released in DVD format by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection under licence from Studio Canal in June 2009, but was dropped from their catalogues in 2011.[6]

Last Holiday (2006 film) was a loose remake, starring Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt, and Gérard Depardieu.

See also

References

  1. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p492
  2. staff (2016). "FILM: Last Holiday". Reel Streets. Reel Streets. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  3. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent. British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780198159346.
  4. Crowther, Bosley (14 November 1950). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'Last Holiday,' Written by J.B. Priestley, Stars Alec Guinness as Man Doomed to Die". New York Times. New York. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  5. Murphy, Robert (2003). ..Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48, Routledge. ISBN 978-1134901500 p. 188
  6. staff (2016). "Last Holiday: Editions". WorldCat. Online Computer Library Center. Retrieved 10 May 2012.Lanthier, Joseph Jon (14 June 2009). "Last Holiday". Slant Magazine. Slantmagazine.com. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
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