Laughter in Paradise
|Laughter in Paradise|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mario Zampi|
|Produced by||Mario Zampi|
|Written by||Jack Davies|
|Music by||Stanley Black|
|Edited by||Giulio Zampi|
|Distributed by||Associated British-Pathe|
|Box office||£256,579 (UK)|
The will of well-known practical joker Henry Russell leaves a fortune of £50,000 on his death to each of his four surviving relatives, all unmarried, provided they first perform prescribed tasks that are completely contrary to their natures.
Law-abiding retired army officer Deniston Russell, who writes lurid crime novels under several fictional names, has within a week to get himself arrested and jailed for exactly 28 days. Difficult, snobbish Agnes Russell has to find employment as a domestic servant in a middle-class home, again within a week, and keep her position for a month. Simon Russell, a penniless womanising con man, has to marry the first single woman he speaks to. Timid Herbert Russell has to hold up the bank manager he works for in his office, using a mask and a toy pistol, and obtain the bank keys for two minutes.
Deniston is thwarted repeatedly in his attempts, but finally manages to complete his task by smashing a shop window and assaulting a policeman. It costs him his fiancée Elizabeth when he is brought up before the magistrate, Elizabeth's father, but his secretary Sheila reveals her love for him and promises to stand by him.
Agnes finds work with the irascible Gordon Webb who, since she is so surly and incompetent, is suspicious of her motives and hires a private detective, Roger Godfrey, to find out what she is up to. The handsome Roger falls in love with Gordon's long-suffering daughter Joan, who is unwilling to marry him as her father depends on her. After Agnes persuades the girl to seize the chance of happiness, Gordon first sacks her and then calls round to take her out to dinner.
Though the first single woman Simon speaks to is Frieda, a cigarette girl in a club he frequents, being in search of richer prey he breaks his promise. An attractive but suspiciously available young woman called Lucille scoops him up and, once they are married, reveals that she is the penniless niece of his butler, in whom he unwisely confided.
When Herbert finally gathers the nerve to go through with his assignment, he inadvertently foils an actual robbery and becomes a hero, plastered across the front pages of the press. Rewarded with a branch managership, his fellow employee Susan is proud and happy to be his girl.
When the executor gathers the four heirs together, he informs them that there is in fact no money left. The whole exercise was Henry's last practical joke. Agnes, Deniston and Herbert burst into laughter. Simon is annoyed at first, until he happens to look out of the window at his conniving and equally unscrupulous wife, who is waiting for him with a bottle of champagne. Then he too joins in the merriment.
- Alastair Sim as Deniston Russell
- Fay Compton as Agnes Russell
- Guy Middleton as Simon Russell
- George Cole as Herbert Russell
- Hugh Griffith as Henry Russell
- Ernest Thesiger as Endicott, Henry's executor
- Beatrice Campbell as Lucille Grayson, the woman Simon marries
- Mackenzie Ward as Benson, Simon's butler
- Joyce Grenfell as Elizabeth Robson, Deniston's fiancée
- A. E. Matthews as Sir Charles Robson, Elizabeth's father
- John Laurie as Gordon Webb, Agnes's employer
- Veronica Hurst as Joan Webb, Gordon's daughter
- Anthony Steel as Roger Godfrey, private detective hired by Gordon
- Eleanor Summerfield as Sheila Wilcott, Deniston's secretary
- Charlotte Mitchell as Ethel, Agnes's maid
- Leslie Dwyer as Police station sergeant
- Colin Gordon as Police station constable
- Ronald Adam as Wagstaffe, the bank manager
- Michael Pertwee as Stewart, bank employee
- Mary Germaine as Susan Heath, bank employee
- Audrey Hepburn as Frieda. This was Hepburn's first professional appearance on film (save for a brief role in a 1948 Dutch film entitled Dutch in Seven Lessons), with her two scenes as a cigarette girl totalling 43 seconds. They were recreated by Jennifer Love Hewitt in the 2000 biopic The Audrey Hepburn Story.
- Noel Howlett as Clerk of the Court
- Martin Boddey as Store detective
- Arthur Howard as passenger in train with Herbert (uncredited)
Laughter in Paradise was the fourth most popular film at the British box-office in 1951. The New York Times in November 1951 called the film a "merely pleasant, not especially surprising, comedy".
In modern reviews, the Radio Times, David Parkinson gave the film four out of five stars, and praised the "fantastic performance of Alastair Sim as the henpecked thriller writer", adding, "the scene in which he tries to shoplift is one of the funniest in a career overladen with choice comic moments," while Britmovie called the film "a sure-fire British comedy that's sprightly execution doesn’t leave many dull moments."
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p496
- "Laughter in Paradise". BFI.
- "Some Will – Some Won't (1969) – BFI". BFI.
- "Vivien Leigh Actress of the Year". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 258.
- "Laughter in Paradise, British Import With Alastair Sim, at 60th St. Trans-Lux". The New York Times. 12 November 1951. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
- David Parkinson. "Laughter in Paradise". RadioTimes.
- "Laughter in Paradise". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014.