Payroll (film)

Payroll is a 1961 British neo-noir crime thriller starring Michael Craig and Françoise Prévost. Directed by Sidney Hayers, it was based by screenwriter George Baxt on a novel by Derek Bickerton. The story is about a gang of villains who stage a wages robbery that goes disastrously wrong.

UK movie poster
Directed bySidney Hayers
Produced byNorman Priggen
Julian Wintle
Written byGeorge Baxt (screenplay)
Derek Bickerton (novel)
StarringMichael Craig
Françoise Prévost
Billie Whitelaw
Music byReg Owen
CinematographyErnest Steward
Edited byTristam Cones
Distributed byAnglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
20 April 1961 (London West End)
21 May 1961 (UK general release)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Four crooks (Johnny Mellors, Monty, Blackie and Bert) plan and execute a robbery on a payroll van, using the inside knowledge of Dennis Pearson, who works as an accountant at the firm concerned. Pearson is under pressure to support his wife Katie (Françoise Prévost), who demands a higher standard of living. However, the van driver, Harry Parker, is killed during the heist, while Bert is fatally wounded by Parker's colleague Frank Moore. Nevertheless, the gang manages to get away with £50,000.

Having found out that Pearson was the 'inside man', Parker's widow Jackie (Billie Whitelaw) starts posting threatening letters to him. Katie in the meantime has become involved with Johnny, hoping to get some of the money for herself. As the gang starts to argue amongst themselves, they are pursued by both Katie and Jackie. The climax takes place in Norfolk, with Johnny and Katie double-crossing each other and Jackie tracking Johnny in her bid for revenge.


Production and release

The film's working title was I Promise to Pay. Much of it was shot on location in and around Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne,[1] an unusual procedure at the time. Other scenes were shot in Whitley Bay, Rugby and Southwold; after location work was complete, the film began studio shooting at Beaconsfield Studios on 10 October 1960.[2] The film opened at the Plaza cinema in London's West End on 20 April 1961, and went into general release in the UK on 21 May 1961.[3]

Theme music

The theme music, by Reg Owen and His Orchestra, was issued as a single on the Palette label (PG.9013).[4]

The song "It Happens Every Day", sung in a nightclub scene in the film by Eddie Ellis, was composed by Tony Osborne and Norman Newell, and released as a single on the Parlophone label (R. 4749).


  2. Bill Edwards, 'Production', Kinematograph Weekly vol 521 no 2767, 13 October 1960
  3. F. Maurice Speed, Film Review 1961-62, Macdonald & Co 1961
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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