Smart Alec (1951 UK film)

Smart Alec is a 1951 British crime film directed by John Guillermin and starring Peter Reynolds.[1]

Smart Alec
Directed byJohn Guillermin
Produced byRoger Proudlock
Written byAlec Coppel
Based onplay Mr Smart Guy by Alec Coppel
StarringPeter Reynolds
CinematographyRay Elton
Edited byRobert Jordan Hill
Production
company
Distributed byGrand National Pictures (U.K.)
Release date
March 1951 (U.K.)
Running time
58 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

Plot

Young Alec Albion plans successfully to kill his rich uncle with an ice bullet which will melt away, leaving no evidence. He gets an alibi by having the chief commissioner of police living in the same building as his chief witness.

He sets himself up in an apartment overlooking his uncle's. He invites over the new commissioner of police, Sir Randolph, for tea and tells him he has had a premonition about his uncle's murder. The murder is committed.

Sir Randolph is convinced Rex did it, especially after he discovers that the young man was his uncle's heir but was going to be disinherited the following day. He says while they were having tea, Rex went into another room and shot dead his uncle. Randolph has Rex arrested and tried for murder.

Rex is found not guilty. Knowing he cannot be tried twice for the same crime, he confesses to the murder, explaining he shot his uncle with a rifle and a bullet made of ice. Rex talks through the murder with the inspector and then realises that he killed the wrong person. His uncle is still alive. Rex is arrested.

Cast

Original play: Mr Smart Guy

Mr Smart Guy
Written byAlec Coppel
Date premiered10 May 1941
Place premieredMinerva Theatre, Sydney
Original languageEnglish
Genrethriller

The script was based on a play Mr Smart Guy by Alec Coppel, who wrote it in England at the beginning of the war.[2] They play had originally been called North Light.[3]

Plot

Rex Albion wishes to take possession of a particular flat which is opposite that of his rich uncle. He moves in and invites the chief commissioner of police, Sir Randolph Towe, over for tea. While this happens, the uncle is shot dead while sitting on the balcony... but no bullet is found.[4]

World premiere

The play had its world premiere in Sydney in 1941. It was the first presentation from Whitehall Productions, a new theatrical company established by Coppel and Kathleen Robinson.[5][6] The profits from the season went to the Red Cross.[7]

The original cast was:[8]

  • Nigel Lovell as Rex Albion
  • Harvey Adams as Detective Inspector Ashley
  • Catherine Duncan as Judith Dyer
  • Charles Zoli as Cossage, the porter
  • Richard Parry as Sir Randolph Towle, chief commissioner of police
  • Leslie Victor as the family lawyer Mr Gruppy
  • Grant McIntyre as Walter
  • Charles MeCallum as Mr. Justice Abercorn
  • Frederick MoMahon as Detective Farr
  • John MacDougall as Richards
  • Phil Smith as Mr Hymie

William Constable did the design.[9]

The Sydney Morning Herald reviewer said those who found I Killed the Count "such a soundly-constructed and Ingenious murder mystery will find much to entertain them in his latest offering, despite its weakness and it« lack of sustained Interest... The first act drags, and the second loses its necessary punch and development of tension because its couise of drama Is too often Impeded by comic interference. "[10]

The Daily Telegraph called it "delightful entertainment."[11]

Nonetheless the play was a popular success.[12]

The play was revived at the Minerva in August 1941 for a three week run with Ron Randell in the lead role and Muriel Steinbeck in the lone female part.[13] The Sydney Morning Herald theatre critic said Randell "failed to explore the subtle aspects of the playwrights study of a criminal exhibitionist."[14]

Radio adaptation

The play was performed on radio on the ABC in May 1941.[15] Max Afford did the adaptation and the original cast reprised their roles.[16]

The play also inspired a song by Sefton Daly which was recorded by Coppel's then-fiancée Myra.[17]

English production

The play was produced in England in 1947 under the title Strange as it May Seem.[18][19]

Production

Film rights were bought by Vandyke Productions, a short-lived production company founded by brothers Roger and Nigel Proudlock that specialised in low budget pictured. Coppel made some changes to the play in adapting it including adding another female part. The film was shot at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. It was filmed back to back with Two on the Tiles and Four Days.[20]

Reception

The Monthly Film Bulletin said "the naivety and absurdity of the story is far surpassed by the acting."[21]

References

  1. "Smart Alec (1951)". BFI. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  2. "In the Theatres". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 May 1941. p. 22. Retrieved 4 September 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "MORE STAGE PLAYS". The Age (26, 852). Victoria, Australia. 10 May 1941. p. 12. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "'MR SMART GUY'". Truth (2679). Sydney. 11 May 1941. p. 32. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  5. ""MR. SMART GUY."". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 May 1941. p. 4. Retrieved 4 September 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "Living Up To The "Boom"". The Age (26, 858). Victoria. 17 May 1941. p. 12. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "BACK-STAGE". The Daily Telegraph. VI, (41). New South Wales, Australia. 9 May 1941. p. 16. Retrieved 26 September 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. "MR. SMART GUY". The Age (26846). Victoria. 3 May 1941. p. 20. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "PERMANENT DESIGNERS FOR THEATRE COMPANY". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 247). 6 May 1941. p. 10 (Women's Supplement). Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. ""MR. SMART GUY."". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 252). 12 May 1941. p. 4. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Smart guy well done". The Daily Telegraph. II, (26). New South Wales, Australia. 11 May 1941. p. 5. Retrieved 26 September 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  12. "IN THE THEATRES". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 267). 29 May 1941. p. 18. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  13. "MUSIC AND DRAMA". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 335). 16 August 1941. p. 8. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  14. ""MR SMART GUY" AT MINERVA". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 340). 22 August 1941. p. 7. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  15. "BROADCASTING". The Argus. Melbourne. 31 May 1941. p. 2. Retrieved 4 September 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  16. "Music AND DRAMA". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 269). 31 May 1941. p. 8. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  17. "IN THE THEATRES". The Sydney Morning Herald (32, 279). 12 June 1941. p. 18. Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  18. "Coppel's Success". The Sun (11, 491). Sydney. 21 November 1946. p. 9 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 22 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  19. "Sydney's Talking About—". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 January 1947. p. 14. Retrieved 4 September 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  20. Chibnall, Stephen; McFarlane, Brian (23 October 2009). The British 'B' Film. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 123.
  21. SMART ALEC Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 18, Iss. 204, (Jan 1, 1951): 253.
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