The Guv'nor (film)

The Guv'nor is a 1935 British comedy film starring George Arliss as a tramp who rides a series of misunderstandings and becomes the president of a bank.[1] The film was re-released in England in 1944 and 1949.[2] It was released in the US as Mr. Hobo.

The Guv'nor
Opening credit screen
Directed byMilton Rosmer
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byGuy Bolton
Maude T. Howell
Based ona story by Paul Lafitte
StarringGeorge Arliss
Music byArthur Benjamin
Louis Levy (musical director)
CinematographyMutz Greenbaum (as Max Greene)
Edited byCharles Saunders
Distributed byGaumont British Picture Corp.
Release date
  • 1 October 1935 (1935-10-01) (UK)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Monsieur Barsac (Frank Cellier) is in a great deal of trouble - the Paris bank of which he is president is bankrupt, though nobody else knows yet. He tells his secret to his crony Dubois (George Hayes), since he needs his help. Dubois is to purchase an iron mine that is supposedly played out. However, Barsac's mining engineer has found rich, untapped deposits of ore. The mine is 51% owned by the widow Mrs. Granville (Henrietta Watson) and her daughter Madeleine (Viola Keats), who are deeply in debt to his bank. Barsac uses his stepson Paul (Patric Knowles) as an intermediary, since Paul is a friend of the family, particularly the beautiful Madeleine.

Meanwhile, a vagabond known as the "Guv'nor" (George Arliss) decides to head south for the winter with his friend Flit (Gene Gerrard). At the Granville estate, he offers to mend some china in exchange for food and is treated very cordially by Madeleine.

Soon after, the two men are taken into custody for poaching and returned to Paris. After the policeman learns the Guv'nor's unusual real name, François Rothschild, he informs a member of the great banking dynasty who, unwilling to have his illustrious family name besmirched by an arrest, gives the Guv'nor a check for 2000 francs and has the two men released.

The Guv'nor is happy with his lifestyle, so he offers the money to Flit. They clean themselves up before trying to cash the check at Barzac's bank. Barzac mistakes the Guv'nor for one of the Rothschilds and tries to persuade him to join the board of directors to prop up the bank. During the conversation, the Guv'nor catches Barzac in a lie about Madeleine and becomes interested. He is made president of the bank.

When the Guv'nor learns details about Barsac's scheme from Madame Barzac (Mary Clare), who is anxious to prevent her husband from investing in a "worthless" mine, he returns to the Granville estate. There, dressed as the tramp, he advises Madeleine to get Paul to ask for impartial advice about Barzac's strong recommendation to sell - from Monsieur Rothschild. Instead, she goes to see Rothschild herself and discovers his real identity. She believes that he has deceived her so he can purchase the mine himself and stalks out before he can explain.

The next morning, the Guv'nor attends a meeting of the shareholders called to vote on whether to sell for the pittance Dubois is offering. The Guv'nor denounces Barzac and Dubois, but Madeleine votes to sell.

The wily Guv'nor then makes it look as if he has committed suicide. People fear he did so because there is something wrong with the bank and Dubois' company; panic selling soon drives down the price of shares in both. Meanwhile, Paul buys them on the Guv'nor's behalf. Having saved the Granvilles and ruined Barzac and Dubois, the Guv'nor gives the shares to Madeleine and Paul as a wedding present and resumes his carefree journey to warmer climes.

Partial cast

Critical reception

Writing for The Spectator in 1936, Graham Greene gave the film a middling review, noting that although he was not an admirer of George Arliss, he found this film "rather more tolerable than his recent appearances". Greene spoke favorably about the hint of satire concerning the last name (Rothschild) of the tramp played by Arliss, and speculated that the film might have been improved if it had been directed by René Clair.[3]

Frank Nugent wrote in The New York Times, "George Arliss, fresh as any septuagenarian can be from his personal triumphs as Disraeli, Richelieu, Wellington and Hamilton, becomes a completely non-historical tramp in "Mister Hobo," the new Gaumont-British film which opened yesterday at the Roxy. An unpretentious little picture, happily devoid of international crises and court intrigues, it is gently humorous, quietly paced and a rather pleasant breathing spell for Mr. Arliss and his admirers";[4] while more recently, Hal Erickson in Allmovie called it "a standard George Arliss vehicle, despite his rags and tatters";[5] and TV Guide wrote, "though the situation is contrived, the script is quite good and completely believable. It's all helped by a terrific ensemble effort from the cast, handled with grace and style. It's a smoothly directed, witty little piece."[6]


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