The Million Pound Note

The Million Pound Note (released as Man with a Million and as Big Money in the U.S.) is a 1954 British comedy, directed by Ronald Neame and starring Gregory Peck. It is based on the Mark Twain short story "The Million Pound Bank Note", and is a precursor to the 1983 film, Trading Places.[1]

The Million Pound Note
British theatrical poster
Directed byRonald Neame
Produced byJohn Bryan
Ronald Neame
Written byMark Twain
Jill Craigie
StarringGregory Peck
Ronald Squire
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byClive Donner
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
7 January 1954 (UK)
18 June 1954 (US)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


In 1903, American seaman Henry Adams (Gregory Peck) is stranded penniless in Britain and gets caught up in an unusual wager between two wealthy, eccentric brothers, Oliver (Ronald Squire) and Roderick Montpelier (Wilfrid Hyde-White). They persuade the Bank of England to issue a one million pound banknote, which they present to Adams in an envelope, only telling him that it contains some money. The reason for this is that Oliver believes that the mere existence of the note will enable the possessor to obtain whatever he needs, while Roderick insists that it would actually have to be spent for it to be of any use.

Once Adams gets over the shock of discovering how much the note is worth, he tries to return it to the brothers, but is told that they have left for a month. He then finds a letter in the envelope, explaining the wager and promising him a job if he can avoid spending the note for the month.

At first, everything goes as Oliver had predicted. Adams is mistaken for an eccentric millionaire and has no trouble getting food, clothes, and a hotel suite on credit, just by showing his note. The story of the note is reported in the newspapers. Adams is welcomed into exclusive social circles, meeting the American ambassador and English aristocracy. He becomes very friendly with Portia Lansdowne (Jane Griffiths), the niece of the Duchess of Cromarty. Then fellow American Lloyd Hastings (Hartley Power) asks him to back a business venture. Hastings tells Adams that he does not have to put up any money himself; the mere association will allow Hastings to raise the money that he needs to start up a gold mine by selling shares.

Trouble arises when the Duke of Frognal (A. E. Matthews), who had been unceremoniously evicted from the suite Adams now occupies, hides the note as a joke. When Adams is unable to produce the note, panic breaks out amongst the shareholders and Adams's creditors. All is straightened out in the end, and Adams is able to return the note to the Montpelier brothers at the end of the month.



The novel had been adapted for British TV in 1950 by Rex Rienits. Producer Daniel Angel bought the film rights to the adaptation.[2]


  1. Drumm, Diana (8 June 2013). "'Trading Places': More Than 7 Things You May Not Know About The Film (But We Won't Bet A Dollar On It)". Indiewire. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  2. "Studio Gossip". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 19 August 1951. p. 12. Retrieved 6 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
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