The Rebel (1961 film)

The Rebel (US title: Call Me Genius) is a 1961 satirical comedy film about the clash between bourgeois and bohemian cultures. Starring the British comedian Tony Hancock, it was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. The film was made by Associated British Picture Corporation and distributed by Warner-Pathé (ABPC's distribution arm).

The Rebel
Trade ad poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byRobert Day
Produced byW.A. Whittaker
Written byRay Galton and Alan Simpson
Tony Hancock
StarringTony Hancock
George Sanders
Paul Massie
Margit Saad
Music byFrank Cordell
CinematographyGilbert Taylor
Edited byRichard Best
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors
Release date
2 March 1961, World Premiere London (UK)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Hancock plays a disaffected London office clerk who gives up his office job to pursue full-time his vocation as an artist. Single-mindedly, and with an enthusiasm far exceeding any artistic talent, he sets to work on his supposed masterpiece Aphrodite at the Waterhole, moving to Paris where he expects his genius will be appreciated. While his ideas and persona gain acceptance (indeed plaudits) among the "beat" set, legitimate art critics like Sir Charles Broward (George Sanders) scoff at his work. However, he manages to achieve success, when the work of his former roommate, a genuinely talented painter, becomes confused with his own. The confusion is eventually resolved after a series of art exhibitions, and he returns to London, where he pursues his 'art' in defiance of whatever others may think of it.


Production, themes and responses

The Rebel attempts to transfer Hancock's television comedy persona to the big screen, and several regular supporting cast members of Hancock's Half Hour also appeared, including John Le Mesurier, Liz Fraser and Mario Fabrizi. The since-demolished railway station used at the beginning of the film, was Bingham Road in the Croydon suburb of Addiscombe, named Fortune Green South in the film.

In The Rebel, existentialist themes are explored by mocking Parisian intellectual life and portraying the pretensions of the English middle class. Galton and Simpson had previously satirised pseudo-intellectuals in the Hancock's Half Hour radio episode "The Poetry Society" (1959), in which Hancock attempts to imitate the style of the pretentious poets and fails, and is infuriated when his idiot friend Bill does the same and wins their enthusiastic approval.

The film also includes scenes parodying modern art. The scene showing Hancock splashing paint onto a canvas and riding a bike over it is a lampoon of the work of Action Painter William Green, while the childlike paintings of Hancock, referred to as the 'infantile school' or the 'shapeist school', parody the naive style.

The Rebel had its British premiere at the Plaza Cinema in London's West End on 2 March 1961, following a screening at the Beirut Film Festival.[1] An anonymous reviewer (most likely Dudley Carew) in The Times, at the time of the film's British release, said Hancock had "made the transition from small to large screen" in this film "with gratifying success".[2] According to the Motion Picture Herald, the film was the 6th most popular movie at the UK box office in 1961. By contrast, it was not well received in the USA; Bosley Crowther in The New York Times found it to be derivative.[3] In the end, Hancock was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award in 1962 as ‘Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles’.

In 2002, the London Institute of 'Pataphysics organised an exhibition consisting of recreations of all the art works seen in the film.[4] There is still dispute whether various drawings and paintings, attributed to Hancock and Ashby, were all produced by the same artist, Alistair Grant (19251997).[5] or whether Hancock's poor quality 'Infantilist School' artworks were actually produced as a joke by the British modernist painter, John Bratby.[6]


On Mrs. Crevatte seeing one of Hancock's pictures on the wall:

  • Mrs. Crevatte; What's this 'orrible thing?
  • Hancock; That, is a self-portrait.
  • Mrs. Crevatte; Who of?
  • Hancock; Laurel and Hardy!!

On Mrs. Crevatte first encountering Hancock's Aphrodite at the Waterhole

  • Mrs. Crevatte; Here, have you been having models up here - have there been naked women in my establishment?
  • Hancock; Of course there haven't. I can't afford thirty-bob an hour. I did that from memory. That is women as I see them.
  • Mrs. Crevatte; Oh! ... You poor man!

The abstract expressionist painting scene:

  • Hancock: It's worth 2000 quid of anybody's money that is!

A definition of Existentialism

  • Josey We only live in the present; there is no future. Why kill time when you can kill yourself?

As he takes his leave of the Paris Art World at his final exhibition:

  • Hancock: Ladies and gentlemen, I shall now bid you all good day. I'm off! I know what I was cut out to do and I should have done it long ago. YOU'RE ALL RAVING MAD!! None of you know what you're looking at. You wait 'til I'm dead, you'll see I was right!


  • Brotchie, Alistair & Irvin, Magnus - Encomia for Anthony Hancock: the Rebel (London Institute of Pataphysics), 2002 (ISBN 1900565307)


  1. Fisher, John (2008). Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography. London: HarperCollins. p. 309.
  2. "Like a Duck to Water". The Times. London. 2 March 1961. p. 4. Retrieved 11 April 2017. (subscription required)
  3. Crowther, Bosley (17 October 1961). "Movie Review - The Rebel - Screen: A British Comic:Tony Hancock Stars in 'Call Me Genius'". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. Fisher Hancock: The Definitive Biography, p. 307
  5. Cooke, Nigel (2011). "The painted word : Tony Hancock". ArtReview. 47 (January & February 2011).
  6. Walker, John A. (2009). "The Rebel (1960) film review". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
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