Wednesday 30 December 2009

The League of Gentlemen

For the first time in many years, I’ve watched The League of Gentlemen, the classic 1960 film from which the comedy show took its name. It’s a black and white movie, broadly in the tradition of the Ealing Comedies, and a thoroughly good period piece, as well as excellent light entertainment that has retained its charm and grip.

The film was based on a book published a couple of years earlier by John Boland. The story involves a redundant and embittered senior army officer, at odds with post-war British society, who hatches a plan to rob a bank. He decides to rope in a number of former military men who have fallen on hard times in the years since the war, and who have indulged in a variety of crimes or shady dealings, but who bring a range of skills to his heist team.

The ensemble cast is led by Jack Hawkins, at his imperious best, and is full of names who dominated British cinema and television for many years. They include Bryan Forbes, who directed (his wife Nanette Newman also has a small role), Richard – later Lord – Attenborough, Terence Alexander (best remembered as Charlie Hungerford in the long-running Jersey cop series Bergerac) and a host of other fine performers. Even Oliver Reed has a walk-on part.

It’s a movie quite different in style from The Italian Job, made only nine years later, but very much a product of the Swinging Sixties, while The League of Gentlemen harks bark to an earlier time. As for John Boland, he was a prolific thriller writer, but I am not familiar with his other work – though the success of his most famous book did prompt him to bring back the Gentlemen for subsequent adventures.


harriet said...

Yes, this is a great film. Glad you enjoyed it.

Deb said...

Have you read Villain's Paradise: A History of Britain's Underworld by Donald Thomas? It covers British crime from the end of WWII until 1975. Thomas's theory is that the skills that most of these men learned during the war (reconnisance, planning, explosives, division of skills, etc.) were put into great use in criminal enterprises after the war (most famous example--the great train robbery). This movie seems to reflect some of that. If you haven't read the book, it's well worth seeking it out.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello Deb. I haven't read that book, but it sounds like a fascinating analysis, and definitely plausible. I have read some of Donald Thomas's other works, which include Sherlockian pastiches.

Maxine Clarke said...

Happy new year, Martin! I haven't seen this movie but did see the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes the other day which I thought boring and nonsensical. The teens and 20s with us liked it, though!

I am looking forward to reading the Serpent's Pool in the new year - nice to see that Kerrie has already reviewed the e-version. (I did not read her review in detail as I want it all to be a surprise).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dear Friend-have the happiest of New Years!

Martin Edwards said...

Maxine - hope you like The Serpent Pool! Thanks to you and Patti for your support of this blog through the year.