ADMIRABLE CRICHTON, THE
(director/writer: Lewis Gilbert; screenwriters: from the play by J.M. Barrie/Vernon Harris; cinematographer: Wilkey Cooper; editor: Peter Hunt; music: Douglas Gamley/Richard Addinsell; cast: Kenneth More (Crichton), Cecil Parker (Lord Loam), Diane Cilento (Tweeny), Martita Hunt (Lady Brocklehurst), Peter Graves (Lord Brocklehurst), Gerald Harper (Ernest Woolley), Jack Watling (Trerne), Miranda Connell (Lady Agatha), Miles Malleson (Vicar), Brenda Hogan (Fisher), Sally Ann Howes (Lady Mary), Mercy Haystead (Lady Catherine), Eddie Byrne (Captain); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ian Dalryple; Columbia; 1957-UK)
“It’s all built around quips over class conflict.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The adaptation of the dated 1902 play on the snobbery of the English elites by J.M. Barrie (who gave us Peter Pan) is a broad class system comedy scripted by Vernon Harris and directed with panache by the Brit filmmaker Lewis Gilbert (“Shirley Valentine”/”Alfie”). It’s about the impeccably efficient butler, Crichton (Kenneth More), who believes everyone should know their place in life. He obediently serves Lord Loam (Cecil Parker), in his English country mansion, in 1905, a lord who is a snob but pretends to be a progressive.
It has been filmed many times before, dating back to the silent in 1918. It was even turned into a musical with Bing Crosby in the 1934 “We’re not Dressing,” that had a lot going for it (it’s the version I liked best).
When one of the Lord’s three daughters, Lady Catherine (Mercy Haystead), aligns herself with the suffragette movement, dad, on his butler’s suggestion, decides to take his yacht for a 6-month trip to the South Pacific to not hear any of the scandal gossip among his peers.
The yacht is shipwrecked after hit by a storm. Fleeing to a deserted sandy island are the lord’s three spoiled daughters, Lady Mary (Sally Ann Howes), Lady Agatha (Miranda Connell) and Lady Catherine, with the weasel-like suitors of the first two mentioned (Jack Watling & Gerald Harper), and a maid (Diane Cilento), When the aristocrats can’t make it on their own, the butler is forced to take command from the inept Lord Loam, and he becomes the benevolent despotic ruler of the community.
While there is a new social order and new romances taking place (Crichton has his pick of either Lady Mary or the maid), the survivors who have been lost for 2 years get busy building a boat to go home.
The humor lacks wit, as it’s all built around quips over class conflict. Whatever, it’s a well-acted, visually pleasing and well-crafted insubstantial film that grew tiresome after it made its obvious point in favor of a society based on meritocracy.
REVIEWED ON 2/20/2021 GRADE: B-