(director: Henry Cass; screenwriter: J.B. Priestley; cinematographer: Ray Elton; editor: Monica Kimick; music: Francis Chagrin; cast: Alec Guinness (George Bird), Beatrice Campbell (Sheila Rockingham), Kay Walsh (Mrs. Poole), Coco Aslan (Gambini), Jean Colin (Daisy Clarence), Muriel George (Lady Oswington), Brian Worth (Derek Rockingham), Esma Cannon (Miss Fox), Bernard Lee (Inspector Wilton), Sid James (Joe Clarence), Campbell Cotts (Bellinghurst), Moultrie Kelsall (Sir Robert Kyle), Madam Kirkwood-Hackett (Miss Hatfield), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Chalfont), Eric Maturin (Wrexham), Helen Cherry (Miss Mellows), Harry Hutchinson (Michael the Waiter), Hal Osmond (Trade Union Man), Brian Oulton (Prescott), Ernest Thesiger (Sir Trevor Lampington), Heather Wilde (Maggie the Maid), Ronald Simpson (Dr. Pevensey); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Stephen Mitchell/A.D. Peters/J.B. Priestley; Criterion Collection, The; 1950-UK)

Slight and mildly amusing dark comedy of rebirth and regret.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former theater director Henry Cass (“Two Grooms for a Bride”/”Blood of the Vampire”/”Give a Dog a Bone“) unremarkably directs this slight and mildly amusing dark comedy of rebirth and regret. British author and playwright J.B. Priestley provides the droll screenplay.

George Bird (Alec Guinness) is a meek farm implement salesman whose life suddenly changes after a routine medical check-up at the Chanbury clinic, where he is informed by Dr. Pevensey (Ronald Simpson) that he contacted the rare incurable Lampington disease and has only weeks to live. The ordinary man who has led a dull life decides to quit his job and have a good time by splurging his life savings at a posh seaside resort at Pinebourne. The mystery bachelor is dressed in his newly acquired second-hand tailor-made fashion-plate threads for upper-class gentlemen and becomes the center of attention at the ritzy hotel. Feeling like a fish out water among the swells the commoner confides in the embittered widowed housekeeper Mrs. Poole (Kay Walsh), who encourages him to speak his mind and act with confidence.

The guest list of swells include the brash, poorly mannered, self-made businessman Joe Clarence (Sid James); a pompous government cabinet minister Bellinghurst (Campbell Cotts); a cheery inventor (Wilfrid Hyde-White); a dowdy overbearing nouveau-richeLady Oswington (Muriel George); and the pretty young wife (Beatrice Campbell) of a charming criminal (Brian Worth), who can’t pay the hotel tab. Because of Bird’s plain way of speaking the truth, his noble acts of generosity and the trustful way he carries himself as someone who cares about people, those who relate to him find the better side of themselves. Bird finds that for the first time in his life he gains the respect of people who would never have looked twice at him before and they listen to his opinions and offer him lucrative positions.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

It climaxes with a double-twist, that seems like a bit of a stretch, as Bird learns he was given a wrong medical diagnosis and will live only to die in a car accident. Nevertheless, the contrivance doesn’t completely ruin the well-acted and moving film, that leaves us with a bitter-sweet ironical ending.

REVIEWED ON 10/26/2010 GRADE: B-