LAUGHTER IN PARADISE
(director: Mario Zampi; screenwriters: Michael Pertwee/Jack Davies; cinematographer: William Mc Leod; editor: Giulio Zampi; music: Stanley Black; cast: Hugh Griffith (Henry Russell), Guy Middleton (Simon Russell), Alastair Sim (Deniston Russell), Fay Compton (Agnes Russell), George Cole (Herbert Russell), Ronald Adam (Mr Wagstaffe), Leslie Dwyer (Police Sergeant), Ernest Thesiger (Endicott), Beatrice Campbell (Lucille Grayson), Mackenzie Ward (Benson), A.E. Matthews (Sir Charles Robson), Joyce Grenfell (Elizabeth Robson), Eleanor Summerfield (Sheila Wilcott, Sim’s dictation secretary), John Laurie (Gordon Webb), Veronica Hurst (Joan Webb), Anthony Steel (Roger Godfrey), Charlotte Mitchell (Ethel), Audrey Hepburn (Cigarette Girl); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mario Zampi; Stratford Pictures; 1951-UK)
“It should have been a riot, but the zany Brit comedy is fumbled by the heavy-handed direction.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It should have been a riot, but the zany Brit comedy is fumbled by the heavy-handed direction of Italian director Mario Zampi(“Happy Ever After”/”The Naked Truth”/”Too Many Crooks”), who brings on too much plot and not enough comedy. It’sbased on an original story and screenplay by Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies.
Notorious millionaire practical joker Henry Russell (Hugh Griffith) dies and pulls off his last joke as he leaves £50,000 in his will to each of his four surviving closest relatives-henpecked retired army captain secret pulp writer closest cousin Deniston Russell (Alastair Sim), rakish bachelor playboy cad Simon Russell (Guy Middleton), nasty spinster sister Agnes Russell (Fay Compton) and the timid bank clerk distant cousinHerbert Russell (George Cole)-only on the condition they carry out within a month an unusual task that goes against their nature. Captain Deniston must serve a 28-day prison term for a petty crime. Simon must wed the first eligible female he converses with after leaving the will reading, no matter the ladies age. Agnes, who abuses her hired help, must get hired as a domestic for a middle-class family and stay employed for a month. Herbert must rob the tyrant bank president (Ronald Adam) he fears, in his office while armed with a toy gun and wearing a mask.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
Captain Deniston is engaged for the last ten years to the overbearing aristocratic Elizabeth Robson (Joyce Grenfell), whom he’s too scared to tell he writes cheap detective novels and must also lie to her why he can’t marry or see her for the next month as he secretly tries to get arrested for a petty crime that will give him exactly a 28-day sentence. In the stilted episodic comedy, the worst episode was the one with Agnes. She’s hired to be a maid to the abusive old codger invalid Gordon Webb (John Laurie), a sequence which can’t get anything funny in the interplay between the two and their scene turns nauseously sentimental. In Simon’s vignette, he has a chance to converse with the attractive night club cigarette girl (Audrey Hepburn, her film debut), but chooses instead to converse with a damsel (Beatrice Campbell) in distress on the road and learns later there’s something he doesn’t know about her. The Herbert character was too much of a drag to care about, but he has a complete change in character when he becomes the self-proclaimed “worm who changed his spots” and loses his meekness. All four relatives learn valuable life lessons and find it easy to laugh about their adventure even after finding in the end the inherited money was a hoax.
It became the top-grossing film of the year in Britain. Benefiting greatly from Alastair Sim’s comic routines and a humor that quite frankly did little for me. It was remade in 1969 as Some Will, Some Won’t.
REVIEWED ON 8/22/2014 GRADE: C+