MAN WITH A MILLION (THE MILLION POUND NOTE)
(director: Ronald Neame; screenwriters: from a Mark Twain story “The Million Pound Bank Note”/Jill Craigie; cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth; editor: Clive Donner; music: William Alwyn; cast: Gregory Peck (Henry Adams), Maurice Denham (Mr. Reid), Jane Griffiths (Portia Lansdowne), Ronald Squire (Oliver Montpelier), A. E. Matthews (Duke of Frognal), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Roderick Montpelier ), Reginald Beckwith (Rock), Joyce Grenfell (Duchess of Cromarty); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Bryan; United Artists; 1954-UK)
“It was a gentle satire of manners that never had enough spice in it to win me over.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ronald Neame(“Scrooge”/”Hopscotch”/”Foreign Body”) and writer Jill Craigie smoothly but too dryly adapt the Mark Twain story “The Million Pound Bank Note” to the screen. It’s a slight rags to riches story, built around a one joke premise. The tale grows increasingly tiresome, but Gregory Peck gives it some pep with his enthusiastic performance that saves the film. It did only so-so at the box office and the reviews were mixed, and is now a forgotten film.
In Edwardian London, two wealthy, eccentric brothers, Oliver (Ronald Squire) and Roderick Montpelier (Wilfrid Hyde-White), have their bank draw up a million pound note in order to settle a wager. Oliver believes that by just possessing this note intact it will enable the note owner to be satisfied without cashing it. Roderick, on the other hand, believes the note will be rendered useless if not cashed. To settle the wager, the brothers give the note to Henry Adams (Gregory Peck), a penniless New England sailor stranded in London. Henry learns through a letter that the banknote is lent to him for one month. If he returns it intact, the brothers will arrange for him to have any job he wants that they can get him.
Henry at first finds it difficult to use the note, as people take him for an eccentric man of wealth, with great credit, and treat him to everything–from posh hotel rooms, elegant clothes, stock in a gold mine and intros into blue-blood society. When the note gets stolen by an irate Duke (A.E. Matthews), Henry is poor again. But through the connections he made with royal society, Henry meets and falls in love with Portia Lansdowne (Jane Griffiths), the niece of the Duchess of Cromarty (Joyce Grenfell).
The most memorable character was played by Reginald Beckwith. He plays a mute circus strongman, who becomes Peck’s butler and confidante.
REVIEWED ON 4/10/2016 GRADE: C+