RAKE’S PROGRESS (NOTORIOUS GENTLEMAN)
(director/writer: Sidney Gilliat; screenwriters: Frank Launder/story by Val Valentine; cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper; editor: Thelma Myers; music: William Alwyn; cast: Rex Harrison (Vivian Kenway), Lilli Palmer (Rikki Krausner), Griffith Jones (Sandy Duncan), Margaret Johnson (Jennifer Calthorp), Jean Kent (Jill Duncan), Godfrey Tearle (Colonel Robert Kenway), Gut Middleton (Fogroy), Marie Lohr (Lady Angela Parks), Garry Marsh (Sir Hubert Parks), David Horne (Sir John Brokley), Alan Wheatley (Edwards), John Salew (Burgess), Joan Hickson (Miss Barker); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Launder/Sidney Gilliat; Universal Pictures; 1945-UK)
“Rex Harrison gives a winning performance.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rex Harrison gives a winning performance in this likable war drama about a ne’er-do-well playboy, Vivian Kenway, who after being sent down by Oxford for scaling the Martyrs’ Memorial and crowning it with a chamberpot gets into numerous adventures during the 1930s and brings shame to his upper-crust family for not holding a job (canned at a SA coffee plantation for insulting the wealthy colonist overseer who gave him his easy job because of his dad), many arrests for being drunk, being a notorious womanizing scoundrel, ruining his best friend Sandy’s (Griffith Jones) marriage by having a scandalous headline grabbing affair with his wife (Jean Kent), being a reckless racing driver and hitting bottom by becoming a used car salesman and professional dance partner. His misguided life becomes too much for his kindly and supportive Tory politician father, Colonel Robert Kenway (Godfrey Tearle), who dies in a drunk driving accident as he drinks to cover up the heartbreaks caused by his charming cad of a son.
When Vivian is stranded in Vienna without a shilling, the rich Austrian Jewish heiress Rikki Krausner (Lilli Palmer) pays his unpaid hotel bill and hopes to marry the Brit to escape the oppressive Austria and because she always had a crush on him. But the lad has a penchant for hurting anyone who shows him love and the self-absorbed rogue hurts Rikki by openly having an affair with his father’s loyal secretary Jennifer Calthorp (Margaret Johnson), which causes Rikki to attempt suicide.What saves Vivian is World War II, as the restless lad still itching for adventure leaves the secure arms of his dad’s secretary and becomes a daring tank commander only to heroically get blown up by a land mine while on patrol and thereby get redemption for his wastrel life by gallantly serving his country as a patriot. Too bad the pic wants to tell us that it was the war that made a responsible man out of such a reckless charmer, as it comments on upper-class decadence by touching the surface but never getting edgy.
Co-writer Frank Launder and writer-director Sidney Gilliat (“Waterloo Road”/”Green For Danger”/”London Belongs To Me”) keep things nice and spicy, as it’s based on the story byVal Valentine. But the film’s limited aim of shooting only for light comedy, keeps it from reaching any great heights. Nevertheless it’s always entertaining, the production values are fine and the script is witty.
REVIEWED ON 9/30/2010 GRADE: B