Did you know that Robert Shaw (1927 - 1978), aka Quint in the 1975 movie Jaws played a minor non-speaking role, uncredited role that is, here? As well as a walk on part by the then up and coming Audrey Hepburn (1929 - 1993). Apart from all that, The Lavender Hill Mob brings together an array of British talents, or other wise, be they in front of the camera or not. The slender bespectacled Sir Alec Guinness (1914 - 2000), sets himself against the stocky and charming Stanley Holloway (1890 - 1982), (who once faired against Rex Harrison and, again, Ms Hepburn in the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, as Alfred P. Doolittle in which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 1965 Academy Awards). An interesting trade-off in both personality and ability by these two giants of the classical period of British cinema.
With an interesting premise from both screenwriter, an ex-policeman turned writer, T.E.B. Clarke (1907 - 1989), and The Bank of England, who set up a committee to devise the plot for Lavender
.when being asked for advice from said screenwriter on how would it be at all possible to commit such a robbery. With a clever and witty, and at best dark and provocative script that draws the two hapless and benign men together, that are facing their winter years with no prospects of security and prosperity. A sinister plot is finely unfolded before our eyes, as these two sheepish misfits are, with a twist of fate slowly transformed into old dogs rather than wolves in sheep's clothing.
With elaborate cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, born 1913, whose work is a masterpiece of movie history as to boast the likes of Hue and Cry (1947), Mandy (known as Crash of Silence in the USA,1952). The Smallest Show on Earth (1957), Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), to the iconic Indiana Jones movies, plus the Never Say Never Again James Bond movie of 1983, and the examples are many. His portrayal of the criminal atmosphere is moody and bleak, in places, considering this is very early 1950's London, and an Ealing Studio production too, which had succumbed to the perils of World War Two, we see the City's streets and buildings still suffering in its wake, the dirty and grime ridden St. Paul's Cathedral is a fine example. This London is limping along to the tunes of rationing, and poverty, which did not end, for the ration book at least, until 1954.
The irony here is that amidst all these backward and enduring times, the new era of a post war Europe that we see in Lavender
.are the traits to the beginnings of the new technological age, the dawn of the 21st Century. In so far as the police and their new scientific and counter criminal methods, note the "The Camera Cracks Crime" poster for the first stages of CCTV at a London Police Convention, that today owe its success to the then newly born Age of Aquarius.
This is the image that Charles Crichton (1910 - 1999), the director of A Fish Called Wanda (1988) is depicting here also; this crime caper gone wrong is a stark reminder of the harsh times that England was suffering. With its crossover of pre World War prides and the birth of this new age society, for the wrong reasons, that is now poorer and just as dangerous and the will to take the risk is more prominent as it ever was. This crossover is carried by the old dogs and their employment of two modern day criminals; one Sidney James (1913 - 1976) of the Carry On establishment and the pint sized Alfie Bass (1921 - 1987). With this team of hardened and experienced criminals, plus the, ironically, naive and inexperienced intellectual brain power taking control, this is disillusioned middle class England meets working class desperation, where toward the end, trust is a friendless word, and morels are few and far between. In hindsight, this makes up for a jolly good crime caper, particularly at the movies casting of an inept and complacent Police Force, through their bumbling and short sightedness, an Ealing ploy for comic relief or a stab at authority in general perhaps.
Then again, this is an Ealing Studio production after all, and it wouldn't be doing its job other wise, would it?
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