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The Birthday Present (1957)

A top salesman with a U.K. toy firm foolishly brings an expensive watch back from a German trip for his wife's birthday. This is illegal in 1950's Britain and when Customs discover the ... See full summary »


Pat Jackson
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Britton Tony Britton ... Simon Scott
Sylvia Syms ... Jean Scott
Jack Watling ... Bill Thompson
Geoffrey Keen ... Colonel Wilson
Walter Fitzgerald ... Sir John Dell
Howard Marion-Crawford ... Bates (as Howard Marion Crawford)
David Hutcheson David Hutcheson ... Ex. R.A.F. Type
Richard Leech ... Hawkins
Lockwood West Lockwood West ... Mr. Barraclough
Cyril Luckham ... Magistrate
John Welsh ... Customs Officer
Ian Bannen ... Jr. Customs Officer
Ernest Clark ... Barrister
Thorley Walters ... Photographer
Harry Fowler ... Charlie


A top salesman with a U.K. toy firm foolishly brings an expensive watch back from a German trip for his wife's birthday. This is illegal in 1950's Britain and when Customs discover the watch he is charged and, unusually, given a prison sentence. Not having the money to appeal he has to serve his time hoping the details don't get out and he won't lose his job. Written by J-26

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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Release Date:

31 October 1957 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Geburtstagsgeschenk See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

British Lion Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The role of Bill Thompson, played by Jack Watling, should have originally been portrayed by Leslie Phillips, who was an old friend of Watling's since the late 1930s, when they attended the same acting school in London. See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits run over an Alpine model railway scene. See more »


One Jump Ahead
Music by Trevor Duncan
Boosey & Hawkes Ltd
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User Reviews

Absorbing morality tale
29 April 2018 | by DPMaySee all my reviews

Completely devoid of action or incidents of extreme drama, this 1957 film lets its story unfold in a rather matter-of-fact fashion and yet manages to remain absorbing throughout. Essentially a study of morality, it follows a young enterprising travelling sales representative played by Tony Britton who returns from a business trip abroad, bringing back with him an expensive watch he is going to give his wife (played by Sylvia Syms) as a birthday present. Having already managed to purchase the watch at a bargain price, he tries to save himself even more money by sneaking it unseen through customs to avoid paying import duty on it upon his return to the UK.

However, his attempt to cheat is discovered by the customs officials. His initial laissez-faire attitude is an indicator that he regards neither the action he has committed or its consequences as anything really serious, but it has in fact triggered a chain of events that sees his entire life falling down around him. Britton and Syms deliver excellent performances as the situation grows more desperate at each turn, as the main character's career, home, social standing and maybe also his very marriage are threatened by an unexpected spell in prison, a humbling experience for a man who sees himself as being above the status of the warders, let alone the other inmates.

Is it fair for a good man to lose everything he has because of one momentary lapse of judgement which didn't harm anyone? That is the predominant question asked by this film, which will challenge the viewer to think through the possible consequences of any decision more fully in future.

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