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Movie Night: The Ladykillers


The Ladykillers (1955)

On Wednesday, March 5th, Movies at Mothers returns when we present Alexander Mackendrick’s classic 1955 Ealing Studios comedy, The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom.

Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), a dotty but well meaning elderly widow living in a house built over a railway tunnel in London, is visited by “Professor” Marcus (Alec Guinness), a ghoulish figure of a man, who wishes to rent out a room she has advertised. His intention is to use the space to plan an elaborate payroll van heist, and to that end has assembled a true rogue’s gallery of hoodlums. His gang includes the black marketeer, Harry (Peter Sellers), ex-boxer One-Round (Danny Green), con-man Major Courtney (Cecil Parker), and all-around thug Louis (Herbert Lom). To allay Mrs. Wilberforce’s suspicions, the Professor introduces the gang as a classical string quintet, who will require the room for their rehearsal. As they carry out their plan, a series of events conspires to blow their cover and alert their landlady to the true nature of their nefarious activities. It soon becomes abundantly clear that the gang will have to consider the prospect of eliminating the sweet old gal, lest suffer the consequences.

One of the shining lights of the British film industry in the post war period was the Ealing Studios, who produced a series of memorable yet understated comedies in the 1950s, many of which have admirably withstood the test of time. The best of these film starred the great Alec Guinness (The Man In The White Suit, The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts And Coronets), and served as an excellent showcase for his uncanny ability to disappear into virtually any class of character. An unremarkable looking fellow of slight build, but possessed of a face that could subtly convey a galaxy of personality quirks, Guinness stands as one of the greatest character actors of all time (a shame that he is best known for playing a lightsaber wielding Jedi in a film that required so little of his stellar talent).

The Ladykillers stands to this day as Ealing’s most popular comedy, and for good reason. Director Alexander Mackendrick (The Man In The White Suit, The Sweet Smell Of Success) not only had a flair for comic pacing, but also for artful composition and dramatic chiaroscuro lighting that give even his his comedies a tasty noirish touch. His Ealing productions are stand-outs for employing a classic dramatic framework wherein comedy seems to flow organically from the characters, free of slapstick or one-liners.

In 2004, the Coen Brothers made an unnecessary remake of this film, starring Tom Hanks in the role of the Professor.

The excitement begins at 6:30 when you will enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:00 PM. Hope to see you there!

Mother’s is located at 212 SW Stark.