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  1. #1
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    Basil Dearden's endearing and breezy crime caper is an entirely satisfying work that, in modern parlance, pushes all the right buttons. For those who think that British film history begins and ends with Danny Boyle and drawing room comedies, The League of Gentlemen (1959) is a timely reminder of the inventiveness and charm that typified British cinema culture in the early 1960s, providing a tutorial in clever plotting and sturdy acting along the way.



    Jack Hawkins is a recently discharged army colonel who concocts a plan to rob a City bank. With the help of seven other ex-military miscreants (all 'with a guilty past and a hopeless future'), they spend the next hour and a half meticulously planning and plotting their scheme. Included in this ragbag include Richard Attenborough, Nigel Patrick and Roger Livesey - all famous faces – who along with the other 'gentlemen' hope that their winnings will improve their love life, alleviate their boredom, and generally get one over on the army. The League of Gentlemen is also famous for its cameo appearance by Oliver Reed, whose film career was then just beginning. The League of Gentlemen received a British Academy Award nomination for Best British Screenplay (Forbes).



    Shot in wonderfully defined monochrome, Dearden's sure-handed direction is ably reinforced by Bryan Forbes's screenplay. Adapted from John Boland's novel, Forbes cleverly captures the zeitgeist, alternating between military-speak and crime patois, while all the time giving different characters (including himself, as piano-playing toy-boy Porthill) a sense of breadth and depth. Throughout, Forbes and Dearden use the end of the war as metaphor for the kind of changes Britain is going through. In one scene, there might be a room full of chandeliers and roulette tables; in another Nanette Newman lying in a bath whispering sexual innuendo.



    The film slowburns throughout, but really comes to life in the climactic bank heist, and before that, a daring rade on a Dorset military barracks. This latter scene in particular includes social comment, Carry On-esque high-jinks and a developing sense of tension. Philip Green's music is crucial throughout, combining a patriotic brass score with an insouciant up-tempo beat. The actors carry the film with charisma.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK Wee Sonny MacGregor's Avatar
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    A super film with a smashing cast. Loved Robert Coote at the end: "Are we going on somewhere"!

  3. #3
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    An excellent dissection and dissertation, Dylan. This film is definitely of my favourites. I revisit it every few months - in fact the last time was about a fortnight ago. The dialogue is just right (well done Mr Forbes), the ensemble acting a delight and the set pieces, such as the gang's visit to the army camp masquerading as top brass, are wonderfully executed.



    Incidentally, in the sequence where they are making painfully slow progress as they escape the scene of the robbery along a smoke filled street there is an interesting technical error - I think the Americans refer to them as bloopers. The smoke which was used during the shoot was obviously found, during the editing, to be inadequate on a couple of shots and a swirling fog effect was added later in post production. Unfortunately it is not present for the first few frames of the two shots and can be seen to 'pop' on.

  4. #4
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    deff one of my faves....finally bought it on dvd today..outstanding cast..anyone know what happened to the actors nigel patrick and kierion moore..roger livesy and jack hawkins were superb

  5. #5
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    Nigel died in 1981 of lung cancer. He's one of my favourites, and rather overlooked. He could do suppressed (the Sound Barrier), a spiv (Noose), a fearsome Flight Sergeant (The Sea Shall Not Have Them), a know-it-all with a heart (Trio), and a superb Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers.



    Nigel Patrick

    Nick

  6. #6
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    deff one of my faves....finally bought it on dvd today..outstanding cast..anyone know what happened to the actors nigel patrick and kierion moore..roger livesy and jack hawkins were superb
    Yes it's a great film and apparently some of it was very risque at that time; Nanette Newman playing Charlie Hungerford's Sloane Ranger strumpet of a wife, Bryan Forbes a lounge lizard gigolo, Kieron Moore as a closet homosexual, Roger Livesey as a bogus vicar with a suitcase full of porny mags!



    It was one of those stories where you really want the criminals to succeed. Unfortunately whenever there is celebration after a big robbery job in such films you just know instinctively that the game will be up and all will be lost (it was similar in Robbery too with Stanley Baker, when only the main man managed to get away)!

  7. #7
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    Nigel died in 1981 of lung cancer. He's one of my favourites, and rather overlooked. He could do suppressed (the Sound Barrier), a spiv (Noose), a fearsome Flight Sergeant (The Sea Shall Not Have Them), a know-it-all with a heart (Trio), and a superb Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers.



    Nigel Patrick

    Nick
    Jack hawkins too died from cancer - throat cancer. These chaps all smoked heavily. John Thaw, et al. Such a pity, such a waste!

  8. #8
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    I saw it as a "peace-time war film" with the gang carrying out the heist with military precision. In the original book by John Boland, Hyde commits suicide rather than be captured. With the success of the film, Boland wrote a sequel and re-wrote the original with the same ending as the film.



    D.

  9. #9
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    I saw it as a "peace-time war film" with the gang carrying out the heist with military precision. In the original book by John Boland, Hyde commits suicide rather than be captured. With the success of the film, Boland wrote a sequel and re-wrote the original with the same ending as the film.
    D.
    It seems as though "not getting away with it" was often mandatory in some crime films back then, making the establishment look foolish would not be in the nation's best interests.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK Merton Park's Avatar
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    In those days the Censor would not let them get away with it. The moral of, crime doesn't pay, was pre eminent. Just look at the sentences of the perpertraters of The Great Robbery. I can only assume that things began to alter from 1964 onwards.

  11. #11
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    A super film with a smashing cast. Loved Robert Coote at the end: "Are we going on somewhere"!
    Can't agree more, a superb film with a supeb cast....

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    got to be one of the best british films, and what a cast!!!!

  13. #13
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    strange to see oliver reed playing such a camp early bit part roll in this film ......not like is usual hard man stuff

  14. #14
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    Basil Dearden's endearing and breezy crime caper...

    Shot in wonderfully defined monochrome, Dearden's sure-handed direction is ably reinforced by Bryan Forbes's screenplay. Adapted from John Boland's novel, Forbes cleverly captures the zeitgeist, alternating between military-speak and crime patois, while all the time giving different characters (including himself, as piano-playing toy-boy Porthill) a sense of breadth and depth.
    I love this movie, and have great respect for Dearden, a much under-rated director whose time will surely come if ever anybody writes a book about him. But there is such a thing as overdoing the acclaim. THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN is not "Basil Dearden's" anything. If ever there was a collaboration between equals in British film, this is it, and you'd have to include the entire Allied group.



    To say that Dearden's direction is "reinforced" by Forbes screenplay strikes me as the wrong way round. Dearden reinforced the screenplay. Everything is shot well enough (though I wouldn't call it exceptional photography), but it's the script and actors who make this one really work. Dearden did a good workmanlike job of directing. But if you read the original novel (much more dour and brutal in tone), you'll see that Forbes made a zillion changes, including the key ones of introducing humour to balance the suspense, developing quite different characters, and that metaphor of post-war Britain.

  15. #15
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    I love this movie, and have great respect for Dearden, a much under-rated director whose time will surely come if ever anybody writes a book about him. But there is such a thing as overdoing the acclaim. THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN is not "Basil Dearden's" anything. If ever there was a collaboration between equals in British film, this is it, and you'd have to include the entire Allied group.



    To say that Dearden's direction is "reinforced" by Forbes screenplay strikes me as the wrong way round. Dearden reinforced the screenplay. Everything is shot well enough (though I wouldn't call it exceptional photography), but it's the script and actors who make this one really work. Dearden did a good workmanlike job of directing. But if you read the original novel (much more dour and brutal in tone), you'll see that Forbes made a zillion changes, including the key ones of introducing humour to balance the suspense, developing quite different characters, and that metaphor of post-war Britain.
    Absolutely spot on Andrew. The dialogue is sparkling and the performances near-perfection.

  16. #16
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    what would the cost be to assemble such a cast now??

    Hawkins/Patrick/Attenborough/Livesey/Bird/Alexander/Moore

    and what a cameo by Coote, priceless and yes a superb film

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    Wonderful comments - I heartily endorse all of them!!



    Under the "Whatever happened to..." mantra, whatever became of Norman Bird? I last saw him in an episode of "Fawlty Towers" playing a guest reluctant to complain...



    I always thought that he would be the perfect man to play H.G. Wells due to the striking physical similarity...

  18. #18
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    Wonderful comments - I heartily endorse all of them!!

    Under the "Whatever happened to..." mantra, whatever became of Norman Bird? I last saw him in an episode of "Fawlty Towers" playing a guest reluctant to complain...

    I always thought that he would be the perfect man to play H.G. Wells due to the striking physical similarity...
    Unfortunately he died a couple of years ago. The commentary on the Network release of LoG is interesting; according to Brian Forbes and Nanette Newman, who obviously knew him well - and they're very effusive about his talent, his understatement - but during the war he was a tail-gunner in Lancasters, and came to acting quite late in life.

  19. #19
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    Wonderful comments - I heartily endorse all of them!!

    Under the "Whatever happened to..." mantra, whatever became of Norman Bird? I last saw him in an episode of "Fawlty Towers" playing a guest reluctant to complain...



    I always thought that he would be the perfect man to play H.G. Wells due to the striking physical similarity...
    the last I saw of Norman was as a taxi driver in Attenboroughs film of Shadowlands. Good of Dickie to lend a mate a helping hand.

  20. #20
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    2 things about this film.Firstly there is a scene with Norman Rossington discussing the flap that has been caused by the "General's" visit when he actually uses the f word.It comes about half way through.How on earth did this get past John Trevelyan i wonder.You can hear it for yourself as it is being shown on Channel 4 at 12.30pm on the 23rd April.

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