|Directed by||Henry Cass|
|Produced by||Associated British Picture|
A. D. Peters
|Written by||J. B. Priestley|
|Music by||Francis Chagrin|
|Edited by||Monica Kimick|
|Distributed by||Warner Brothers|
Associated British-Pathé, Ltd.
|3 May 1950|
|Box office||£109,084 (UK)|
Last Holiday is a 1950 British film featuring Alec Guinness in his sixth starring role. The low key, dark comedy was written and co produced by J. B. Priestley and directed by Henry Cass, featuring irony and wit often associated with Priestley. Shooting locations included Bedfordshire and Devon.
George Bird (Guinness), an ordinary, unassuming salesman of agricultural implements who inexplicably speaks with a posh public school accent, visits a physician for a routine check-up and is told he has Lampington's disease, a newly identified condition which allows him only a few weeks to live. He accepts the doctor's advice to take his savings and enjoy himself in the little time left to him.
A bachelor with no family or friends, Bird decides to spend his last days at an upmarket residential hotel among its elite clientele. By chance, a salesman in a used clothing store has acquired two suitcases, covered with international labels. The cases are full of a deceased Lord's bespoke tailored wardrobe that perfectly fits Bird. Bird acquires the wardrobe and luggage that give him the appearance of a wealthy gentleman.
Bird's unassuming attitude generates a great deal of interest among the hotel's residents because he wears the same expensive clothes as all the other guests. He is seen as an enigma to be solved, with wild speculations offered as to his identity and possible noble lineage. The hotel's housekeeper (Walsh) guesses the truth, and Bird confides his secret to her. Bird quickly acquires friends and influence, falls in love (possibly for the first time in his life), sets wrongs to right, and is offered lucrative business opportunities. But these successes only serve to make him reflect on the irony that he will have no time to enjoy them.
During a strike by the hotel's staff, Bird comes into contact with Sir Trevor Lampington (Thesiger), the doctor after whom Lampington's disease was named. He insists that Bird cannot possibly have the disease as he has no symptoms, and contacts the hospital to ask it to check. Just as the hospital discovers its error Bird enters and it is confirmed that he indeed was given the wrong diagnosis.
Overjoyed, he is ready to begin life afresh with his new sweetheart, friends and business opportunities.
In a twist ending, however, he is tragically killed in a car accident on the way back to the hotel. He takes a shortcut through the sleepy village of Fallow End, where a man has just set his sick old dog down on the road to have a “last sniff round” before taking him to be put to sleep. Swerving to avoid the dog, Bird runs head-on into a lorry. Meanwhile, the hotel guests, having learned the truth about Bird's identity and misdiagnosis, are irritated that he has not appeared for a dinner celebrating his good news. As the evening wears on, most of them express their doubts about him, and Bellinghurst concludes the meal with an arrogant, longwinded “toast” to Bird, who is presumably back in his place. In hospital, resigned to his fate, Bird tells a nurse to “give his love” to all his friends at the hotel. Mrs. Poole silences Bellinghurst and shames the rest with the news that Mr. Bird is dead.
- Alec Guinness as George Bird
- Beatrice Campbell as Sheila Rockingham
- Brian Worth as Derek Rockingham
- Kay Walsh as Mrs. Poole
- Wilfrid Hyde-White as Chalfont
- Sid James as Joe Clarence
- Jean Colin as Daisy Clarence
- Helen Cherry as Miss Mellows
- Muriel George as Lady Oswington
- Esma Cannon as Miss Fox
- Moultrie Kelsall as Sir Robert Kyle
- Bernard Lee as Inspector Wilton
- Coco Aslan as Gambini
- Heather Wilde as Maggie the maid
- Ernest Thesiger as Sir Trevor Lampington
- Eric Maturin as Wrexham
- Campbell Cotts as Cabinet Minister Bellinghurst
- Brian Oulton as Prescott (Bellinghurst's assistant)
- Mme. Kirkwood-Hackett as Miss Hatfield
- Lockwood West as Dinsdale
- Ronald Simpson as Dr. Pevensey
- David McCallum as the Fiddler
- Meier Tzelniker as Baltin
- Jack Arrow as Lorry driver (accident)
The film was produced at Welwyn Studios with location shots at Luton, Bedfordshire, shopping parade, and 'The Rosetor Hotel', (now demolished), in Torquay, Devon. Priestley has sole screenwriting credit. However, some uncredited work was done on it by J. Lee Thompson.
However, in Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, critic Robert Murphy asserted that Last Holiday was not as good as it should have been, given the excellent performances by Guinness, Walsh and James. In particular he described the film's production values as "shabby" and singled out Priestley's trick ending for even harsher criticism, calling it "disastrously inappropriate."
Other releases and versions
The film was released on VHS in 1994, and again in 2000, by Homevision. It was released in DVD format by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection under licence from Studio Canal in June 2009, but was dropped from their catalogues in 2011.
- Joe Versus the Volcano, another film with a similar premise
- The Blue Castle, a novel with a similar plot
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p. 492
- staff (2016). "FILM: Last Holiday". Reel Streets. Reel Streets. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780198159346.
- Crowther, Bosley (14 November 1950). "The Screen in Review; 'Last Holiday,' Written by J.B. Priestley, Stars Alec Guinness as Man Doomed to Die". New York Times. New York. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Murphy, Robert (2003). ..Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, Routledge. ISBN 978-1134901500 p. 188
- staff (2016). "Last Holiday: Editions". WorldCat. Online Computer Library Center. Retrieved 10 May 2012.Lanthier, Joseph Jon (14 June 2009). "Last Holiday". Slant Magazine. Slantmagazine.com. Retrieved 10 May 2016.