|The Big Money|
Movie Poster (1958)
|Directed by||John Paddy Carstairs|
|Produced by||Joseph Janni (uncredited)|
Earl St. John
|Written by||John Baines|
|Based on||story by John Baines|
|Music by||Van Phillips|
Jack E. Cox
|Edited by||Alfred Roome|
|Distributed by||Rank Film Distributors (UK)|
|10 June 1958 (UK)|
Willie (Ian Carmichael) is the bad seed of a family of thieves (James Hayter, Kathleen Harrison and Jill Ireland). One day, he steals a briefcase from a dodgy clergyman (Robert Helpmann), which is full of pound notes. Unfortunately, the notes all have the same serial number!
He is seduced by "the big money" and starts passing the counterfeits, one note at a time. Much of his need for money is to impress Gloria (Belinda Lee), the pretty barmaid at his local pub. She dreams of the millionaire who will come and give her the good life. Unfortunately, he cannot pass the fake money fast enough to keep up with her wants.
When she helps herself to some of the counterfeit money, it gets the attention of the police and the mobsters. It all ends in a free-for-all, between the police, Arabs, and mobsters, in disguise. Finally, she has to decide whether she loves him or his money.
- Ian Carmichael – Willie Frith
- Belinda Lee – Gloria
- Kathleen Harrison – Mrs Frith
- Jill Ireland – Doreen Frith
- Robert Helpmann – The Reverend
- James Hayter – Mr Frith
- George Coulouris – The Colonel
- Renée Houston – Bobbie
- Michael Brennan – Bluey
- Leslie Phillips – Receptionist
- Harold Berens – Bookmaker
- Hugh Morton – Valet
- Ferdy Mayne – Furrier
- Digby Wolfe – Harry Mason
- Michael Balfour – 'Wilberforce'
Production and release
Ian Carmichael had played a support role in the film of Simon and Laura (1955) for Rank and starred in a significant hit, Private's Progress, for the Boulting Brothers. This led to the Rank Organisation offering him a three-picture contract of which this was to be the first. Carmichael said the movie would be "a sad disappointment, and, after working in such close accord with John and Roy for twelve weeks, a frustrating and nail biting experience."
Filming took place at Pinewood in April 1956 and took ten weeks.
Carmichael says when he read the script he felt the premise was "a good one and the early sequences gave it a promising start" but that "very soon it descended into the broadest comedy cliches." He complained to the producer and director who did not share his concern so Carmichael "took the matter higher."
The Rank Organisation had employed Bryan Forbes as an in-house script doctor and staff writer and he was sent the screenplay. He and Carmichel spent two days working out an amended treatment and Forbes went to write up the scenes. The executive producer found out about this and pulled Forbes off the film – Carmichael says the movie was shot as per the original script.
The film's release was cancelled in July 1956 because Rank Organisation head Sir John Davis did not believe it was sufficiently funny. According to critic Alexander Walker, Davis reportedly considered it "too terrible to show", although Walker described it in 1993 as "almost indistinguishable from the general run of other Rank products." Carmichael, then making Brothers in Law said "all I can say is if the powers that be think the film is unfunny I'm relieved they're not going to show it." Helpmann said, "I applaud the courage of Mr Davis' decision but I can take no responsibility for the unfunniness of the film."
In 1958 producer Hugh Stewart was working on a Norman Wisdom movie that involved scenes at Ascot. The director, John Paddy Carstairs, remembered there were Ascot sequences in The Big Money and suggested Stewart look at it. The producer felt the film could be released with some additional editing and music. This led to a June 1958 release and screenings on Rank's Odeon circuit. Producer Joseph Janni took his name off the credits.
Variety said, "all Stewart's labors cannot disguise the fact that Davis was right in the first place. Though sparking from an amusing idea, "The Big Money" is funny only in spots. It is bogged down by gag situations that are telegraphed, and feeble dialog... Though it may prove a modest filler in certain British houses, it Will do nobody's reputation any good if it is entered for U.S. consumption."
Carmichael said that Stewart's "confidence was misplaced. The Big Money should have remained incarcerated or, better still, destroyed." It led to the termination of Rank's contract with Carmichael by mutual agreement. The actor wrote in his memoirs "I didn't like factory farming, which was what I assessed the film production at Pinewood to be at the time, and they, no doubt, didn't like my argumentative interference in a side of the production which they probably considered to be none of my affair. The fact that all along I had been wrong about The Big Money could also only have rankled."
- Walker, Alexander (3 July 1993). "Obituary: Sir John Davis". The Independent. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
- "Star Dust". The Mirror. Perth. 4 August 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 17 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
- £175,000 laughter film shelved Author: Cecil Wilson Date: Monday, July 23, 1956 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) Issue: 18743 p 5
- "'SILLY-ASS' ROLES SUIT NEW STAR". The Australian Women's Weekly. 23 (47). 18 April 1956. p. 62. Retrieved 2 August 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
- Carmichael p 316
- "Diana now wants to play serious roles". The Mirror. 36 (1814). Western Australia. 3 March 1956. p. 11. Retrieved 12 July 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
- Vagg, Stephen (7 September 2020). "A Tale of Two Blondes: Diana Dors and Belinda Lee". Filmink.
- Carmichael p 317
- Carmichael p 318
- Review of film at Variety
- Carmichael, Ian (1980). Will the real Ian Carmichael – : an autobiography. Futura Publications.