A poster bearing the film's American title: The Promoter
|Directed by||Ronald Neame|
|Produced by||John Bryan|
Earl St. John (exec.)
Bob McNaught (assoc.)
|Written by||Eric Ambler|
|Based on||the novel The Card|
by Arnold Bennett
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Clive Donner|
|25 February 1952|
|Box office||£163,000 (U.K.)|
$480,000 (U.S./Canada rentals)
The Card is a 1952 black-and-white film version of the 1911 novel by Arnold Bennett. Titled The Promoter for its American audience, it was adapted by Eric Ambler and directed by Ronald Neame. It starred Alec Guinness as Denry Machin, Glynis Johns as Ruth Earp, Valerie Hobson as the Countess, and Petula Clark as Nellie Cotterill. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound.
It is mainly faithful to the novel, omitting some minor incidents.
The film follows the adventures and misadventures of Edward Henry (Denry) Machin, an ambitious young man from a poor background.
Denry surreptitiously changes his poor grades in order to qualify for entry to a "school for the sons of gentlemen". At the age of 16, he becomes a junior clerk to Mr. Duncalf, the town clerk and a solicitor. He meets the charming and socially well-connected Countess of Chell, a client of Duncalf's, and is given the job of sending out invitations to a grand municipal ball. He "invites" himself, and wins a £5 bet that he will ask the Countess to dance. This earns him the reputation of a "card" (a "character", someone able to set tongues wagging)—a reputation he is determined to cement. But the next day, Duncalf angrily sacks Denry.
Denry offers his services as a rent collector to a dissatisfied client of Duncalf's, Mrs Codleyn. His reputation as an efficient and no-nonsense collector brings the business of Mr Calvert. However, Denry quickly realises that he can make more money by advancing loans, at a highly profitable interest rate, to the many tenants who are in arrears. He also discovers that Ruth Earp, the dancing teacher who is attracted to Denry, is herself heavily in arrears to Mr. Calvert. Despite this, he and Ruth become engaged.
While on holiday in Llandudno with Ruth (accompanied by her friend Nellie Cotterill as chaperone), he witnesses a shipwreck and the rescue of the sailors—an event that he turns to his financial advantage. He also realises Ruth's spendthrift nature, and they part on bitter terms.
Denry starts up the Five Towns Universal Thrift Club, a bold venture that allows members to purchase goods on credit. This increases Denry's wealth and reputation, and he is able to expand further, thanks to the patronage of the Countess.
Denry's social ambitions expand. He becomes a town councillor, and he purchases the rights to locally-born Callear, the "greatest centre forward in England", for the failing local football club.
Ruth reappears, now the widow of a rich, older, titled man. He considers renewing their relationship but is unsure of his (and her) feelings.
Nellie's father, a builder, is bankrupt (again), and the family decides to migrate to Canada. As they are boarding the ocean liner at Liverpool, Denry realises that Nellie is devastated at her potential loss and that he really loves only her. Ruth, who is also present, is furious, but quickly starts a fresh relationship with another older titled gentleman.
Nellie and Denry marry. Denry becomes the youngest mayor in the history of Bursley.
- Alec Guinness as Denry Machin
- Glynis Johns as Ruth Earp
- Valerie Hobson as Countess of Chell
- Petula Clark as Nellie Cotterill
- Edward Chapman as Herbert Duncalf
- Veronica Turleigh as Mrs Machin
- George Devine as Herbert Calvert
- Joan Hickson as Mrs Codleyn
- Wilfrid Hyde-White as a Lord at the Liverpool dock (uncredited)
For Guinness, playing the romantic lead was a departure from his previously comic roles. The film was one of the first adult screen roles for Clark, who received her first screen kiss.
A critic in The Manchester Guardian wrote that "Guinness appears to take only a perfunctory interest in 'Denry.' He plays him much too quietly", and that the film "never quite takes wings of fancy."
The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review, writing "the script Eric Ambler has adapted from Arnold Bennett's old novel, The Card, is provokingly uninfested with dramatic compulsion or push. It just ambles along very gently from one situation to the next ... The Promoter, while vastly amusing in spots, is not a first-rate Guinness show."
Clark recorded a vocal version of the film's theme, with lyrics by her long-term accompanist, Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson.
- BFI Collections: Michael Balcon Papers H3 reprinted in British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference By Sue Harper, Vincent Porter p 41
- "Alec Guinness Now Money Star in US". Variety. 13 January 1954. p. 2.
- "The 25th Academy Awards (1953) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "New Films in London". The Guardian. 1 March 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 8 April 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bosley Crowther (29 October 1952). "The Screen in Review; Alec Guinness and Glynis Johns Play a Crafty Pair in 'The Promoter' at Fine Arts". The New York Times.
- Cameron, Kate (29 October 1952). "Arnold Bennett Novel A Fine Guinness Film". Daily News. p. 80. Retrieved 8 April 2020 – via Newspapers.com.