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Last Holiday (1950 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last Holiday
a still shot from the film "Last Holiday" which shows Alec Guinness arriving at the hotel
Alec Guinness as George Bird and Helen Cherry as Miss Mellows
Directed byHenry Cass
Written byJ. B. Priestley
Produced byAssociated British Picture
Watergate Films
Stephen Mitchell
A. D. Peters
J.B. Priestley
StarringAlec Guinness
Beatrice Campbell
Kay Walsh
Bernard Lee
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Helen Cherry
Jean Colin
Muriel George
Sid James
CinematographyRay Elton
Edited byMonica Kimick
Music byFrancis Chagrin
Warner Brothers
Welwyn Studios
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Associated British-Pathé, Ltd.
Release date
  • 3 May 1950 (1950-05-03)
Running time
89 min
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£109,084 (UK)[1]

Last Holiday is a 1950 British black comedy film, featuring Alec Guinness in his sixth starring role. The low key, black 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. The film was co-written by an uncredited J. Lee Thompson.[2]

The film's narrative revolves around George Bird, who is a salesman for an agricultural implements company. During a routine visit to his physician, he is told that he has a terminal disease and only a short time to live. He decides to spend his final days in an expensive hotel. Once there, he acquires friends and a love interest who eventually learn of his plight.

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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 and takes the salesman's advice to shave off his moustache 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, Mrs. Poole (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 one of them, 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.



The film was produced at Welwyn Studios with location shots at Luton, Bedfordshire, shopping parade, and 'The Rosetor Hotel', (now demolished), in Torquay, Devon.[3] Priestley has sole screenwriting credit. However, some uncredited work was done on it by J. Lee Thompson.[4]


Upon its release in New York City in November 1950, Bosley Crowther called it an "amusing and poignant little picture" that is "simple and modest in structure but delightfully rich in character."[5]

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."[6]

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.[7]

Last Holiday of 2006 was a loose remake, starring Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt, and Gérard Depardieu.

See also


  1. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p. 492
  2. ^ Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780198159346.
  3. ^ staff (2016). "FILM: Last Holiday". Reel Streets. Reel Streets. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  4. ^ Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780198159346.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Murphy, Robert (2003). ..Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, Routledge. ISBN 978-1134901500 p. 188
  7. ^ staff (2016). "Last Holiday: Editions". WorldCat. Online Computer Library Center. Retrieved 10 May 2012.Lanthier, Joseph Jon (14 June 2009). "Last Holiday". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 10 May 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 7 May 2024, at 20:28
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