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I recently saw this film on video and was pleasantly surprised. George Arliss was a real gem of the early cinema and this film continues to display his genius on screen. The film itself is the standard vehicle for Arliss, typically his character undermines some unscrupulous scheme whilst playing cupid to two young lovers. Even after several films this formula remained fresh due to Arliss' talent for reinventing characters. Its a great shame that more of his films aren't available, they have certainly endured more than many films half their age. The similarities with Trading Places are almost immediately obvious, the only difference is that this film is half a century older. A tramp (Arliss) is, through a series of plot twists, made a manager of a bank, in order to cover the unscrupulous dealings of two businessmen, who think him to be a simpleton. The businessmen find out to their cost as Arliss outsmarts and bankrupts them. The film also nicely parodies Arliss' early movie The House of Rothschild.
The Guv'nor finds George Arliss not playing in one of his heroic
biographical films for which his reputation has come down to the
present day. Instead he's playing a gentleman tramp over in Paris who
happens to have the famous name of Francois Rothschild. Ironic because
one of Arliss's most famous biographical roles was that of Nathan
Rothschild in House Of Rothschild.
Poor Arliss, all he wants to do is go south for the winter. But he becomes part of a scheme by banker Frank Cellier to fleece Viola Keats and her mother Henrietta Watson out of their iron ore works because of his name. But Arliss proves way too smart for all of them.
I'm really glad I discovered this film on TCM today. It was an absolutely charming portrayal by Arliss, very much in the same vein as Maurice Chevalier in Ma' Pomme and Cary Grant in Father Goose. Let's just say that Arliss plays his famous name for all that it's worth and he proves more than a match for those who want to use him.
Do not miss this one if it is broadcast again.
I recognized George Arliss from "Disraeli" (He starred in both the silent 1921 version and the talkie 1929, with his wife Florence, no less. Won an Oscar for the 1929 role.) "The Guvnor" opens with Barsac the banker (Frank Cellier) discussing a scheme that might help him get out of a mess, and make some quick money at the same time. Send in Arliss as the hobo. (They were willing to work for food back then...) The hobo, whose last name just happens to be "Rothschilde", befriends Madelaine, a young lady about to lose her home. The hobo manages to be in the right place at the right time, and ends up in a position where he can try to help out Madelaine and her family. Frank Cellier was the Sheriff in Hitchcock's "39 Steps". Also take note of Paul, the rep from the bank, Patric Knowles. Knowles was a little fish in some huge films in the 1930s and 1940s. Directed by Milton Rosmer, who seems to have done things in reverse - he stopped writing and directing in 1938, and acted until 1956. Made by Gaumont Studios, its not just a "quota film" from the Cinematography Act; its actually quite good, and 80 minutes long in the Turner Classics version. Acc to IMDb, the original was 88 minutes... wonder what was so horrible that eight minutes had to be chopped off. The film production code was just being phased in here in the US, but the rest of the film seems quite tame and innocent. Tramps toying with the rich were all the rage in the US in the 1930s (Merrily we Live, My Man Godfrey), and this is right up there with the best of them.
This film is quite a change of pace for George Arliss. First, he made
it in his home in the UK--not Hollywood. Second, he plays a scruffy
hobo--the exact opposite of his usual businessman or member of the
upper class. Sure, he's done comedy (such as in "The Working Man") but
as a hobo?! However, what is constant is that Arliss manages to make it
all seem very effortless and fun--something I have seen in all his
"Mister Hobo" begins with Arliss and his friend traipsing around France. When they are picked up by the police for vagrancy, the authorities are shocked when Arliss gives his name--François Rothschild. People think he's associated with THE Rothschild family and suddenly doors begin to open. And, with his gentlemanly manners and grace, people suddenly treat him like a king. In fact, they want him and his good name--and bring him into big business. And, now that he looks successful, people keep giving him things! And when a dirt-bag financier begins cosing up to him, Arliss suspects something and he decides to investigate things for himself. I could say a lot more, but it would spoil the fun.
This is a delightful little comedy. Arliss was wonderful--graceful and quite funny. And in the end, everything came together quite nicely. Clever and cute.
Where are the French accents?
I just saw this movie n Netflix which for some reason has several 1930s British movies - and I am happily and slowly making my way through them. This movie is good but nowhere near as good as Arliss' very funny The Working Man (a movie I would much like to see again as it has been many years since I last saw it). The movie's title "The Guv'nor" sounds very British to me yet the story is set in France. I assume this was done solely for the purpose of using the name Rothchild for the hobo. The audience as well as Arliss and the producers must have chuckled over this play on one of Arliss' famous roles. Here we have a hobo mistaken for a member of the renown and wealthy Rothchild family who in an unlikely but fun scenario becomes a trustee of a bank. The banker, marvelously played by Frank Cellier is very devious and plans to use Arliss as a fall guy for his own corrupt dealings. Mister Hobo is not so naive as he may appear and shows the banker a thing or two. I bet Arliss had fun with this movie. And so will those who are lucky enough to see it.
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