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Very well adapted from the novel by Arnold Bennett, this is a warm and witty
comedy about the rise of a washerwoman's son from obscurity to becoming the
Mayor. In a series of episodes Edward Henry (Denry as his mother called him)
Machin demonstrates his acumen in business, his eye for the main chance,
noticing what Shakespeare called the 'tide in the affairs of men that leads
on to fortune'. (Literally in one episode!)
In all of his this you can not help liking Denry, especially as he is perfectly played by Alec Guinness. As the narrator says, he is not dishonest, he just likes to give providence a helping hand. As Denry grows older Guinness wonderfully captures each facet of his character. He is well supported by the other cast members, each one also perfect for their roles. It is hard to think of a better cast film, even down to the small roles.
The film captures well the look of the Potteries. The small houses, the pottery kilns, the canal. This place is living and breathing, populated by interesting people. An excellent film, splendid in all departments and well worth seeing many times.
It's easy to like this charming, unpretentious film in which Alec Guinness's restrained performance hits all the right notes. His fine work during the early 50's is unfortunately overshadowed by the public's identification with him in such big budget productions as The Bridge Over the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. It's the "small movies" like this one (The Lady Killers, The Last Holiday, The Captain's Paradise and Man in the White Suit also come to mind) where we see his real skill and genius. The Card is enhanced by the appealing characters played by Glynis Johns and Valerie Hobson. Fans will also recall Hobson in another Guinness film, Kind Hearts and Coronets. One bit of puzzling trivia: How did Eric Ambler, known mostly for his espionage novels and, later, for Topkapi, come to write the screenplay for this gentle comedy?....
This terrific 1952 British black and white movie directed by Ronald
Neame (with an inspired casting of a young Alec Guinness as Arnold
Bennett's wonderful character, the upwardly-mobile Denry Machin), loses
none of the story's magic and captures the flavour of the period (from
about 1888 and onwards) and the Potteries (North Staffordshire,
England) absolutely perfectly. The ballroom scene (among many others)
is an utter delight.
The beautiful Valerie Hobson as the "Countess of Chell" is enchanting. Glynis Johns as the frivolous and extravagant social-climbing dance instructress is equally lovely. Edward Chapman as Mr Duncalf is at his usual pompous best. A marvellous supporting cast puts in a stalwart performance and are all on top form, and the acting by all involved is superb (although Petula Clark is a little too reserved and somewhat bland), but after all that, the star of the show surely has to be Joey the Mule.
I don't intend to give you the storyline as enough reviewers have done that already. Suffice it to say that of all the transferences of classic stories to the screen, this must be one of the best, and I defy anyone (young or old) who may watch it, not to enjoy it (even though it is in black and white), and unfortunately, even with colour and much improved modern techniques, marvellous movies like this just aren't made anymore.
A classic Alec Guinness, as the young man from the lower class who wants
move up in the world, and does, because he has the courage to go for it.
one scene his boss tells him off (not an exact quote), "So, you fancy
yourself being with your betters, do you?" The cheeky reply is "Yes, don't
The best line is when his assistant brings him a pile of money collected from his latest enterprise, and comments that it seems a lot of money for doing nothing. The response is: "But I did do something; I thought of it."
This is a funny, thoughtful, social commentary, with a great look at both the lower and upper classes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a wonderful film. That's it. There is nothing else to be said.
Really. It's gentle, charming, witty and just about perfect in every
way. (Ok, if you are a hard-core slasher / zombie movie fan you aren't
going to like it - but anyone into grown up movies will be charmed.)
The script is light and flawless, there isn't a wasted shot, and Guinness is superb. After a few minutes I had forgotten it was Alec Guinness on the screen and was hooked. I especially loved the way Guinness couldn't dance at his first lesson - a wonderful piece of physical acting - and I was genuinely squirming with apprehension as the gauche young solicitor's clerk marched through the ballroom to ask the Countess of Chell for a dance.
A beautiful gem of a film.
A classic Alec Guinness performance, in this case as Denry Machin, a
man who sees opportunity around every corner. Typified by his line 'I
just do this to make money', Machin is likable as he sets up his
'Thrift Club' to entice locals into giving him money so he can purchase
goods at a huge discount.
One of the first entrepreneurs, Machin is a lovable rogue and his story is a fun one to watch. A great British classic which showcases Guinness (one of our best actors) alongside British movie luminaries Glynis Johns, Valerie Hobson, and Petula Clark.
Much later this story was made into a musical, but sadly that has never yet been filmed. It will be fascinating if that ever makes it to the screen.
One of the greatest British comedies of the 1950s and one of Alec
Guinness' most satisfying roles early in his long career. As Denry
Machin, son of a washerwoman and the "card" of the title, Guiness
brings to life one of the almost forgotten stories about the "five
towns" (Stoke-on-Trent) of Arnold Bennett. The old-fashioned and very
English word "card" had to be translated into the American title "the
promoter", but that is a far less accurate description of Denry
Machin's combination of charm and opportunism.
He is supported by four magical actresses, in sharply contrasted roles. Gold-digger Glynis Johns, her friend Petula Clark, aristocrat Valerie Hobson and mother Valerie Turleigh are all charmed in their different ways by Guiness' smiles as he "gives providence a helping hand". William Alwyn's music is perfect, with a jaunty theme-tune that has lingered in my memory for more years than I care to remember. Ronald Neame's direction, also at the start of an impressive directorial career, brings the best out of Guinness, although the setting is disappointingly 'comedy-Northern' rather than specifically Stoke-on-Trent.
Overall a delightful film, and the perfect pick-me-up after watching a depressing Hollywood block-buster (Million Dollar Baby). And watch out for one of the movies' great sign-off lines, from Valerie Hobson.
(Hallmark Home Entertainment VHS 91 mins) I first saw this movie almost exactly fifty years ago. At that time it was known as The Promoter. This film shows without a doubt the enormous talents of Alec Guinness. I seem to feel that it did not receive the acclaim of some other Guinness films possibly due the date of its release, 1952. Just after Lavender Hill Mob and before A Captain's Paradise. There is absolutely nothing I didn't like about the picture. The three principal ladies were all superb. This was the only film Guinness made with Petula Clark or Glynis Johns. He did make Great Expectations and Kind Hearts and Coronets with Valerie Hobson. I have always remembered one scene with Guinness and Johns. In the movie they are engaged and Johns spends Guinness' money as fast as she could. At one store the shop keeper asks for the name and address, so as to be able to have the package delivered. Guinness, without hesitating one instant answers, "Rockefeller - Buckingham Palace." Wonderful film - great entertainment!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Card" (released as "The Promoter" in the United States) is rightly
considered by many critics to be a minor classic of British cinema.
This 1952 production, adapted from the novel by Alan Bennett, was
well-written by Eric Ambler, superbly cast, and helmed by notable
director Ronald Neame. Its plot centers on Denry Machin (Alec
Guinness), a washerwoman's son who, from an early age, discovers guile,
wits, and personality will lead to success and enable him to rise in
social rank, finally achieving the position of mayor.
Guinness, in one of his first romantic leads, offers a beguiling performance and is well-supported by Valerie Hobson, as his patron, and Glynis Johns, as a scheming fortune hunter. The true standout here is Petula Clark in one of her first adult roles, before her singing career moved into high gear. As sweetly innocent Nellie Cotterill, she more than holds her own opposite the more-experienced Guinness with a performance so charming that she wins the viewer's heart as much as she captures Denry's. Although the role makes no major demands on her acting talents, Clark does have several moments that allow her range and depth to show. "Kidnapped" by Denry from a ship about to take her and her parents to Canada, she's totally mystified by his actions, and as they head off in a cab, she plaintively asks, "What will you do with me?," upon which he matter-of-factly responds, "Why, marry you, of course," and firmly taking her in his arms, gives her a passionate kiss. Within that brief moment, Nellie's expression goes from naive to stunned to delighted so subtly that the transition is barely noticeable, a sign of truly fine acting. How unfortunate that Clark and Guinness never paired again on-screen. Their performances here provide the backbone for an intelligent comedy rich with the atmosphere of both the working and aristocratic classes of England. A Merchant-Ivory production couldn't have done it better.
This is another superb British comedy of the early '50s. The story
(based quite closely upon the Arnold Bennett novel) is fun, the script
by Eric Ambler spot on, and the production well done. The black and
white photography is truly beautiful, and captures the sense of time,
place and atmosphere better than any amount of glossy colour could
have. I gather that some of the exteriors were shot in Burslem
("Bursley" in the film) and Llandudno, but even if they were not, they
feel as though they could have been. The only time the illusion of
reality was lost was during some clunky back-projection when Denry was
driving his new car.
The performances were superb, as one expects of a British film of the period, from the principals, especially Alec Guinness and Glynis Johns -how beautiful she was, how grating her voice, and what a character she created - to extras with a few lines, e.g., Michael Hordern as a sympathetic bank manager.
In all, this film is a total delight.
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