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An impoverished American sailor is fortunate enough to be passing the house of two rich gentlemen who has conceived the crazy idea of distributing a note worth one million pounds. The sailor finds that whenever he tries to use the note to buy something, people treat him as if he is a King and let him have whatever he likes for free. Ultimately, the money proves to be more troublesome than it is worth when it almost costs him his dignity and the woman he loves. Written by
Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>
The £1,000,000 note at the time the film is set, 1903, would be worth approximately $100,000,000 ($100 millon) in 2002. Or £65,000,000 Sterling. (note to imdb. Source of calculation is www.eh.net) See more »
When Henry Adams is chasing the bank note you can clearly see modern telephone manhole covers on the pavement and television aerials on the rooftops. See more »
Now what about a cycling suit, Mr. Adams ? Cycling is all the rage nowadays. And then of course there is Ascot.
I'm not gonna do any cycling and I'm not gonna do any Ascotting. Sailing is my hobby.
Ah ! The sport of kings. Very right and proper for a personage such as yourself.
I thought racing was the sport of kings ?
Then it ought to be sailing !
[to his assistant]
Nip in the waist a bit.
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Arriving home, with a long day of work behind me, and another ahead, I was in the mood for something friendly and undemanding. Ronald Neame's 'The Million Pound Note (1953)' was exactly what the doctor ordered. This lightweight British comedy is, for one, wholly and absolutely pleasant: notice how there is not a single villain in the entire film, every character likable in their own, distinctively-British way. The old family friend, whom we are certain is a grumbling and untrustworthy shyster, turns out to be an honest entrepreneur. The man who arranges to deprive Henry Adams (Gregory Peck) of his wealth is merely a doddering old eccentric who just wants to show some patriotism for a personal lark. This is the sort of film whose conclusion is never in any doubt: Peck will get the girl, achieve happiness, and learn to live without the extravagance to which he thought he would become accustomed. Frankly, I can't imagine the film ending any other way.
When penniless American stowaway Henry Adams (Peck, probably on his way to Italy to film 'Roman Holiday (1953)') requests a small loan from the US embassy in London, he is flatly denied by an indifferent official. However, a pair of childish millionaires (Ronald Squire and Wilfrid Hyde-White) have an even greater plan for him. They loan Henry a rare million pound note, which he is forbidden to cash in, for just a one month engagement. Pretty soon, every store and hotel owner in the city is tripping over themselves to offer him free services, irrationally smitten with the honour of serving a wealthy American, however unorthodox his dress manner may be. Of course, the arrival of "millionaire" Henry Adams doesn't go unnoticed in the high societies of London, and Portia Landsdowne (Jane Griffiths) is soon love-struck with the humble American, though his apparent wealth hinders rather than aids their love affair. Will the couple be together by the film's end? You don't need me to tell you.
Though I had expected 'The Million Pound Note' to be a slightly wooden comedy, it was great to find the film regularly inciting a hearty chuckle. Two moments stand out above all the others. Firstly, Gregory Peck opening the brothers' envelope for the first time to pay for a hearty meal, and dazedly apologising for not having anything smaller (the store-owners accept Henry as an "eccentric millionaire" and offer the meal for free). Secondly, the charity auction event in which the famous American millionaire carefully counts the coins in his hand to bid £82 12s, before inadvertently bidding £5000 for a rather commonplace vase. As lightweight as it may be, the film also aims a few modest jabs at the superficiality and hypocrisy of British society, most of the characters welcoming Henry Adams only when under the impression that he is absurdly wealthy; there's a harsh but all-too-true irony in the fact that Henry can only secure a cash loan once the American embassy believes that he doesn't need it.
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