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The Ladykillers (1955)

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Five diverse oddball criminal types planning a bank robbery rent rooms on a cul-de-sac from an octogenarian widow under the pretext that they are classical musicians.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Cecil Parker ...
Claude (a.k.a. 'Major Courtney')
Louis (a.k.a. 'Mr. Harvey')
Danny Green ...
Jack Warner ...
The Superintendent
Philip Stainton ...
The Sergeant
Frankie Howerd ...
The Barrow Boy


A gang planning a 'job' find themselves living with a little old lady, who thinks they are musicians. When the gang set out to kill Mrs Wilberforce, they run into one problem after another, and they get what they deserve. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Be kind to your friends - Don't disclose the ending See more »


Comedy | Crime


See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

24 February 1956 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

The Lady Killers  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


(colour) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Packard motor car used by the thieves as a getaway vehicle belonged to Michael Balcon. See more »


On the night of the first music practice, when the major arrives at Miss Wilberforce's the sky is twilight behind him, then Mr. Lawson and Mr. Robinson arrive and the sky is almost pitch black, then Louis arrives and it's twilight again. See more »


Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Professor, I must give you back your ten shillings. You see, the cabber wouldn't take any money, because he said he was going into some other business.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening credits, roses are shown, to highlight the fact that William Rose wrote the screenplay. See more »


Referenced in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Episode #8.125 (2010) See more »


Minuet in E major
Written by Luigi Boccherini, arranged for string ensemble
[playing on the phonograph whenever the robbers are pretending to be practicing]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Simply killer
7 May 1999 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Mrs. Wilberforce, a senile old biddy living with her parrot in a ramshackle Victorian townhouse, is just sitting down to take her lonesome afternoon tea when she hears the bell ring. Rare occasion. She opens the door to reveal a striking-looking gentleman with lank hair and an air of indefinable loucheness. "Hello," he says, smiling graciously and instantly defining his loucheness -- his atrocious teeth. "I understand you have rooms to let."

The prospective tenant is played by Alec Guinness, a long time before he attained the respectable old age that would make him such a convincing guru in Star Wars. Here he's in his lusty comedic prime, and from the moment he makes his unforgettable entrance, you know The Ladykillers is going to be a classic. Somehow, despite the silly cartoonishness of the story -- a meddlesome old lady foils the well-laid plans of a group of a bumbling bank robbers -- this is an ultra-sophisticated film. And despite the track record of director Alexander MacKendrick, despite the inspired performances he elicits from his cast, chief credit for its success must go to screenwriter William Rose. Most other comedies of the era, even those MacKendrick directed, suffer from forced repartee and obvious one-liners, making the viewer feel like an anchor is resting atop his head. Rose -- living up to his name -- has a lighter touch, reminiscent of the best comedies of recent years ( namely Rushmore. ) He invests each and every scene with a memorable hook, while at the same time forswearing even the least contrivance.

For an example, take the scene where Mrs. Wilberforce confiscates the crooks' cello case full of "lolly" and stashes it in a locked closet. In almost any other movie, this emergency would be used as set-up, a new problem to solve, an excuse to pad the running time. In The Ladykillers, however, the crooks simply wait a few seconds until the old bat is gone, at which point one of them, the beefy one, rolls his eyes, raises his right arm, and negligently -- it's such a dainty little lock -- staves the closet in. Now that may not sound like much written here, it may not even sound very amusing, but when every scene in the movie boasts a similar surprise, the cumulative effect is exhilarating. Whether or not you enjoy the individual gags.

For some reason, The Ladykillers is never screened, and written about even less. I can ALMOST understand the latter kind of neglect -- it's a hard movie to write about because, for all the talent and skill of its creators, it doesn't give you a lot to chew on. But while you're watching, it's an incomparable entertainment, one of those movies where every line of dialogue, every camera angle, every twist and turn in the story is felicitously, rapturously perfect. A true addiction.

65 of 70 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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