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The Ladykillers (1955)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime | 24 February 1956 (Belgium)
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.

Writers:

(story), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Claude (a.k.a. 'Major Courtney')
...
Louis (a.k.a. 'Mr. Harvey')
...
...
Jack Warner ...
The Superintendent
...
Philip Stainton ...
The Sergeant
...
The Barrow Boy
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Crime

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 February 1956 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

The Lady Killers  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Colour by) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Mrs Wilberforce laments the fact that her 21st birthday party was curtailed by the arrival of the news that "The old Queen had died." Queen Victoria died in the evening of 22nd January 1901. Allowing for the fact that most people in Britain would have heard the news the next day, this means that Mrs Wilberforce was born on 23rd January 1880, and was 75 (two years younger than Katie Johnson) at the time the film portrays. See more »

Goofs

Before Louis cuts the matches on the base of the ashtray, you can already see practice cuts on it. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
The Sergeant: [as she is leaving, the sergeant follows her out with her umbrella] Mrs. Wilberforce, wait! Just a moment!
[Holding out the umbrella]
The Sergeant: You forgot it, mum.
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: [Reaches for it, then changes her mind] Oh. Oh, no I don't think I want it. I never liked it. Now I can buy a dozen new ones. Oh, uh, good morning, Sergeant.
[She heads home, but on her way home, she stops in front of a starving artist]
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Oh! They're very good, very good.
Starving Artist: Turned out nice, huh?
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: [She gives him a bank note] Yes, it-it has!
Starving Artist: [...]
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Crazy Credits

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


Soundtracks

Silver Threads Among The Gold
(1873)
Music by H.P. Danks
Lyrics by Eben E. Rexford
(played and sung in the parlour of Mrs. Wilberforce's house)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Brilliant early dark comedy; much better than the remake
26 June 2004 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

London, 1955. Professor Marcus (Alex Guinness) plans to rob two armored cars with the help of a gang of crooks, played by an ensemble group of actors. They include: Louis (Herbert Lom), The Mayor (Cecil Parker), One-Round (Danny Green) and Harry (Peter Sellers). None of the men have previously met each other, but join together for the single heist.

Their strategic planning takes place in the upstairs of a Victorian home owned by Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), a somewhat eccentric older woman who is under the impression that Professor Marcus and his "friends" are part of a music orchestra and unite daily to rehearse. This leads to a film comprised of misconceptions, confusion, and bumbling antics, as the Professor has to spend more of his time keeping Mrs. Wilberforce off their backs than devoting it to planning the robbery.

The film shares resemblance to Danny DeVito's "Duplex" in the scenes where Mrs. Wilberforce continuously interrupts the criminals' scheming, asking them to run errands for her. They reluctantly put up with her constant irritating questions and demands, since she is unknowingly a vital ingredient of their plan. They must use Mrs. Wilberforce in their robbery, and after a while she realizes this, then demands that they return the money, which leads them to the conclusion that they must kill the old woman or else risk losing their entire fortune. However, their constant mistakes and arguments only postpone the inevitable, and it soon seems that the group of tough guys aren't so tough after all. "I can't! I can't!" screams one of the criminals when he pulls the shortest toothpick and is handed the task of "whacking" the poor sweet lady.

All actors are at their peeks here -- Guinness as the Professor is superb, but Sellers in his screen debut is especially noteworthy. The script by William Rose relies on macabre humor rather than constant slapstick. Admittedly, I expected the former when I sat down to see the film, although I came away rather surprised at its sophistication.

The Coen Brothers remade the film in 2004, although the remake failed to capture the essence of this dark comedy. Made before political correctness (in the Coens' version there is the token black character of course), this is a delightfully irreverent black comedy. To be fair, most of the jokes don't hold up as well nowadays. It does not deliver a constant barrage of jokes, but rather a steady mix of black humor and plot -- a very good plot, too. One that keeps our interest and quite often manages to make us smile. "The Ladykillers" is a rare treat, better than the remake, a classic of the genre, and something that will be remembered years from now. It's a real gem of a movie, hard to devote long paragraphs to, much easier to devote 100 minutes of your life to.


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