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Cecil B. DeMille
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Gulley Jimson is broke, difficult, conniving, uncouth, and a welcher - but an artist. The visions in his head may not really satisfy him when realized, but the quest continues, for the perfect wall. The Beeders leave for six weeks of vacation and return to find a 7000 pound committment and the wall of their living room a national treasure, even though living with a wall mural of feet is not their cup of tea. Then - in a bombed out church scheduled for demolition - THE wall that can become his vision. Written by
Bruce Cameron <email@example.com>
Highly original and entertaining, this film explores the bizarre world of artist Gulley Jimson (Alec Guinness) whom we meet as he is released from jail. He's a scammer and a reprobate, but he's also a great artist who doesn't believe in art. Yet he is compelled to paint.
With the help of maybe girl friend (Kay Walsh) they try to track down the paintings sold on the cheap to pay off the debts of his former wife (Renee Houston). The art dealer (Ernest Thesiger) is a crook and has cheated everyone by telling them the paintings are worthless. So Gulley tries to find an art patron who will support him. He finds an older couple of patrons but after they go on holiday, he moves into their apartment and trashes it while he paints a mural.
Gulley is always looking for "a big wall" on which to paint his big paintings and finally finds the side of a building about to be demolished. His compulsion is so great, he MUST paint on this wall but has no money, so he "sells" sections of the wall to amateurs who combine to create a fabulous urban mural (to his design). This project seems to assuage his compulsions, but after the wall's destruction he's off to find a new horizon... or is he? This is one of Guinness' great performances. In a comic role with serious undertones, few actors were ever better than Guinness, and he grabs onto this quirky role with great gusto. Indeed, Guinness even wrote the script (based on a novel by Joyce Cary). At age 44, he's totally believable as the grizzled 60-ish artist. The great and underrated Kay Walsh turns in a ferociously funny turn as the friend he owes money to. Walsh's character lives in fury that she has been cheated and short-changed by life. Together, Walsh and Guinness burn up the screen with their acting talent.
Co-stars add just the right touch. Houston and Thesiger are old pros. Michael Gough plays the obsessed sculptor. Veronica Turleigh and Robert Coote are fun as the art patrons. Gillian Vaughan is a hoot as the model. May Hallatt is funny as the scrub woman.
A special word must be said for Mike Morgan who plays Nosey, the adoring and gangling young man who follows Gulley everywhere. Morgan is just terrific here with just the right blend of awkward youth and that special British eccentric comedic touch. In his late 20s, Morgan died suddenly of meningitis before the film was finished, and several of his scenes were dubbed by another actor.
This is a great film.
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