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On a vacation in France from his nondescript job and life, John Barratt encounters a titled but impoverished French nobleman who looks exactly like him. The nobleman gets John drunk, and switches places with him to take a breather from his failing business and too-complicated life. John tries to convince everyone he is not who they think he is, but he begins to get more and more involved with the count's family, including an unhappy wife, domineering mother, lonely but talented young daughter, bitter spinster sister and the expected mistress. As John gets to know them he feels he can help them with their problems, but is also becoming used to his borrowed life, which has given him a purpose for the first time. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
This was a very troubled production. Director Robert Hamer was struggling with the alcoholism which would eventually kill him only a few years later, and had so much difficulty with Bette Davis that he had several lapses during filming, with only the support and kindness of his friend Alec Guinness (who had insisted on him as director) getting him through the ordeal. Davis, whose career was in a major slump, was angry at being restricted to a cameo and was unpleasant to everyone on set - Guinness later commented that her legendary professionalism was "largely a myth". Daphne Du Maurier, the authoress of the original novel, had also created difficulties by interfering with the filming and offering complaints at perceived deviations from her original story. MGM had no faith in the film and extensively re-edited it after shooting was completed, also imposing a score which Hamer did not want composed by studio veteran Bronislau Kaper. See more »
When the very last line is spoken by Guinness' character, his lips do not move. While it could be argued the line was part of his narration sprinkled throughout the film, the line does appear to be his direct answer to the question posed to him. See more »
You have the intention of staying long in France, Mr. Barratt?
I don't know. That is to say that I didn't know there was any restriction apart from the question of money.
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cast listing 'custom's official' - should be customs official See more »
Based on a Daphne du Maurier source-text, THE SCAPEGOAT is very much in the tradition established by Hamer's more famous earlier film KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949), also starring Guinness. In this film Guinness plays two roles; that of a mild-mannered university teacher whose identity is stolen by a rakish French aristocrat. The university teacher takes over the aristocrat's life, and proves rather good at it; so much so that he does not want to recover his old life when the aristocrat asks him to. The climax is a violent one. Hamer's film, although set in France, takes a particularly English approach to death; the performances are quietly understated, and the atmosphere of menace restrained. Bette Davis seems rather out of place in a cameo role as the aristocrat's mother; her grande dame performance, complete with rolling New England vowels, contrasts starkly with that of Guinness. The ending is a bit peremptory, betraying the fact that THE SCAPEGOAT was not without its production difficulties, especially when scriptwriter Gore Vidal had to deal with an increasingly alcoholic director. Nonetheless THE SCAPEGOAT is definitely worth a view, if only for Guinness' versatility as an actor.
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