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Call Me Genius (1961)

The Rebel (original title)
Anthony Hancock gives up his office job to become an abstract artist. He has a lot of enthusiasm, but little talent, and critics scorn his work. Nevertheless, he impresses an emerging very talented artist.


Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sir Charles Brewer
Paul Massie ...
Margit Saad ...
Margot Carreras
Aristotle Carreras
Irene Handl ...
Office Manager
Liz Fraser ...
Mervyn Johns ...
Manager of Art Gallery, London
Manager of Art Gallery, Paris
Nanette Newman ...
Marie Burke ...
Madame Laurent
Bernard Rebel ...
Art Dealer
Sandor Elès ...


Anthony Hancock gives up his office job to become an abstract artist. He has a lot of enthusiasm, but little talent, and critics scorn his work. Nevertheless, he impresses an emerging very talented artist.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From London's "Bowler-Hatted" Conformity to Paris' Left Bank Madness! (US release: Call Me Genius) See more »







Release Date:

17 March 1961 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Call Me Genius  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


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Did You Know?


John Le Mesurier refers to the angry young men in the office scene with Tony Hancock. He is relating to John Osborne, the playwright, who was popular at the time. See more »


Hancock: Your colours are the wrong shape.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The producers wish to acknowledge the fullest co-operation accorded - somewhat apprehensively - by BRITISH RAILWAYS. See more »


Featured in London - The Modern Babylon (2012) See more »


At Last! At Last!
Written by Charles Trenet
See more »

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User Reviews

"The Art of Making Money"
29 November 2002 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Tony Hancock was the biggest British comedian of the late 50s and early 60s. Viewing his two (not entirely representative) films and watching (and listening) to his "Half-Hour" comedy shows (running separately, if concurrently, on BBC television and radio), young people (those under 35 or so) will probably find this fact baffling unless they are extraordinarily well-informed about social conditions in immediately postwar Britain. There also seems to be a kind of gender barrier. Women of my acquaintance, even those that satisfy the fairly stringent criteria I detail in my previous sentence, seem to have found Hancock uniformly unfunny.

Hancock's humour, it must be said, was unconventional. It is entirely driven by the dialectic, if you will, between character and situation. Hancock loathed gags, and forbade his scriptwriters (usually the brilliant duo of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson) to indulge in them. It is also exceptionally restricted in time (late 50s), social class ("shabby-genteel" lower-middle) and place (the south-east of England). Yet Hancock, who bestrode Britain like a colossus in his heyday, nurtured the powerful delusion that he could succeed in America.

It would take an amazing act of empathy on the part of an American to penetrate Hancock's humour as displayed in his radio and TV shows. As a technician he was flawless, possessing a sense of comic timing unequalled by anybody in Britain except the probably equally unexportable Kenneth Williams (perhaps best known outside the UK because of his strong involvement in the "Carry-On" series of films). Needless to say, Hancock and Williams, the two greatest British comedians of all time, loathed and vilified each other.

"The Rebel" (pointedly re-christened "Call Me Genius" in the America Hancock was desperate to impress) was released to great disappointment in 1961. In hindsight it has gained in favour, its initial cool reception a matter of some puzzlement.

Hancock, in the film, is an office drudge who harbours artistic ambitions way beyond his hopelessly limited technical skills. However, he jettisons his boring day-job to share an artistic garret in Paris (only 200 or so miles from London) with a frustrated, but genuinely talented, young artist (Paul Massie). Hancock's infantile daubs are hailed as works of genius in the pretentious circles he inhabits. Galton and Simpson's screenplay wastes no opportunity to satirise the credulity of the modern-art world, and its unfailing capacity to court lucrative charlatans.

Can those outside the British Isles understand this film? I hope so. The office environment and lodgings Hancock occupies are stultifying, but the artistic world of Paris is shown to be as corrupt and foolish in its own way (NB. the identically uniformed "Existentialists", indistinguishable, in a sense, from their bowler-hatted counterparts with whom Hancock works in central London). Art does get a slightly better press in this film than commerce, since the possibility of genuine artistic talent (i.e. Paul's (Hancock's young flatmate and protégé)) is acknowledged. Nevertheless, the presence of trend-hungry buffoons within the artistic world (e.g. George Sanders' art dealer) indicates the interpenetration of the commercial and artistic worlds. Is art-dealing George Sanders any less a despicable entrepreneur than Hancock's erstwhile manager in his City of London counting-house, John le Mesurier?

Although we speak essentially the same language (I think the differences are often over-stated), cultural barriers remain between the UK and the US. However, Americans would do well to look closely at Tony Hancock, partly for his intrinsic value, and partly for the huge influence, conscious and unconscious, he has wielded over the British psyche (here I controversially include Ireland, which remains culturally close to the UK). His second feature-film ("The Punch And Judy Man"), while telling in its own way, is less valuable overall, both inside the UK (and its satellites) and beyond.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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