As part of a bet, two aristocrats offer a penniless American a loan, without telling him that the amount is £1,000,000 in the form of a single banknote.As part of a bet, two aristocrats offer a penniless American a loan, without telling him that the amount is £1,000,000 in the form of a single banknote.As part of a bet, two aristocrats offer a penniless American a loan, without telling him that the amount is £1,000,000 in the form of a single banknote.
When penniless American stowaway Henry Adams (Peck, probably on his way to Italy to film 'Roman Holiday (1953)') requests a small loan from the US embassy in London, he is flatly denied by an indifferent official. However, a pair of childish millionaires (Ronald Squire and Wilfrid Hyde-White) have an even greater plan for him. They loan Henry a rare million pound note, which he is forbidden to cash in, for just a one month engagement. Pretty soon, every store and hotel owner in the city is tripping over themselves to offer him free services, irrationally smitten with the honour of serving a wealthy American, however unorthodox his dress manner may be. Of course, the arrival of "millionaire" Henry Adams doesn't go unnoticed in the high societies of London, and Portia Landsdowne (Jane Griffiths) is soon love-struck with the humble American, though his apparent wealth hinders rather than aids their love affair. Will the couple be together by the film's end? You don't need me to tell you.
Though I had expected 'The Million Pound Note' to be a slightly wooden comedy, it was great to find the film regularly inciting a hearty chuckle. Two moments stand out above all the others. Firstly, Gregory Peck opening the brothers' envelope for the first time to pay for a hearty meal, and dazedly apologising for not having anything smaller (the store-owners accept Henry as an "eccentric millionaire" and offer the meal for free). Secondly, the charity auction event in which the famous American millionaire carefully counts the coins in his hand to bid £82 12s, before inadvertently bidding £5000 for a rather commonplace vase. As lightweight as it may be, the film also aims a few modest jabs at the superficiality and hypocrisy of British society, most of the characters welcoming Henry Adams only when under the impression that he is absurdly wealthy; there's a harsh but all-too-true irony in the fact that Henry can only secure a cash loan once the American embassy believes that he doesn't need it.
- Jan 19, 2009