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The Detective (1954)

Father Brown (original title)
Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 1 November 1954 (USA)
Works of art are disappearing, stolen by a master thief, a master of disguise. Father Brown has two goals: to catch the thief and to save his soul.


Robert Hamer


G.K. Chesterton (stories), Thelma Schnee (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alec Guinness ... Father Brown
Joan Greenwood ... Lady Warren
Peter Finch ... Flambeau
Cecil Parker ... The Bishop
Bernard Lee ... Inspector Valentine
Sidney James ... Parkinson
Gérard Oury ... Inspector Dubois (as Gerard Oury)
Ernest Clark ... Bishop's Secretary
Aubrey Woods Aubrey Woods ... Charlie
John Salew John Salew ... Station Sergeant
Sam Kydd ... Scotland Yard Sergeant
John Horsley ... Inspector Wilkins
Jack McNaughton Jack McNaughton ... Railway Guard
Hugh Dempster Hugh Dempster ... Man in Bowler Hat
Eugene Deckers ... French Cavalry Officer


Amateur detective Father Ignatius Brown defies his Bishop and decides to transport to Rome a holy relic from his church, a cross that once belonged to St. Augustin, rather than allow the more elaborate plans to proceed. On the channel crossing, he becomes suspicious of a fellow traveller, a Mr. Dobson, who Brown quickly determines is not the automobile salesman he claims to be. He does befriend another priest who he takes into his confidence, but soon realizes that his suspicions should have been reversed. The fake priest is in fact Gustave Flambeau, a professional art thief and an expert at disguise. After he gets away with the cross, Brown refuses to work with the police, insisting that he wants to save the man's soul, not put him in prison. With the assistance of his friend Lady Warren, Father Brown sets a trap for Flambeau, but Brown realizes that his work is only just beginning. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An open and shut case of Guinness! Up to his EARS in chaos...Up to his NECK in laughs See more »


Comedy | Crime | Drama | Mystery


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | French

Release Date:

1 November 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Detective See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The parable about the woman and the onion Fr. Brown relates to Flambeau is from "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dosteovsky (1821-1881). See more »


In the stained-glass window behind the (catholic) bishop, there is a portrait of Henry VIII (second from left). Given that Henry was the first king to oppose the pope and separate the Church of England from the catholic church, his face would never be tolerated in this place. See more »


Flambeau: The acts we do for no evident reasons are sometimes the most rational.
See more »


Version of Pater Brown (1966) See more »

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User Reviews

FATHER BROWN (Robert Hamer, 1954) ***1/2
8 April 2007 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

I had always wanted to catch this classic British film, but it hasn't been shown in my neck of the woods since the early 1980s! As a matter of fact, some time ago I purchased "The Complete Father Brown" volume - collecting all the stories of the sleuthing cleric by G.K. Chesterton, just because I didn't think I was ever going to watch it! Though the character has been featured in at least one other film (in 1934) and several TV adaptations (one starring Kenneth More and another, made in Italy, directed by Vittorio Cottafavi and featuring Renato Rascel), Hamer's version remains the most substantial outing of Chesterton's creation.

The film itself, featuring a superbly witty script and deft direction, is a thoroughly delightful and occasionally hilarious gem - made by and with several exponents of the famed Ealing style, it's admirably served by a splendid cast. Alec Guinness is at somewhere near his best in the title role (unassuming, accident-prone but uncommonly shrewd and entirely amiable, his influence on future Peter Sellers characterizations - such as the priest in HEAVENS ABOVE! (1963) and Inspector Clouseau - is very evident); Joan Greenwood is somewhat underused here, but she's quite good as an aristocratic widow and Father Brown's confidante; a young Peter Finch impresses as the gentleman thief Flambeau, engaged in a battle-of-wits with Guinness throughout in which the two clearly respect and admire one another - but the rogue is averse to the priest's attempts to redeem him! Other familiar - and welcome - British faces grace the supporting line-up: Bernard Lee as a cop; Sid James as a ne'er-do-well small-time crook; Cecil Parker as Guinness' flustered superior, a bishop; and Ernest Thesiger as a dotty ancient librarian who appears in only one scene, but it turns out to be one of the film's comic highlights. Other memorable moments involve the various disguises Flambeau adopts in his attempts to outwit Guinness, such as in the lengthy catacombs and auction sequences.

Despite Hamer's reputation, this particular film seems to have been somewhat neglected - or, at least, has had its importance downplayed - over the years; in my opinion, along with KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949; undeniably his masterpiece) and IT ALWAYS RAINS ON Sunday (1947; which I only first watched a couple of months back), it stands as the director's finest work. At the time, it was deemed worthy of representing Britain at that year's Venice Film Festival, where it competed against such cinematic heavyweights as Federico Fellini's LA STRADA, Elia Kazan's ON THE WATERFRONT, Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI, Kenji Mizoguchi's SANSHO THE BAILIFF and Luchino Visconti's SENSO - except that Renato Castellani's little-seen version of ROMEO AND JULIET (featuring Laurence Harvey) emerged the overall winner!!

FATHER BROWN was also Robert Hamer's second of four collaborations with star Alec Guinness: I own THE SCAPEGOAT (1959), an interesting film co-starring Bette Davis, on VHS and had watched it many years ago; however, I missed out on TO Paris, WITH LOVE (1954) - which, by all accounts, is a disappointing trifle and easily the least of their films together. A side-note regarding Guinness: according to the IMDb, he actually converted to Roman Catholicism soon after the release of FATHER BROWN!

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