7.7/10
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136 user 81 critic

The Ladykillers (1955)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime | 24 February 1956 (Belgium)
Five oddball criminals planning a bank robbery rent rooms on a cul-de-sac from an octogenarian widow under the pretext that they are classical musicians.

Writers:

William Rose (story), William Rose (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Alec Guinness ... Professor Marcus
Cecil Parker ... Claude (a.k.a. 'Major Courtney')
Herbert Lom ... Louis (a.k.a. 'Mr. Harvey')
Peter Sellers ... Harry (a.k.a. 'Mr. Robinson')
Danny Green ... One-Round (a.k.a. 'Mr. Lawson')
Jack Warner ... The Superintendent
Katie Johnson ... The Old Lady - Mrs. Wilberforce
Philip Stainton Philip Stainton ... The Sergeant
Frankie Howerd ... The Barrow Boy
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Storyline

A gang planning a 'job' find themselves living with a little old lady, who thinks they are musicians. When the gang set out to kill Mrs Wilberforce, they run into one problem after another, and they get what they deserve. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The most hilarious gangster film ever made! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Crime

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 February 1956 (Belgium) See more »

Also Known As:

The Ladykillers See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (Colour by) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Writer William Rose and director Alexander Mackendrick quarreled violently during pre-production, with the result that Rose stormed off leaving his screenplay not quite finished. Mackendrick and a television comedy writer, Larry Stevens, provided the finishing touches. Later, Rose apologized profusely to Mackendrick and praised his handling of the movie lavishly. See more »

Goofs

When Mr Robinson approaches the house during the tea party it is dusk, the street lights are on and a car is parked with its lights on. In the next cut the lights are off and the car has disappeared. See more »

Quotes

[At the police station]
Junk Man: And it's a brown horse, eleven years old, and answers to the name of Dennis.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening credits, roses are shown, to highlight the fact that William Rose wrote the screenplay. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cattivi pensieri (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Silver Threads Among The Gold
(1873)
Music by H.P. Danks
Lyrics by Eben E. Rexford
(played and sung in the parlour of Mrs. Wilberforce's house)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A classic crime comedy that evidently can't be updated.
15 February 2005 | by Anonymous_MaxineSee all my reviews

The humor in this movie is not only British, which is notoriously misunderstood by American audiences (and vice versa), which is odd because both the writer and director were American, but it is also now five decades old. Only the best American comedies have lasted anywhere near that long (consider, for example, the sad fate of many of the movies that people thought were really funny in the 80s – Police Academy, anyone?). The reason The Ladykillers has not only survived but has now been remade is because the comedy in it is not only effective, but it is intelligent, and it is very difficult not to be impressed by a comedy with a brain.

Alec Guinness is in top form as the leader of the gang, whose members reflects criminals of all walks of life. The ingenious plan is to rent out a room from a sweet old lady while they pull off a heist. The comedy, for me, lies in the difference between what is planned and what is played out, particularly in the difficulties that the gang of criminals have in outsmarting a sweet old lady who acts like a grandmother supervising a group of unruly grandchildren.

The problem that the movie has is that the pace is very slow and much of the comedy has faded over the years, but structurally and intellectually it remains a respectable film, even more now in comparison to its disastrous remake. What went wrong in the remake is that they did not maintain who the character of Mrs. Wilberforce was, because it was the juxtaposition of her as a frail old woman surrounded by toughened criminals that made it funny when things kept going wrong in their plan. In the remake she is replaced by Mrs. Munson, a tough-talking woman who was to be feared from the outset. There is no irony in being overpowered by someone more powerful than yourself from the outset, which I imagine is why the remake also featured Marlon Wayans and a case of irritable bowel syndrome, which I have never seen used in an even remotely amusing way.

While the original film may be a bit too slow for modern audiences, it is indeed charming the way 87-year-old Mrs. Wilberforce continually foils their carefully thought out plans, many times inadvertently. Alec Guinness is wonderful as the band's leader, wearing outrageous false teeth, nearly rivaling Lon Chaney as the man of a thousand faces, and Peter Sellers is one of the criminals as well. I'm no expert about British comedies or Alec Guinness' early works, but I can certainly tell enough from watching this movie that the Coen Brothers' remake did nothing to impress the British about Hollywood's respect for the classics.


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