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The Horse's Mouth (1958)

Not Rated | | Comedy | 11 November 1958 (USA)
A somewhat vulgar but dedicated painter searches for the perfect realization of his artistic vision, much to the chagrin of others.

Director:

Ronald Neame

Writers:

Joyce Cary (novel), Alec Guinness (screenplay)
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Alec Guinness ... Gulley Jimson
Kay Walsh ... Dee Coker
Renee Houston ... Sara Monday
Mike Morgan Mike Morgan ... Nosey
Robert Coote ... Sir William Beeder
Arthur Macrae Arthur Macrae ... A.W. Alabaster
Veronica Turleigh ... Lady Beeder
Michael Gough ... Abel
Reginald Beckwith Reginald Beckwith ... Capt. Jones
Ernest Thesiger ... Hickson
Gillian Vaughan Gillian Vaughan ... Lollie
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Storyline

Gulley Jimson is broke, difficult, conniving, uncouth, and a welcher, but an artist. The visions in his head may not really satisfy him when realized, but the quest continues, for the perfect wall. The Beeders leave for six weeks of vacation, and return to find a seven thousand pound committment, and the wall of their living room a national treasure, even though living with a wall mural of feet is not their cup of tea. Then, in a bombed out church scheduled for demolition, THE wall that can become his vision. Written by Bruce Cameron <dumarest@midcoast.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Really Champion Show! See more »

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Release Date:

11 November 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Straight from the Horse's Mouth See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Knightsbridge Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the rare times where Sir Alec Guinness would receive an official screen writing credit. See more »

Goofs

(at around 12 mins) Gully Jimson is served a pint of beer in the pub. The amount of beer in the glass varies inconsistently in subsequent shots. See more »

Quotes

Miss D. Coker: Excuse me, Mrs. Monday, I'm Miss D. Coker, a friend of Mr. Jimson's and we want a few words with you, and not in the street, if you please.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 52nd Annual Academy Awards (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

Lieutenant Kije
by Sergei Prokofiev (as Prokofieff)
Arranged by Kenneth V. Jones
Conducted by Muir Mathieson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Painting The Town
21 October 2009 | by slokesSee all my reviews

Alec Guinness not only stars in what amounts to a one-man show as aging, struggling London painter Gulley Jimson, he also wrote the script. Funny he got an Oscar nomination for the writing, and not for the acting.

As Jimson, Guinness is a memorably growly, seedy type, testament to the artistic impulse of man running afoul of polite society. Even his nasty Fagin from "Oliver Twist" was affable company; Jimson tells off his young admirer Nosey (Mike Morgan) with a convincingly hoarse "Go do something sensible, like shooting yourself." It's all for laughs, of course, except when "The Horse's Mouth" gets mildly serious, mostly when Jimson holds forth on his vision of art.

"Half a minute of revelation's worth a million years of know-nothing," he tells his companion Coker (Kay Walsh).

"Who lives a million years?" is her sharp reply.

"A million people every 12 months."

"A Horse's Mouth" isn't always so smart. Walsh plays her part too shrill, Morgan his too moony, and the artist who provided Jimson's paintings, John Bratby, uses too much red. After establishing Jimson, Guinness's script doesn't do much with him. He paints some walls, gets into some trouble, and sails away, leaving others to bear witness to his "genius".

What I like most about this film, other than Guinness's fine acting and occasional scenes here and there that feature his character to good effect, is the vivid picture you get of London circa the late 1950s, double-decker buses with hoardings for Gordon's Gin and Ty-Phoo Tea on their sides. Also, director Ronald Neame finds interesting angles to frame the film from in order to give the on-screen action (rarely painting itself, but frequently static conversation shots) a bit of vitality, and often outside with lively streetscape backdrops.

This is like a David Lean movie once removed. Neame was Lean's cinematographer in his early days, Guinness was Lean's favorite actor, and Walsh was Lean's ex-wife. Even Anne V. Coates, later the Oscar-winning editor of "Lawrence Of Arabia", snipped this as well.

She deserved her Oscar; not so Guinness his nomination here. As a comedy, "The Horse's Mouth" is a bit of a miss. A scene of Jimson ruining a rich couple's penthouse apartment is painfully unfunny, especially when a sculptor friend of Jimson (Michael Gough) arrives out of nowhere to add to the mess. Most of the other business in the movie, like a struggle between Jimson and his ex-wife for a portrait of her he needs for painting money, feels like chopped-down scenes from Cary's novel mined for easy laughs, at some expense to story.

I didn't care much about Jimson by story's end, but I did enjoy his company, or rather that of Guinness playing Jimson, staring at a charwoman and fixated by her feet, "...old women's feet...thin, flat, long...clinging to the ground like reptiles". Like much else in regard to the movie, I'm at a loss to what it means, but I value the experience. That counts for something with art.


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