At his mother's funeral, stuffy bank clerk Henry Pulling (Alec McCowen) meets his Aunt Augusta Bertram (Dame Maggie Smith), an elderly eccentric with more-than-shady dealings who pulls him ...
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At his mother's funeral, stuffy bank clerk Henry Pulling (Alec McCowen) meets his Aunt Augusta Bertram (Dame Maggie Smith), an elderly eccentric with more-than-shady dealings who pulls him along on a whirlwind adventure as she attempts to rescue an old lover.Written by
Author Graham Greene is reputed to have to have wanted Ginger Rogers for the part of Aunt Augusta in this movie version of his novel. It is unclear whether Rogers, who stopped making movies in the mid 1960s, was ever considered for the role. See more »
In the bar, the two women dressed in red and black are at the bar, then at a table, then back at the bar, all in a matter of seconds. See more »
In a plot as zany as any the Marx Brothers could have hilariously mangled, the characters of Travels With My Aunt whirl you along with them through their oddball adventures. This is a film that just missed being a cinema landmark. But miss it does.
Travels With My Aunt has everything going for it: splendid performances, helzapoppin' pacing (except for one or two brief languishments in the directorial doldrums), clever writing (adapted from Graham Greene's endearing story), and a cast working the material for all it's worth. So why does it miss?
It misses because when it needs to be trying hard it lays back; and when it needs to lay back it tries too hard. And, more importantly, because it never grounds itself in the solid realm of the believable.
ALlso, every VHS print I've seen suffers from sound so muddy that I found myself rewinding to catch, and enjoy, some of the film's funniest lines. The editing on VHS prints also leaves a lot to be desired; a hectic, zany film doesn't need any "help" from eye-startling jumps past the occasional few sprocket holes.
Nevertheless the comic performances are brilliant, especially Louis Gossett Jr.'s as the patois-butchering, potheaded, half-mystical, half-cutthroat, hair-trigger-tempered Wordsworth. Maggie Smith's Aunt Augusta (a perfect name for a character who's anything but august) reigns like a mad queen over the whole cast throughout Augusta's self-narrated, self-indulgent, breathless reverie and search for her past loves & losses & triumphs. Alec McCowen plays Henry Pulling with perfectly understated aplomb, making you believe that his dowager aunt is leaving him breathless, bewildered, and yet bewitched by the world she leads him, from out of his insipid workaday life, to experience. As Tooley the young Cindy Williams deftly sends-up the pop-culture-soaked American youth of the time on a European spree: neither of Tooley's two feet ever seem to touch the earth, but her heart reaches out to touch Henry Pulling. And Henry, being Henry, manages to mismanage - but later learns that mismanaging is just part of...c'est la vie!
This film urges you to stop taking life and yourself too seriously, and to instead, as the old Schlitz beer spots used to exhort, "Grab for all the Gusto you can!" This is all well and good, but the film wants some sort of bottom, a sense of grounding, a matter of connection that's just not there despite the lovely pathos the energetic characters generate. Maybe it's that a film that's not just a vehicle for comic antics can't be all sparks and no fuel? That worked for the Marx Brothers, but their "storylines" were mere props for their well-rehearsed antics and brain-boggling doubletalk. But Travels With My Aunt actually tries to tell a touching human tale - yet, like Tooley's, the film's feet never touch the ground that an engaging tale needs to convince, to captivate its audience.
In the end, which seems to leave cast and audience suspended somewhere between earth and a fifth dimension, you wonder: is Maggie Smith's character really Henry Pulling's mother, and not his "aunt"? One thing's for sure: Henry's not going back to being a bank manager, or to anally tending his little garden where the loud trains - of life and experience and adventure - had always, until now, passed him by.
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