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aka - Promoter, The
UK 1952
Directed by
Ronald Neame
85 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Card

British films of the immediate post-war period were often, understandably enough, on the gimcrack side but The Card is an atypically well-turned production. When a neat script by Eric Ambler from a satirical novel by Arnold Bennett and the fine performances by the entire cast are added you get one of the most pleasing comedies of the era.

Alec Guinness plays Edward Henry 'Denry' Machin, the ambitious son of a washerwoman in a fictional North of  England industrial town during the Edwardian era, who, by a combination of native cunning, enterprise and ever so slightly dodgy tricks, rises in the world, eventually becoming mayor of the town.

Although the “angry young men” period that gave us a very different view of social climbing with Room at the Top (1959) were only a few years away The Card is, and this is unusual even by English standards in general, is a high-spirited romp that celebrates entrepreneurialism (as opposed to mass murder as was the case in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) as a way to get ahead

Coming off the back of playing the leads in the much-loved comedies The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit (both1951) and Kind Hearts and Coronets, Guinness is in his element as the slightly roguish young man determined to get on in the world.  What differentiates his role and the film from most British comedies of the era is that Denry is depicted as a likeable rouge whose mission is, as Lady Chell (Valerie Hobson) observes “to cheer us all up”. That he gets rich in the process he regards as his just deserts rather than an end in itself. His ambition is contrasted with that of Ruth Earp (Glynis Johns) who is driven solely by self-interest. Johns is delicious in the role whilst Petula Clark who would become one of the biggest names in English pop music of the mid-1960s, plays her sweet friend Nellie.




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