Cast & Crew
A. E. Matthews
In Edwardian London, two very rich, eccentric brothers, Oliver and Roderick Montpelier, commission their bank to create a million pound note in order to settle a wager. Oliver believes that the mere possession of this symbol of wealth will enable anyone to have anything he wants, without actually cashing the note. Roderick, on the other hand, feels that the prohibition against exchanging the note for cash will render it totally useless. In order to settle their wager, the brothers hire Henry Adams, a New England sailor who has been stranded, penniless, in London and is unable to return home. The brothers present him with an envelope, telling him that it contains a sum of money and that it is to be opened later. Famished, Henry assumes that the envelope contains sufficient cash to cover a hearty meal at a pleasant restaurant. His scruffy appearance, however, banishes him to a back table, where the restaurant owner and his wife eye him suspiciously. When presented with the bill, Henry opens the envelope, discovers the million pound banknote and offers it to the stunned proprietor, who then shows it to a banker dining in the restaurant. The banker confirms that the note is genuine and remarks that the owner must be an eccentric millionaire. The restaurateur and his wife immediately apologize to Henry, saying they are honored by his presence, cancel his bill and bow to him as he leaves. When Henry returns to the Montpeliers' house to question them, he is informed that they have gone abroad for a month. Henry then reads the letter that accompanied the currency. The letter states that the banknote is lent to him for one month and that, if he returns it intact, the brothers will arrange for him to have any job it is within their power to give him. After almost losing the banknote during a chase down a windy street, Henry finds himself outside an elegant tailor's shop and tries to buy a ready-made suit. When the proprietor learns about the million pound note, he, too, imagines that Henry is exceedingly wealthy and provides him with an entire wardrobe on credit and also arranges for him to stay at an exclusive hotel. The hotel manager even ousts a longtime resident, the Duke of Frognal, whose bill is in arrears, from his suite in order to accommodate the odd, American millionaire. Just before Henry arrives at the hotel, the commissionaire mistakes Rock, a mute, circus strongman, for Henry. Upon arriving at the hotel, Henry insists that Rock not be ejected and hires him as a bodyguard and companion. Newspaper articles report the presence of the American with the million pound note and soon Henry and Rock are fashionable men-about-town. Henry is even invited to the American consulate, where he had previously been denied assistance, and the ambassador gives him one hundred pounds and arranges to have him introduced in local society circles. At a reception hosted by the Duchess of Cromarty, Henry meets her niece, Portia Lansdowne, who flirts with him and persuades him to attend an event related to her aunt's favorite charity, the Home for Motherless Babies. At the event, Henry unintentionally bids five thousand pounds in a silent auction and is later inundated with requests from many other charities. Later, when Henry tries to explain to Portia that he is not what he seems to be, she thinks that he is telling her that he is in love with her and they embrace. Meanwhile, the ambassador has introduced Henry to fellow American Lloyd Hastings, who knew Henry's father, and is in dire need of additional capital for an investment he has made in a gold mine. After Henry agrees to let Lloyd use his name in order to raise money, the price for the gold stocks rises very rapidly. Just after Henry has convinced Portia that he is broke, Lloyd interrupts them with the news that Henry has just gained sixteen thousand pounds from the stock he bought in his name. Confused by Henry's financial status and thinking that he is testing the depth of her love, Portia breaks up with him. In the meantime, the Duke of Frognal pays off his hotel bill, but is not permitted to return to his suite. Enraged at being inconvenienced by an American, the duke arranges to have the banknote stolen and hidden, then spreads a rumor that the note no longer exists. After a newspaper reports the story, numerous creditors descend upon Henry and the duchess and her friends regard him as an imposter. Henry swears that he will pay all his bills from his stock earnings, but discovers that the rumor has caused the shares to become worthless. In the hotel's packed lobby, Henry issues an impassioned plea to the stockholders to hold on to their stock for a few days more, but many remain unconvinced. Realizing that his joke has gone far enough, the duke returns the note to Henry just as Portia rushes to his side. Later, after the shares have stabilized and Henry has earned twenty thousand pounds on the stock exchange, he and Portia return the intact banknote to the Montpeliers. Portia tells them that, rich or poor, she is in love with Henry. While the brothers begin to squabble over the role the banknote played in the romance, Henry and Portia drive off in a horse-drawn carriage, with Rock as their coachman.
A. E. Matthews
Wilfrid Hyde White
Gordon K. Mccallum
E. M. Smedley-aston
Earl St. John
Man With a Million
The pauper-to-prince setup is a timeless one. A penniless American named Henry Adams (Peck) is given a note for one million pounds by two wealthy brothers (Ronald Squire and Wilfrid Hyde-White) who consider it a lark to see what happens to him. They bet against each other over the premise that the recipient won't even need to cash the note to live a rich life. Instead, he will be showered with goods and services on readily given credit. As you might expect, that's the way it turns out--at least initially. Adams gets posh digs, a season of suits from the finest tailor and is feted by the highest society without having to pay a schilling. In the mix, he becomes a shareholder in a mine, whose stock price he booms on the basis of his perceived wealth, and then, when he suddenly can't find the note, goes bust, bringing an end to the gravy train. He also meets and falls in love with Portia Lansdowne (Jane Griffiths), the niece of a family of the peerage. Lucky for Adams, she loves him despite his temporary riches.
"Because it was a good comedy opportunity, Peck loved making the film, although it didn't exactly set the film world on fire," Michael Freedland relays in his biography Gregory Peck. "...[N]o expense was spared on the best and sometimes ornate interior sets and Greg himself says he was given what was probably the most elegant wardrobe he had ever worn in a film."
It's true that Man with a Million performed only modestly at the box office in the States and overseas and reviews were mixed. The New York Herald Tribune called it "a production shimmering with the Technicolor elegance of the horse-and-carriage era." It went on to say, "after the first few surprises....it cannot quite make up its mind whether it wants to be a breezy satire on human vanity or a fancy period romance ....[Peck's] touch with comedy is light but guarded, almost suspicious, but no one really throws himself into this affair."
The New York Times wanted to love Man with a Million, but couldn't totally commit to it: "The...cast is refined. The production in color is delicious. And the direction by Ronald Neame is smooth. Indeed, there is everything about it that renders it apt and amiable--everything, except bounce and buoyancy, which are matters of cleverness..."
The film's British cast is nonetheless packed with wonderful character actors. Peck was particularly excited about working with A.E. Matthews (Duke of Frognell), whose resentful character gives Adams a rough time. Reportedly, Peck was extremely impressed by Matthews' memorization of a wordy stage role in The Chiltern Hundreds several years earlier. For their film together, however, the 80-year-old actor needed to be fed his lines, though he still delivered them flawlessly. Matthews even spared costumers trouble by supplying a turn-of-the-century riding outfit needed for a scene from out of his own closet.
Some of the best comic bits in Man with a Million are supplied by Reginald Beckwith, who puts in a memorable performance as Rock, a mute circus strongman who becomes the millionaire's butler and confidante.
Producer: John Bryan
Director: Ronald Neame
Screenplay: Jill Craigie; Mark Twain (story "The Million Pound Bank Note")
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Art Direction: John Box, Jack Maxsted
Music: William Alwyn
Film Editing: Clive Donner
Cast: Gregory Peck (Henry Adams), Ronald Squire (Oliver Montpelier), Joyce Grenfell (Duchess Cromarty), A.E. Matthews (Duke of Frognell), Maurice Denham (Mr. Reid), Reginald Beckwith (Rock), Brian Oulton (Lloyd), John Slater (Parsons), Wilbur Evans (American Ambassador), Hartley Power (Hastings), George Devine (Lloyd Hastings).
by Emily Soares
Man With a Million
The prop #1,000,000 note was larger in both size (about 7 x 9 inches) and value than any real note produced by the Bank of England up to that time, even notes for internal use. However, the bank still imposed strict regulations, which were violated when posters advertising the movie showed a reproduction of the note. This had to be covered over before the posters were allowed to be used.
This film's working title and British release title was The Million Pound Note. In his autobiography, director Ronald Neame stated that United Artists participated in the film's financing by covering the cost of Gregory Peck's salary in return for North American distribution rights. As noted in the film's pressbook, several London locations were utilized, including Belgrave Square, Hyde Park, Saville Row and the Treasury Building.
Released in United States Winter December 1953
Released in United States Winter December 1953