Cast & Crew
In Victorian London, two elderly brothers, Masterman and Joseph Finsbury, are bound together by a tontine, a financial arrangement whereby the last surviving member inherits a large fortune. With Masterman's decline in both health and wealth, he decides to dispose of his brother so that the money will pass to his grandson, Michael, an unpromising medical student. Masterman makes several attempts on Joseph's life, but the latter is too absorbed in his hobby of collecting useless information to notice. Meanwhile, Joseph's two greedy nephews, Morris and John, are also plotting to gain the inheritance. Mistakenly believing that Masterman is dead, that Michael is concealing the fact, and that Uncle Joseph was killed in a train wreck, they crate up what they think is Joseph's corpse and ship it home, hoping to hush up the death. The crate, however, contains the body of the Bournemouth strangler and is mistakenly delivered to Masterman's house. While the confused Michael frantically tries to dispose of it, the two nephews persuade the disreputable Dr. Pratt to sign a post-dated death certificate for Joseph. Confusion mounts as the police begin searching for the body of the strangler. After a wild chase, the situation is resolved when both Masterman and Joseph arrive, alive and well. The villainous cousins are exposed, and the tontine apparently is destined to benefit Michael and Julia, Joseph's ward, who have fallen in love.
John Le Mesurier
The Temperance Seven
John L. Hargreaves
George Courtney Ward
The Wrong Box
The Wrong Box was adapted from a Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne novel by the writing team of Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, both of whom were responsible for the enormous stage success of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Like that previous hit, The Wrong Box has a frantic pace, witty dialogue, and a fondness for physical comedy. It was these qualities that appealed to Bryan Forbes, a director who had never made a comedy before and was best known for his somber dramas (The L-Shaped Room, 1962, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, 1964). The final concoction remains an amusing anomaly in Forbes' career: a sort of contemporary Mack Sennett comedy filmed in a mod sixties style, complete with odd sight gags and playful visual touches like comic subtitles. Best of all, The Wrong Box features some of the finest comic actors of the British stage and screen; among them are Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and less well known performers like Cicely Courtneidge and Wilfrid Lawson (hilarious in the role of Peacock). Peter Sellers also shows up in a funny cameo as a disreputable doctor. In addition, Forbes cast his wife, Nanette Newman, as the main female lead, and gave Michael Caine the opportunity to try his luck at farce after appearing in such serious films as The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966).
In his autobiography, What's It All About?, Michael Caine recalls the making of The Wrong Box: "I was cast as a thirty-three-year-old virgin. This was only a small role, but it meant that I could work with Bryan and his wife Nanette Newman, so I took it. It was on this film that Bryan and I cemented our friendship. The Wrong Box is a Victorian comedy that rapidly develops into farce, and is so British that it met with a gentle success in most places except Britain, where it was a terrible flop. I suppose this was because the film shows us exactly as the world sees us - as eccentric, charming and polite - but the British knew better that they were none of these things, and it embarrassed us. Wilfrid Lawson was a raging alcoholic at the time, and Bryan had to stand for his insurance on the film because no company would do so. The picture was shot in the beautiful city of Bath and it was on the journey there before work even started that we discovered exactly why Wilfrid Lawson found it so difficult to obtain insurance. He was bombed out of his mind twenty-four hours per day, but he was still one of the most brilliant actors with whom I ever worked." It was also during the making of The Wrong Box that Michael Caine struck up a friendship with Cary Grant (they met in Bristol) that lasted until Grant's death in 1986.
Producer/Director: Bryan Forbes
Screenplay: Larry Gelbart, Lloyd Osbourne, Burt Shevelove, Robert Louis Stevenson (story)
Cinematography: Gerry Turpin
Costume Design: Julie Harris
Film Editing: Alan Osbiston
Original Music: John Barry
Principal Cast: John Mills (Masterman Finsbury), Jeremy Lloyd (Brian Allen Harvey), Ralph Richardson (Joseph Finsbury), Michael Caine (Michael Finsbury), James Villiers (Sydney Whitcombe Sykes), Wilfrid Lawson (Peacock), Dudley Moore (John Finsbury), Peter Cook (Morris Finsbury), Nanette Newman (Julia Finsbury).
By Jeff Stafford
The Wrong Box
TCM Remembers - Dudley Moore
Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall.
Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.)
Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win.
However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made.
By Lang Thompson
A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002
Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.
Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).
Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.
Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.
As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.
By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.
In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.
Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.
By Jeremy Geltzer
TCM Remembers - Dudley Moore
In recognition of your many and varied services to the crown, I dub thee...- Queen Victoria
Oh. We are frightfully sorry, Sir Robert.- Queen Victoria
Fred?- First Driver
We haven't heard the last of this.- First Driver
I was in the water closet of the Bournemouth express when it quite unaccountably exploded, thereby extensively damaging the rest of the train. I can't really think that I was to blame, although at the time I was smoking.- Joseph Finsbury
Now what we need is a venal doctor.- Morris Finsbury
But - Uncle Joseph's dead! It's too late!- John Finsbury
Not for him, for us! Now, you remember that chambermaid you got into... um...- Morris Finsbury
...thing.- John Finsbury
Thing. Who was the doctor who did the, um...- Morris Finsbury
I'm all right; it's just a fur ball; it's nothing. Strangely, I haven't had fur for a fortnight.- Dr. Pratt
When Ralph Richardson was offered the part of Joseph Finsbury, he was finishing work on Doctor Zhivago (1965). Richardson wrote to director Bryan Forbes from the location in Spain and asked if he could wear the same jacket he had worn as Alexander in Zhivago. Forbes agreed, and Richardson did so.
Opened in London in May 1966; running time: 110 min.
Released in United States 1966
Released in United States 1966