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Green Man, The (1956)


Main image of Green Man, The (1956)
DirectorRobert Day
Production CompanyGrenadier Films
Presented andFrank Launder
Produced bySidney Gilliat
ScreenplaySidney Gilliat
 Frank Launder
CinematographyGerald Gibbs

Cast: Alastair Sim (Harry Hawkins); George Cole (William Blake); Jill Adams (Ann Vincent); Terry-Thomas (Charles Boughtflower); Avril Angers (Marigold)

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A ruthless assassin plans to blow up a Cabinet minister when the latter has an illicit affair at the Green Man hotel, but his plans are discovered and eventually foiled by a vacuum cleaner salesman.

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A very silly but enormously entertaining farce that dutifully ticks all the genre's expected boxes (mistaken identities, compromising positions, much panicking and slamming of doors), The Green Man (d. Robert Day, 1956) was based on the play Meet A Body by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who produced and adapted this big-screen version.

Although he's nominally the villain, it's very clear from his self-justifying voiceover introduction that we're expected not only to sympathise with professional assassin Harry Hawkins (Alastair Sim) but also to actively cheer him on - his crusade to rid the world of pompous frauds, be they headmasters, dictators or elected politicians, is presented as an entirely reasonable and even noble endeavour.

While he inevitably meets a sticky end (the censors of the time wouldn't have permitted anything else) it's not without a note of regret, as he's so much more attractive a personality than the self-important Sir Gregory Upshott (Raymond Huntley), the philandering Charles Boughtflower (Terry-Thomas) or the unimaginative and insensitive Reginald Willoughby-Cruft (Colin Gordon), whose pointlessly over-elaborate names alone show the kind of thing that Hawkins is fighting against.

The other leads, gauche vacuum-cleaner salesman William Blake (George Cole) and Hawkins' new neighbour Ann Vincent (Jill Adams) are attractive enough despite their essentially thankless roles as the film's killjoys - Cole in particular is very funny as he fruitlessly tries to demonstrate elaborate hi-tech gadgetry to people who clearly haven't yet commenced worshipping at the shrine of consumerism. Like Hawkins, Blake has a dreamy, idealised vision of the world, but it's an altogether more benign one.

The film was directed by former camera operator Robert Day, making his debut in that capacity with some uncredited supervision from the more experienced Basil Dearden. Day's subsequent contributions to British comedy include the classics The Rebel and Two-Way Stretch (both 1960), but since the 1960s he has worked almost exclusively in the US.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Diary of a madman (3:31)
2. Under the bed? (3:05)
3. Panic in the foyer (3:23)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Bryan, Dora (1924-)
Cole, George (1925-)
Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)
Gilliat, Sidney (1908-1994)
Gribble, Bernard (1927-2004)
Launder, Frank (1906-1997)
Sim, Alastair (1900-1976)
Terry-Thomas (1911-1990)
Launder and Gilliat