Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Rebel, The (1960)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Anthony Hancock sets out for the office and by waiting on the opposite platform gets a seat on his London train, entering from the other side via another train. All the commuters are dressed identically (suit, bowler, umbrella) and Hancock muses on their job aspirations. He arrives at his office and starts work, one of many doing identical tasks at their desks, when his manager arrives and indicates displeasure at Hancock's hat and umbrella, which break an otherwise identical pattern in the rack. He is called in to explain why he sketches during work, and starts throttling his boss in a blind fit of frustration at the monotony, which he feels is choking his (creative) life.

The office clears at 5.30 and Hancock gets home, casts off his 'uniform', dons smock and beret, and starts chipping at the statue, 'Aphrodite at The Water Hole', which he has been working on in his room. His landlady enters and, seeing the sculpture and then his paintings, tells him to take them and go. Hancock slams the door and the statue crashes through the floor.

Hancock repairs to a coffee bar, where he gets inspired to head for France. On the train journey to the coast, the statue's head is knocked off on a bridge, and at the docks the statue is accidentally dropped into the water. Hancock casts away his hat (with his ticket in the brim) and the umbrella and is then forced to hitchhike in the rain to Paris. He visits a café where he meets Paul, an artist who invites him to share his studio. Hancock impresses Paul with his theories of art, and quite soon becomes the darling of the Parisian bohemian set, appearing at all the best parties. Paul decides to quit art and go to London, donating his paintings to Hancock.

Wealthy art dealer Sir Charles Brewer hears of Hancock's reputation and mistakenly offers him an advance for 'his' works (really Paul's). Hancock assumes the role of successful artist. Carreras, a wealthy shipping magnate, invites him to Monte Carlo, where he is to sculpt his wife. She makes a pass at Hancock. He rejects her and narrowly avoids being shot by her. At the unveiling ceremony, Carreras is insulted by the naive quality of the statue, but Hancock flees by motorboat when the statue falls through the yacht's deck. Sir Charles, meanwhile, has taken Hancock's own paintings for exhibiting in London, but Hancock catches up with Paul, who gives him his latest works in 'Hancock' style. Hancock tries diverting the audience away from his own works and is horrified when he realises Paul has changed styles and is about to despair when Sir Charles rounds on Paul as a true genius. This is too much for Hancock, who reveals that the first and last sets of paintings were Paul's all along, and with a cry of "You're all raving mad", casts off his rich man's garb. He returns to his old flat and gets back to his statue, this time with his landlady as the model.