Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen

Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen

 

We’ve all had “one of those days”. You’ve made your plans, made your contingencies, and just want to see them through to even moderate success. But for some reason, fate conspires against you. What should be relatively simple suddenly seems like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. Things unravel at such dizzying speed, you don’t know whether to scream, cry, or laugh. Things don’t just go wrong, they go very wrong.

THE LADYKILLERS is a heist gone so very very wrong.

Our story begins with Professor Marcus (Sir Alec Guinness) knocking on the door of an old woman named Mrs Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) inquiring about a room to let. The lady of the house likes the charm of the devilish stranger and allows him to rent the room – knowing full-well that his musical friends will be using the space to practice. What The Professor doesn’t tell her is that he’s after the space for its proximity to King’s Cross train station; a crucial setting for a daring robbery he and his mates are about to undertake. They may claim to be musicians, but in truth the only notes they’re interested in are ones issued by the bank.

However, after the daring heist is pulled off, the true test begins – getting away from Missus Wilberforce without her catching on to the unsavoury acts they have just staged from the safety of her sitting room.

 

Alec Guinness in THE LADYKILLERS

 

Perhaps the coolest part of going digging through catalogue selections for these various blindspots is the way it has allowed me to see various sides of various actors.

Take Sir Alec Guinness.

Like many of you, I was used to the upright British gentleman: Colonel Nicholson in BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI…The titular Man in The White Suit…Ben-Freakin’-Kinobi. I never expected to put on a movie and see him playing a slimy weasel. I always had it in my head that the leader of this den of thieves would charm his way into that room to let by being a fine upstanding your man. I never expected hair so greasy…a smile so nefarious…such a suspicious glint in those eyes that come with heavy bags underneath. Who are you sir, and what have you done with my Jedi Master?

It’s like looking at photos of your grandparents from their days as sweethearts, or hearing old recordings of Leonard Cohen when his voice could hold a tune. It shows you a whole other side of someone you thought you knew – sometimes even allowing you to understand what the fuss was over.

As for Guinness, I relished every moment he was on-screen as this weaselly rogue. His comedy is so physical, his every gesture so pronounced. He knows when to let a joke simmer, and when to nail it by bugging his eyes that little bit more, and making his teeth seem that extra bit pronounced.

My entire life up until now, I’ve thought of Guinness as that Army Colonel; now he shall forever be a Ladykiller. Hell, for all I know, that’s was the role that got him knighted.

 

LK3

 

This might be sick to admit, but perhaps the most twisted moments of THE LADYKILLERS are the scenes where the thieves have to be social and gentile around their host and her friends. I know – I’m terrible. It’s a story filled with thievery, murder, and deception…but politely accepting and declining invitations are the most nerve-wracking moments.

Disagree with me, I dare you.

Tell me that you’ve never squirmed in the company of people you barely know. Tell me that you’ve never pretended not to be home to avoiding a long conversation with a neighbour. Tell me that you’ve never faked having something you just couldn’t get out of to avoid drinks with that one co-worker.

THE LADYKILLERS knows this feeling well, and uses it as a lethal weapon in the face of the thieves’ duplicity. It knows that even the most heinous crook cannot say no to an invitation to tea when they are trying to seem upstanding. Beyond wanting to keep up appearances, it knows that a certain sort of pleasantry has a way of making us do things we don’t want to do. It won’t convince us to knock off an armoured truck, but it will convince us to sit on the sofa…and make conversation…or worse, just listen.

You’re shuddering at the thought, aren’t you? Would you rather dangle one of your co-conspirators over the train tracks? Commit some light larceny? Yeah, I thought so.

This is what causes so many deplorable ideas to become truly comic – the very tangible notion of decorum. We can allow ourselves to laugh at these murdering bandits because we’ve all been pulled into those garden parties with the promise of “just a few minutes”, or “you’ll have fun”, or even simply “there’s snacks”…only to eventually wonder who we have to kill to get out the side door undetected.

 

Professor Marcus and Mrs. Wilberforce

 

Coming away from THE LADYKILLERS, one has to consider the best laid plans of mice and men.

I wager that if you asked any cinephile how they’d like to carry out any grand plan – travel, networking, school, you name it – they’d probably like to hit their marks like OCEAN’S ELEVEN. They’d like to be cool, charming, professional, and have back up plans for the back up plans of their back up plans.

In truth though, I’d wager most of us are a lot like THE LADYKILLERS. Bumbling around the house, watching defeat get snatched from the jaws of victory, losing player after player until we are the last ones left in the game. What then? Does the ultimate prize get handed over to the facilitator, while we linger at the bottom of a box car? Maybe. Think of the jobs you missed out on, the significant others you lost. One hopes that is not our fate; to map out a careful course of action only to watch the bounty slip through our fingers. But it be’s that way sometimes.

Maybe then the best we can hope for is that we are more The Wilberforce in the story of our lives, and less The Professor.

 

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I usually post Blind Spot entries on the final Tuesday of every month. If you are participating, drop me an email (ryanatthematineedotca) when your post is up and I’ll make sure to link to your entry.

 

Here’s the round-up for July so far…

 

Erin watched MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW

Coog watched THE SEVENTH SEAL

Wendell watched BLACK CAESAR and HELL UP IN HARLEM

Sean Kelly watched BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD