I've watched quite a few movies featuring Sir Alec Guinness in the past year, beginning with his Ealing Studios comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, in which he plays eight roles, and continuing through five movies from director David Lean, for whom Guinness was a nearly omnipresent casting choice over four decades. As someone who grew up thinking of Guinness only as the serious, sacrificial sage of the original Star Wars trilogy, it's been enlightening to realize what a diverse performer he was throughout his long career —— and just a little bit jarring to discover that he was, quite often, downright goofy. In another comedy from Britain's Ealing Studios, The Lavender Hill Mob, Guinness oscillates effectively between between stoic gravity and broad comic mugging, making it a one-stop reference point for his versatility.
Guinness stars in The Lavender Hill Mob as Henry "Dutch" Holland, a faultlessly dependable and fastidious clerk whose primary duty is overseeing the transportation of gold bullion for a London bank. Behind his puritanically honest demeanor, however, Dutch has spent decades fantasizing about robbing his employer and living a life of decadent luxury, and when he meets an opportunistic exporter of chintzy souvenirs (Stanley Holloway) with his own foundry, Dutch devises a plan to make his dreams reality.
The Lavender Hill Mob is consistently amusing, with nifty pacing and one fun complication after another; but Heist movies, with their focus on logistics over characters, are fast food, to me. Aside from Guinness going from Britishly grave to googly-eyed with excitement and exasperation, I may not remember much of it after a few weeks. T.E.B. Clarke's Oscar-winning screenplay is little more than a lark, and Charles Crichton's direction is energetic but light. The entire cast is solid, including a blink of a cameo from Audrey Hepburn, whose fleeting appearance captures the essence of the film's mild, disposable pleasures.
The Lavender Hill Mob was brought to the Potluck Film Fest by Ryan Hope. He ranks it on his Flickchart at #663/3019 (78%), where it's his 5th favorite Caper Movie out of 23 on his Flickchart. It ranked on my Flickchart at #1762 (56%), making it #18 on my chart of 37 Caper Movies.