Last Holiday (1950 film)

Last updated

Last Holiday
Alec Guinness as George Bird and Helen Cherry as Miss Mellows
Directed by Henry Cass
Written by J. B. Priestley
Produced by Associated British Picture
Watergate Films
Stephen Mitchell
A. D. Peters
J.B. Priestley
Starring Alec Guinness
Beatrice Campbell
Kay Walsh
Bernard Lee
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Helen Cherry
Jean Colin
Muriel George
Sid James
CinematographyRay Elton
Edited by Monica Kimick
Music by Francis Chagrin
Warner Brothers
Welwyn Studios
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Associated British-Pathé, Ltd.
Release date
3 May 1950 (1950-05-03)
Running time
89 min
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£109,084 (UK) [1]

Last Holiday is a 1950 British film featuring Alec Guinness in his sixth starring role. The low key, dark comedy was written and co-produced by J. B. Priestley and directed by Henry Cass, featuring irony and wit often associated with Priestley. Shooting locations included Bedfordshire and Devon. The film was co-written by an uncredited J. Lee Thompson. [2]


The film's narrative revolves around George Bird, who is a salesman for an agricultural implements company. During a routine visit to his physician, he is told that he has a terminal disease and only a short time to live. He decides to spend his final days in an expensive hotel. Once there, he acquires friends and a love interest who eventually learn of his plight.


George Bird (Guinness), an ordinary, unassuming salesman of agricultural implements who inexplicably speaks with a posh public school accent, visits a physician for a routine check-up and is told he has Lampington's disease, a newly identified condition which allows him only a few weeks to live. He accepts the doctor's advice to take his savings and enjoy himself in the little time left to him.

A bachelor with no family or friends, Bird decides to spend his last days at an upmarket residential hotel among its elite clientele. By chance, a salesman in a used clothing store has acquired two suitcases, covered with international labels. The cases are full of a deceased Lord's bespoke tailored wardrobe that perfectly fits Bird. Bird acquires the wardrobe and luggage and takes the salesman's advice to shave off his moustache that give him the appearance of a wealthy gentleman.

Bird's unassuming attitude generates a great deal of interest among the hotel's residents because he wears the same expensive clothes as all the other guests. He is seen as an enigma to be solved, with wild speculations offered as to his identity and possible noble lineage. The hotel's housekeeper, Mrs. Poole (Walsh), guesses the truth, and Bird confides his secret to her. Bird quickly acquires friends and influence, falls in love (possibly for the first time in his life), sets wrongs to right, and is offered lucrative business opportunities. But these successes only serve to make him reflect on the irony that he will have no time to enjoy them.

During a strike by the hotel's staff, Bird comes into contact with Sir Trevor Lampington (Thesiger), the doctor after whom Lampington's disease was named. He insists that Bird cannot possibly have the disease as he has no symptoms, and contacts the hospital to ask it to check. Just as the hospital discovers its error Bird enters and it is confirmed that he indeed was given the wrong diagnosis.

Overjoyed, he is ready to begin life afresh with his new sweetheart, friends and business opportunities.

In a twist ending, however, he is tragically killed in a car accident on the way back to the hotel. He takes a shortcut through the sleepy village of Fallow End, where a man has just set his sick old dog down on the road to have a “last sniff round” before taking him to be put to sleep. Swerving to avoid the dog, Bird runs head-on into a lorry. Meanwhile, the hotel guests, having learned the truth about Bird's identity and misdiagnosis, are irritated that he has not appeared for a dinner celebrating his good news. As the evening wears on, most of them express their doubts about him, and one of them, Bellinghurst, concludes the meal with an arrogant, longwinded “toast” to Bird, who is presumably back in his place. In hospital, resigned to his fate, Bird tells a nurse to “give his love” to all his friends at the hotel. Mrs. Poole silences Bellinghurst and shames the rest with the news that Mr. Bird is dead.



The film was produced at Welwyn Studios with location shots at Luton, Bedfordshire, shopping parade, and 'The Rosetor Hotel', (now demolished), in Torquay, Devon. [3] Priestley has sole screenwriting credit. However, some uncredited work was done on it by J. Lee Thompson. [4]


Upon its release in New York City in November 1950, Bosley Crowther called it an "amusing and poignant little picture" that is "simple and modest in structure but delightfully rich in character." [5]

However, in Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, critic Robert Murphy asserted that Last Holiday was not as good as it should have been, given the excellent performances by Guinness, Walsh and James. In particular he described the film's production values as "shabby" and singled out Priestley's trick ending for even harsher criticism, calling it "disastrously inappropriate." [6]

Other releases and versions

The film was released on VHS in 1994, and again in 2000, by Homevision. It was released in DVD format by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection under licence from Studio Canal in June 2009, but was dropped from their catalogues in 2011. [7]

Last Holiday of 2006 was a loose remake, starring Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt, and Gérard Depardieu.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Lavender Hill Mob</i> 1951 film directed by Charles Crichton

The Lavender Hill Mob is a 1951 comedy film from Ealing Studios, written by T. E. B. Clarke, directed by Charles Crichton, starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway and featuring Sid James and Alfie Bass. The title refers to Lavender Hill, a street in Battersea, a district in London SW11, near to Clapham Junction railway station.

<i>Oliver Twist</i> (1948 film) 1948 British film by David Lean

Oliver Twist is a 1948 British film and the second of David Lean's two film adaptations of Charles Dickens novels. Following his 1946 version of Great Expectations, Lean re-assembled much of the same team for his adaptation of Dickens' 1838 novel, including producers Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan, cinematographer Guy Green, designer John Bryan and editor Jack Harris. Lean's then-wife, Kay Walsh, who had collaborated on the screenplay for Great Expectations, played the role of Nancy. John Howard Davies was cast as Oliver, while Alec Guinness portrayed Fagin and Robert Newton played Bill Sykes.

<i>The Man in the White Suit</i> 1951 film by Alexander Mackendrick

The Man in the White Suit is a 1951 British satirical science fiction comedy film made by Ealing Studios. It stars Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood and Cecil Parker and was directed by Alexander Mackendrick. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Screenplay) for Roger MacDougall, John Dighton and Alexander Mackendrick.

<i>Genevieve</i> (film) 1953 British film

Genevieve is a 1953 British comedy film produced and directed by Henry Cornelius and written by William Rose. It stars John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More and Kay Kendall as two couples comedically involved in a veteran automobile rally.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ernest Thesiger</span> English actor

Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger, CBE was an English stage and film actor. He is noted for his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale's film Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

<i>Great Expectations</i> (1946 film) 1946 film by David Lean

Great Expectations is a 1946 British drama film directed by David Lean, based on the 1861 novel by Charles Dickens and starring John Mills and Valerie Hobson. The supporting cast included Bernard Miles, Francis L. Sullivan, Anthony Wager, Jean Simmons, Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt and Alec Guinness.

<i>Last Holiday</i> (2006 film) Movie by Wayne Wang with Queen Latifhah

Last Holiday is a 2006 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Wayne Wang and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. The film is loosely based on the 1950 British film of the same name by J. B. Priestley. The film stars Queen Latifah as Georgia, a humble department store assistant who is told that she has a rare brain condition and only has a few weeks to live. She promptly decides to spend her remaining funds on a luxury holiday in Europe before she dies.

<i>Barnacle Bill</i> (1957 film) 1957 British film

Barnacle Bill is a 1957 Ealing Studios comedy film, starring Alec Guinness. He plays an unsuccessful Royal Navy officer and six of his maritime ancestors. This was the final Ealing comedy, and the last film Guinness made for Ealing Studios. His first Ealing success was in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which he also played multiple roles. The film was written by the screenwriter of Passport to Pimlico.

<i>The Comedians</i> (1967 film) 1967 film by Peter Glenville

The Comedians is a 1967 American political drama film directed and produced by Peter Glenville, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Graham Greene, who also wrote the screenplay. The stars were Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, and Alec Guinness. Paul Ford and Lillian Gish had supporting roles as a presidential candidate and wife, as did James Earl Jones as an island doctor. The role played by Elizabeth Taylor was originally intended for Sophia Loren.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beatrice Campbell</span> British actress

Beatrice Campbell was an Irish stage and film actress, born in County Down, Northern Ireland,

<i>They Drive by Night</i> (1938 film) 1938 film by Arthur B. Woods

They Drive by Night is a 1938 British black-and-white crime thriller film directed by Arthur B. Woods and starring Emlyn Williams as Shorty, an ex-con, and Ernest Thesiger as Walter Hoover, an ex-schoolmaster. It was produced by Warner Bros. - First National Productions and based on the 1938 novel They Drive by Night by James Curtis.

<i>The October Man</i> 1947 British film

The October Man is a 1947 mystery film/film noir starring John Mills and Joan Greenwood, written by novelist Eric Ambler, who also produced. A man is suspected of murder, and the lingering effects of a brain injury he sustained in an earlier accident, as well as an intensive police investigation, make him begin to doubt whether he is innocent.

<i>The Magnet</i> (film) 1950 film by Charles Frend

The Magnet is a 1950 British comedy film featuring Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh and in his first starring role James Fox. The story involves a young Wallasey boy, Johnny Brent (Fox), who obtains the eponymous magnet by deception, leading to much confusion. When he is acclaimed as a hero, he is shamed by his own sense of guilt.

<i>Venetian Bird</i> 1952 British film

Venetian Bird is a 1952 British thriller film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Richard Todd, Eva Bartok and John Gregson. The screenplay was adapted by Victor Canning from his own 1950 novel of the same title. It was shot at Pinewood Studios and on location in Venice. The film's sets were designed by the art director George Provis. It was released in America by United Artists where it was titled The Assassin.

<i>Meet Me Tonight</i> 1952 British film

Meet Me Tonight is a 1952 omnibus British comedy film adapted from three one act plays by Noël Coward: Red Peppers, Fumed Oak and Ways and Means; which are part of his Tonight at 8.30 play cycle. The film was released as Tonight at 8:30 in the U.S. It was directed by Anthony Pelissier and starred Valerie Hobson, Nigel Patrick, Stanley Holloway, Ted Ray and Jack Warner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alec Guinness</span> British actor (1914–2000)

Sir Alec Guinness was an English actor. After an early career on the stage, Guinness was featured in several of the Ealing comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which he played nine different characters, The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), for which he received his first Academy Award nomination, and The Ladykillers (1955). He collaborated six times with director David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), General Yevgraf Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Professor Godbole in A Passage to India (1984). In 1970, he played Jacob Marley's ghost in Ronald Neame's Scrooge. He also portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy; for the original 1977 film, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 50th Academy Awards.

<i>The Card</i> (1952 film) 1952 British film

The Card is a 1952 British comedy film version of the 1911 novel by Arnold Bennett. In America, the film was titled The Promoter. It was adapted by Eric Ambler and directed by Ronald Neame. It stars Alec Guinness, Glynis Johns, Valerie Hobson, and Petula Clark. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound.

<i>Kings Rhapsody</i> (film) 1955 film by Herbert Wilcox

King's Rhapsody is a 1955 British musical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Errol Flynn and Patrice Wymore. Wymore was Errol Flynn's wife at the time of filming. It was based on the successful stage musical King's Rhapsody by Ivor Novello.

<i>Brothers in Law</i> (film) 1957 British film

Brothers in Law is a 1957 British comedy film directed by Roy Boulting and starring Richard Attenborough, Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas and Jill Adams. The film is one of the Boulting brothers successful series of institutional satires that begun with Private's Progress in 1956. It is an adaptation of the 1955 novel Brothers in Law by Henry Cecil, a comedy set in the legal profession.

Renown Pictures Corporation is a British film distributor founded by producer George Minter in 1938.


  1. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p. 492
  2. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN   9780198159346.
  3. staff (2016). "FILM: Last Holiday". Reel Streets. Reel Streets. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  4. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN   9780198159346.
  5. Crowther, Bosley (14 November 1950). "The Screen in Review; 'Last Holiday,' Written by J.B. Priestley, Stars Alec Guinness as Man Doomed to Die". New York Times. New York. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  6. Murphy, Robert (2003). ..Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48, Routledge. ISBN   978-1134901500 p. 188
  7. staff (2016). "Last Holiday: Editions". WorldCat. Online Computer Library Center. Retrieved 10 May 2012.Lanthier, Joseph Jon (14 June 2009). "Last Holiday". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 10 May 2016.