The Big Money (film)

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The Big Money
The Big Money (1958).jpg
Movie Poster (1958)
Directed by John Paddy Carstairs
Written byJohn Baines
additional material
Patrick Campbell
Based onstory by John Baines
Produced by Joseph Janni (uncredited)
Earl St. John
Starring Ian Carmichael
Belinda Lee
Kathleen Harrison
Jill Ireland
Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Jack E. Cox
Edited by Alfred Roome
Music byVan Phillips
Distributed byRank Film Distributors (UK)
Lopert (US)
Release dates
10 June 1958 (UK)
1963 (US)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£160,000 [1] [2] or £175,000 [3] [4]

The Big Money is a 1958 British comedy film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring Ian Carmichael, Belinda Lee and Kathleen Harrison. [5]



Willie is the bad seed of a family of thieves. One day, he steals a briefcase from a dodgy clergyman, which is full of pound notes. Unfortunately, the notes all have the same serial number. The clergyman is actually the leader of a separate criminal gang.

Willie is seduced by "the big money" and starts passing the counterfeits, one note at a time. Much of his need for money is to impress Gloria, the pretty barmaid at his local pub. She dreams of the millionaire who will come and give her the good life. Unfortunately, he cannot pass the fake money fast enough to keep up with her wants. When she helps herself to some of the counterfeit money, it gets the attention of the police and the mobsters. It all ends in a free-for-all, between the police, Arabs, and mobsters, in disguise. Finally, she has to decide whether she loves him or his money.

The Big Money (1958 Poster) The Big Money (1958) Movie Poster.jpg
The Big Money (1958 Poster)


Production and release

Ian Carmichael had played a support role in the film of Simon and Laura (1955) for Rank and starred in a significant hit, Private's Progress, for the Boulting Brothers. [6] This led to the Rank Organisation offering him a three-picture contract of which this was to be the first. Carmichael said the movie would be "a sad disappointment, and, after working in such close accord with John and Roy for twelve weeks, a frustrating and nail biting experience." [7]

Diana Dors was originally cast as Gloria but turned down the role. [8] Belinda Lee played the role instead. It was one of several comedies she made at Rank. [9]

Filming took place at Pinewood in April 1956 and took ten weeks. [4]

Carmichael says when he read the script he felt the premise was "a good one and the early sequences gave it a promising start" but that "very soon it descended into the broadest comedy cliches." He complained to the producer and director who did not share his concern so Carmichael "took the matter higher." [7]

The Rank Organisation had employed Bryan Forbes as an in-house script doctor and staff writer and he was sent the screenplay. He and Carmichel spent two days working out an amended treatment and Forbes went to write up the scenes. The executive producer found out about this and pulled Forbes off the film – Carmichael says the movie was shot as per the original script. [10]

The film's release was cancelled in July 1956 because Rank Organisation head Sir John Davis thought it was "terrible". [3] "It would have been more harmful to the careers of the people in it to have it shown," said Davis in October. [2]

Critic Alexander Walker described it in 1993 as "almost indistinguishable from the general run of other Rank products." [1] Carmichael, then making Brothers in Law said "all I can say is if the powers that be think the film is unfunny I'm relieved they're not going to show it." Helpmann said, "I applaud the courage of Mr Davis' decision but I can take no responsibility for the unfunniness of the film." [4]


In 1958 producer Hugh Stewart was working on a Norman Wisdom movie that involved scenes at Ascot. The director, John Paddy Carstairs, remembered there were Ascot sequences in The Big Money and suggested Stewart look at it. The producer felt the film could be released with some additional editing and music. [11] This led to a June 1958 release and screenings on Rank's Odeon circuit. Producer Joseph Janni took his name off the credits.


Variety said, "all Stewart's labors cannot disguise the fact that Davis was right in the first place. Though sparking from an amusing idea, "The Big Money" is funny only in spots. It is bogged down by gag situations that are telegraphed, and feeble dialog... Though it may prove a modest filler in certain British houses, it Will do nobody's reputation any good if it is entered for U.S. consumption." [12]

Carmichael said that Stewart's "confidence was misplaced. The Big Money should have remained incarcerated or, better still, destroyed." It led to the termination of Rank's contract with Carmichael by mutual agreement. The actor wrote in his memoirs "I didn't like factory farming, which was what I assessed the film production at Pinewood to be at the time, and they, no doubt, didn't like my argumentative interference in a side of the production which they probably considered to be none of my affair. The fact that all along I had been wrong about The Big Money could also only have rankled." [11]

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  1. 1 2 Walker, Alexander (3 July 1993). "Obituary: Sir John Davis". The Independent. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  2. 1 2 Wiseman, Thomas (22 November 1956). "Mr Davis Takes on Hollywood". Nottingham Evening Post. p. 9.
  3. 1 2 "Star Dust". The Mirror . Perth. 4 August 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 17 May 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  4. 1 2 3 £175,000 laughter film shelved Author: Cecil Wilson Date: Monday, July 23, 1956 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) Issue: 18743 p 5
  6. "'SILLY-ASS' ROLES SUIT NEW STAR". The Australian Women's Weekly . Vol. 23, no. 47. 18 April 1956. p. 62. Retrieved 2 August 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  7. 1 2 Carmichael p 316
  8. "Diana now wants to play serious roles". The Mirror . Vol. 36, no. 1814. Western Australia. 3 March 1956. p. 11. Retrieved 12 July 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  9. Vagg, Stephen (7 September 2020). "A Tale of Two Blondes: Diana Dors and Belinda Lee". Filmink.
  10. Carmichael p 317
  11. 1 2 Carmichael p 318
  12. Review of film at Variety