The Day They Robbed the Bank of England

Last updated

The Day They Robbed the Bank of England
Directed by John Guillermin
Written by Howard Clewes
Richard Maibaum
Based on The Day They Robbed the Bank of England by John Brophy
Produced by Jules Buck
Starring Aldo Ray
Elizabeth Sellars
Peter O'Toole
Cinematography Georges Périnal
Edited by Frank Clarke
Music by Edwin Astley
Summit Film
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer
Release date
17 May 1960
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Language English
Budget$457,000 [1]
Box office$805,000 [1]

The Day They Robbed the Bank of England is a 1960 British crime film directed by John Guillermin. [2] [3] It was written by Howard Clewes and Richard Maibaum and based upon the 1959 novel of the same title by John Brophy. [4]


Peter O'Toole's role in the film led him to be cast as the lead in Lawrence of Arabia , released two years later. [5]


The film is set in London at the turn of the 20th century, in 1901. While Ireland struggles for independence, Charles Norgate (Aldo Ray), an Irish American, arrives in London after being recruited by Irish revolutionaries to undertake a robbery of the Bank of England. Iris Muldoon, the widow of a martyr in the Irish independence movement, had previously travelled to New York to hire Norgate on behalf of the movement. The Irish revolutionaries, led by O'Shea (Hugh Griffith), plan to rob a million pounds' worth of gold bullion from the bank vaults as a political offensive. At first, the other revolutionaries are wary of Norgate but he gains their confidence by acknowledging his Irish lineage. Informed that the bank is considered impregnable, Norgate seeks a weakness in the Bank Picquet provided by the Brigade of Guards, which keeps watch on the gold.

After a visit to a local public house frequented by Her Majesty's guardsmen, Norgate befriends Lt. Monte Fitch (Peter O'Toole) of the Guard. After expressing an interest in architecture, Fitch directs him to a museum that holds the original designs of the bank's architect. The following evening, Norgate breaks into the museum and traces the plans. Walsh (Kieron Moore), one of the revolutionaries that dislikes Norgate, is convinced that there is no weakness to be found in the bank's security. Walsh is enamored by Muldoon and attempts to persuade her to leave the movement and settle with him but she refuses. In addition, although Muldoon had an affair with Norgate in New York, she no longer wishes to be involved with him either.

After being invited to the bank, Norgate gets Lt. Fitch to show him the location of the bank vaults and he counts the paces of the guardsmen to obtain a scale for the plans he traced earlier. When he learns that the guards are plagued by rats and that the floor has been reinforced, he goes to the Sewage Commission Records Department and discovers that a long-forgotten underground sewer runs directly under the bank vaults. Norgate finds an old knowledgeable tosher and after posing as an archaeologist trying to locate ancient Roman temple ruins, persuades the tosher to show him where the sewer had been sealed. The revolutionaries dig through an old entrance to the sewer and pickaxe their way into the wall leading directly under the vaults. They choose to carry out their heist on the first weekend in August, a long weekend wherein Monday is a bank holiday and most employees would be on vacation.

Lt. Finch begins to have suspicions about Norgate, whose professional intentions for being in London seem suspect. Later, further suspicious are aroused when Lt. Finch discovers that Norgate had suddenly checked out of his hotel room. While digging, one of the revolutionaries hits and punctures a gas pipe causing mantle lanterns to dim in the underground bank corridors. The absence of rats in the bank's underground levels as well as the sound of faint pickaxing compels Lt. Fitch to order that the vault doors be opened to see if the bank was being compromised. However, there are three bank agents each with a separate key to the vault and one of the keyholders has gone away on holiday. He sends two guards to find and fetch the missing keyholder, who is unhappy about being disturbed and rushed to the bank.

Meanwhile, O'Shea announces that the Irish Home Rule Bill has been reintroduced in Parliament and that the bank heist must be halted to prevent jeopardising the bill's passage. O'Shea announces that the movement would dissociate itself from the thieves, prompting Muldoon to convince Walsh to accompany her and inform Norgate of the change in plans. However, discovering that Norgate has indeed broken through the floor of the bank vault, Walsh says nothing and begins to take gold bars down through the tunnel they dug. After managing to steal away a million pounds' worth of gold, they encounter Muldoon, who has sent away their escape tugboat. Despite her pleas, Norgate and Walsh load the gold onto a horse-drawn cart and Walsh leads it away on the streets. When Norgate realises that the tosher has not come out of the sewers, he goes back to search for him. The tosher, meanwhile, has revived after being overcome by the escaping gas, and arrives in the vault in search of Norgate, who is not the gentleman he thought he was. Norgate finally catches up with the tosher in the vault. At that moment, Lt. Finch and a section of guards open the vault doors. On the street, the cart has been greedily overloaded by Walsh and the weight of the gold breaks through in front of a passing bobby on duty. In the last scene of the film, Norgate and Walsh are led to a police wagon in handcuffs as Iris Muldoon tearfully looks into Norgate's eyes. She walks off, and the tosher wanders away carrying a fragment of a statue which he believes is a relic.



The novel was published in 1959.

Filming started in London in September 1959. [6]

The cast included Peter O'Toole then heavily in demand after his stage success on The Long and the Short and the Tall. O'Toole later said when offered the role "it wasn't the part I was offered that interested me but the Guards Officer who is reluctantly forced to think." [7] [8]

He and producer Jules Buck formed their own production company in January 1960.


Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $180,000 in the US and Canada and $625,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $57,000. [1]


Filmink said "There’s two spectacular performances: one from Albert Sharpe as a tunnel digger and the other from Peter O’Toole, full of youth and life as an idiotic upper class twit who gives Ray all this inside information, then begins to twig that he’s accidentally assisted a crime." [9]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter O'Toole</span> British actor (1932–2013)

Peter Seamus O'Toole was a British stage and film actor. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company. In 1959 he made his West End debut in The Long and the Short and the Tall, and played the title role in Hamlet in the National Theatre's first production in 1963. Excelling on the London stage, O'Toole was known for his "hellraiser" lifestyle off it.

Albert Spaggiari, nicknamed Bert, was a French criminal chiefly known as the organizer of a break-in into a Société Générale bank in Nice, France, in July 1976.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Milo O'Shea</span>

Milo Donal O'Shea was an Irish actor. He was twice nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performances in Staircase (1968) and Mass Appeal (1982).

<i>The Shiralee</i> (1957 film) 1957 British film

The Shiralee is a 1957 British film in the Australian Western genre. It was made by Ealing Studios, starring Peter Finch, directed by Leslie Norman and based on the 1955 novel by D'Arcy Niland. Although all exterior scenes were filmed in Sydney, Scone and Binnaway, New South Wales and Australian actors Charles Tingwell, Bill Kerr and Ed Devereaux played in supporting roles, the film is really a British film made in Australia, rather than an Australian film.

<i>The Great Riviera Bank Robbery</i> 1979 British film

The Great Riviera Bank Robbery, also known as Dirty Money and Sewers of Gold, is a 1979 British heist film written and directed by Francis Megahy and starring Ian McShane, Warren Clarke, Stephen Greif and Christopher Malcolm. In the film, based on a bank robbery masterminded by Albert Spaggiari in 1976, members of a neo-fascist group team up with professional criminals to rob the safe deposit vault of a bank in a French resort town.

<i>Only the Lonely</i> (film) 1991 film by Chris Columbus

Only the Lonely is a 1991 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Chris Columbus, produced by John Hughes, and stars John Candy, Maureen O'Hara, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Quinn. The film is a comedic take on the premise established in the 1953 television play Marty and the 1955 film Marty, while the title comes from the song "Only the Lonely" by Roy Orbison. The story follows a bachelor who is looking to settle down and start a family with a mortuary beautician, while coping with his overbearing mother who does not approve of her.

<i>The Wearing of the Grin</i> 1951 film by Chuck Jones

The Wearing of the Grin is a 1951 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The short was released on July 14, 1951, and stars Porky Pig.

Elizabeth Sellars Scottish actress

Elizabeth Macdonald Sellars was a Scottish actress.

<i>Kidnapped</i> (1960 film) 1960 American film

Kidnapped is a 1960 American adventure drama film. It is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 1886 novel Kidnapped. It stars Peter Finch and James MacArthur, and was Disney's second production based on a novel by Stevenson, the first being Treasure Island. It also marked Peter O'Toole's feature-film debut.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kieron Moore</span> Irish actor

Kieron Moore was an Irish film and television actor whose career was at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s. He may be best remembered for his role as Count Vronsky in the film adaptation of Anna Karenina (1948) with Vivien Leigh.

<i>Flawless</i> (2007 film) 2007 British film

Flawless is a 2007 British fictional heist crime film directed by Michael Radford, written by Edward Anderson, and starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore. It premiered 11 February 2007 in Germany. The film had a limited release in the United States on 28 March 2008.

<i>Loot</i> (1970 film) 1970 film

Loot is a 1970 British comedy film directed by Silvio Narizzano. It is based on the play of the same name by Joe Orton and stars Richard Attenborough, Lee Remick, Hywel Bennett, Milo O'Shea and Roy Holder. It was entered into the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.

<i>Black Beauty</i> (1971 film) 1971 film

Black Beauty is a 1971 British drama film directed by James Hill and based on Anna Sewell's 1877 novel of the same name. It is the fourth feature film adaptation of Anna Sewell's story. Lionel Bart provided the rousing score.

Albert Sharpe

Albert Sharpe was a Northern Irish stage and film actor.

John Guillermin French-British film director, writer and producer (1925–2015)

John Guillermin was a French-British film director, writer and producer who was most active in big budget, action adventure films throughout his lengthy career.

<i>Waltz of the Toreadors</i> (film) 1962 British film

Waltz of the Toreadors is a 1962 film directed by John Guillermin and starring Peter Sellers and Dany Robin. It was based on the play of the same name by Jean Anouilh with the location changed from France to England. It was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay, in 1963.

<i>Fiddle O Diddle</i>

Fiddle O' Diddle was a British comic strip in The Dandy about a mischievous leprechaun who liked to diddle people, especially the gypsy Muldoon. Muldoon was penniless and clothesless, and Diddle thrived off the gypsy's attempts to get his gold. The strip has awful geographical accuracy, with one of the characters once welcoming "our good neighbours, Cuba". The strip started in autumn 1993, and continued until the 2004 revamp, with it reappearing in the 2012 annual. The strip was drawn by Tom Paterson for the most part, and the 2012 annual story was drawn by Nik Holmes. He also appeared as an X Factor contestant being praised by Louis Walsh, in The Dandy that year.

<i>Den of Thieves</i> (film) 2018 film by Christian Gudegast

Den of Thieves is a 2018 American action heist film written, directed, and produced by Christian Gudegast. It stars Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones, Dawn Olivieri, Mo McRae, and Max Holloway. In the film, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department gang look to stop a group of thieves consisting of ex-MARSOC Marines that is planning to rob the Federal Reserve in Los Angeles.

John Brophy (writer) British journalist and novelist (1899–1965)

John Brophy was an Anglo-Irish soldier, journalist and author who wrote more than 40 books, mostly based on his experiences during World War I.

<i>The Day They Robbed the Bank of England</i> (novel) 1959 novel

The Day They Robbed the Bank of England is a 1959 crime novel by the British writer John Brophy.


  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Variety film review; 25 May 1960, page 6.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; 23 July 1960, page 118.
  4. DAY THEY ROBBED THE BANK OF ENGLAND, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 27, Iss. 312, (Jan 1, 1960): 79.
  5. Glaister, Dan (29 October 2004). "After 42 years, Sharif and O'Toole decide the time is right to get their epic act together again". The Guardian . Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  6. ART-FILM THEATRE TO OPEN ON OCT. 9 New York Times 2 Sep 1959: 35.
  7. From Lord Jim to Lord God By STEPHEN WATTS. New York Times 06 Mar 1966: X11.
  8. REPORTS ON BRITAIN'S VARIED MOVIE FRONTS: Industry Shaken by Television Deal -- Stars on the Ascendant -- Awards By STEPHEN WATTS. New York Times 24 Jan 1960: X7.
  9. Vagg, Stephen (17 November 2020). "John Guillermin: Action Man". Filmink.