The Million Pound Note (1954) starring Gregory Peck, Ronald Squire, Joyce Grenfell, Reginald Beckwith, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Jane Griffiths, Bryan Forbes directed by Ronald Neame - movie review on The Movie Scene

The Million Pound Note (1954)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Gregory Peck and Bryan Forbes in The Million Pound Note (1954)

Peck's Million Pound Rags to Riches Story

Based upon the Mark Twain short story about two eccentric brothers living in Edwardian London who give a stranger a million pound bank note to settle a bet, "The Million Pound Note" is a fun movie starring Gregory Peck in the lead role. Although saying that it is fun is not doing it complete justice because surprisingly it throws up some interesting points about wealth and happiness whilst also being entertaining.

Having found himself penniless on the streets of London, American Henry Adams (Gregory Peck - Roman Holiday) suddenly gets a stroke of luck when the eccentric Montpelier brothers (Wilfrid Hyde-White and Ronald Squire) hand him a Million Pound Note as part of a bet between themselves. With new found wealth Adams finds that not only do people start to treat him differently but most people don't want paying when he buys stuff. But his initial happiness turns to sadness when he starts to realise that being perceived as wealthy doesn't come with out a certain amount of negative issues.

Wilfrid Hyde-White and Ronald Squire in The Million Pound Note (1954)

In "The Million Pound Note" the original Mark Twain story is nicely expanded upon in creating this clever and amusing story about wealth. It takes you through various stages from people's perception of someone who looks like they have no money to spend then delivering the counter viewpoint of people's behaviour to perceived wealth when Adams gets the million pound note. But then it also makes a comment on how being rich doesn't always bring happiness with people pretending to be your friend and the numerous begging letters asking for financial help. It's surprisingly effective for what is a lightweight movie aiming to be fun, in an age of million pound lottery wins and the stories of how the sudden wealth ruined people's lives, the storyline to "The Million Pound Note" is still very apt.

Whilst the storyline covers these elements of wealth "The Million Pound Note" actually throws more into the mix, there is a mildly entertaining romance and a strong stream of slapstick and farce. In a scene where there is confusion who the unkempt millionaire is when he turns up at a hotel there is pure old fashioned farce with the silent Rock, played by Reginald Beckwith, with his old fashion barbell adding a great amount of comedy which carries on through out the movie. Even Gregory Peck as Henry Adams enters into the fun with moments of mild slapstick such as tripping up stairs as the million pound note is whisked from his hand in a gust of wind.

Talking of Gregory Peck his performance is pretty spot on and so is the choice to cast him. With his rugged good looks and amiable nature the character of Adams is perfect and the way Peck plays him from being the penniless American through to the perceived millionaire is just a great all round performance. In fact "The Million Pound Note" is very much Peck's movie with him outshining the majority of the other stars from the aforementioned Reginald Beckwith through to love interest Portia Lansdowne played by Jane Griffiths as well as the Montpelier brothers played by Wilfrid Hyde-White and Ronald Squire.

What this all boils down to is that "The Million Pound Note" is a very nice, easy going story and a nice adaptation of Mark Twain's short story with Gregory Peck showing a fun side to his acting ability. But what is more interesting is that despite being over 50 years old the subtle themes about wealth and the problems it can bring are as prevalent now as ever especially when with the Lottery people can win the equivalent of a Million Pound note.


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