I’ve been a big fan of The Ladykillers for a long time. My initial interest in the film was because Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness were in it, so I eventually tracked it down many years ago on late-night television. And it’s true that Guinness is terrific as Professor Marcus, and Sellers, in his first feature, showed a lot of promise – even if he was still a bit inexperienced.
Mrs Wilberforce takes a nap – maybe for good?
But what I didn’t expect, when I first saw it, was to be so impressed with the whole cast – Herbert Lom, Cecil Parker, Danny Green, and most of all Katie Johnson as Mrs Wilberforce. This little lady, who was seventy-seven at the time, gives a quiet and almost minimalist performance that gently but firmly dominates the film, despite (or because of?) the fact that she is surrounded by the relatively over-the-top antics of the male cast. She is perfect, and this is a nearly perfect film.
I recently rediscovered and rewatched the film thanks to three things: Kareena buying me the DVD of the film (what an amazing new transfer compared to the versions I have seen!); news of a recent remake (the trailer makes it look like it could be rather bad, but if it leads people to the original, then it’s a good thing); and stumbling across a great web page that compares the locations in the film to how they look now (I’ve always found that sort of thing interesting). Here’s a review that contains no spoilers for the second half of the film.