When Mr Bird, Alec Guinness (“Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”, “Lawrence of Arabia”), is told some terrible news at the doctors, he clears out his savings and takes a trip to a posh hotel in Pinebourne, a fictional UK location.
Just before he leaves he is collared by a local tailor who has purchased a job lot of items. The shop keeper persuades Bird to purchase a few Saville Row suits and well-travelled suitcases.
These items, together with his candour and no one knowing who he is, gives him an air of mystery which none of the glitterati can put their finger on once he arrives at the hotel.
He endears himself to these people simply by being himself. He’s straight talking, believing he has no reason to be anything else.
He informs no one of his illness, though does fall in with the head housemaid Mrs. Poole, Kay Walsh (“Oliver Twist”, “The Horse’s Mouth”), who is as brash as he and sees through him from the start. But even then, he can’t bring himself to tell her.
At the hotel there’s a variety of people and misfits. From Sidney James (The Carry On Films, “Bless This House (TV)”) as a wheeler dealer, to Beatrice Campbell (“Laughter In Paradise”, “Grand National Night”) a woman whose husband is in all sorts of financial difficulties owing to his less-than-successful wheeler dealing.
Somehow, someway, they all come into contact with Mr. Bird and he goes from winning money based on a tip from James, to reinvigorating Kelsall to invent again, who then offers Bird the chance to come in with him.
But Bird can’t accept any of these offers he suddenly finds coming his way and he can’t truly enjoy the new life he finds himself in. Bird believes he is dying of Lampington’s disease, a rare condition that affords him just a few months of life.
Whilst at the hotel however, he meets Moultrie Kelsall (“The Franchise Affair”, “Smith”), a Scottish Sir who happens to have invited his old chum Sir Trevor Lampington, Ernest Thesiger (“Scrooge”, “The Robe”), to the hotel.
It does take a while but eventually Bird and Lampington meet and the news, well, you will have to watch to see the outcome, but even then things don’t go how you expect.
The movie was written by acclaimed novelist, playwright and screenwriter J. B. Priestley (“Jamaica Inn”, “An Inspector Calls”) and directed by Henry Cass (“The Glass Mountain”, “Give A Dog A Bone”).
Guinness turns in a wonderful performance as the ordinary man who is suddenly offered everything; jobs, opportunities, love, at exactly the time when he can’t accept. He excels in the dark comedy Priestley provides.
It’s also fantastic to see a strong woman being written for the screen back in 1950 and Kay Walsh is fantastic in the roll. She takes none of Bird’s nonsense and sees through him from the off but equally warms to the man as time passes.
Last Holiday is a gem of a film that is available on DVD from March 9th 2020.