Julie Christie made her big-screen debut in British comedy Crooks Anonymous, even though she later admitted that she’d really wanted to star in a French New Wave movie and looked down her nose at this amiable, but decidedly un-intellectual, movie (“I was very young, and young people are apt to be snobs of one kind or another,” she later said). It’s also notable for a fantastic comedy performance by Stanley Baxter and an archetypal role for Leslie Phillips.
Phillips plays petty thief Dandy Forsdyke, a crook whose fingers are liable to get him into trouble with the law. Coerced by girlfriend Babette (Julie Christie) into going straight, he joins an unofficial organisation for reforming criminals called Crooks Anonymous. With the help of ex-con Senior Brother Montague (Wilfrid Hyde White), Dandy is able to resist the strong temptation to steal and, after passing a series of tests administered by Brother Widdowes (Baxter), is declared ‘cured’.
He takes a legit job as a Santa Claus in a London department store, but faces his biggest test yet when he’s locked in the store with just £250,000 for company. In desperation, he calls Crooks Anonymous for help but, when they arrive, they face the same dilemma. Will these reformed men be able to stay on the straight and narrow?
Crime was a popular theme in British comedies in the early ’60s (from Two Way Stretch and The Wrong Arm of the Law to Crooks in Cloisters), and Crooks Anonymous is a particularly nimble-fingered effort. It’s further illuminated by the likes of comedy stalwarts James Robertson Justice and Harry Fowler, and there are brief cameos from Dick Emery and Dandy Nichols. Veteran British director Ken Annakin went on to make his most ambitious comedy the following year, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.
Cast: Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter, Wilfrid Hyde White, Julie Christie, James Robertson Justice, Michael Medwin, Pauline Jameson
Director: Ken Annakin
Writers: Ken Annakin, Jack Davies, Henry Blyth
Composers: George Martin, Muir Mathieson
Production Companies: Independent Artists
Release Date: 31 March 1962
Running Time: 98 minutes
Genres: Crime, Comedy
Country: United Kingdom