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Million Pound Note, The (1953, Gregory Peck, Jane Griffiths)

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For the grand sum of £75,000, Gregory Peck agreed to come to England to play a penniless American who comes to England in search of his fortune. Based on the short story Strange Wager by Mark Twain, The Million Pound Note (retitled Man with a Million in America) is a charming comedy, set in Edwardian England, that retains the American author’s wit and insight but adds an extra layer of English eccentricity to proceedings.

When two wealthy brothers (Ronald Squire, Wilfred Hyde White) disagree about the consequences of a pauper being given a million pound note with instructions not to spend it – one argues that he would be no better off; the other believes he could live indefinitely on credit – they decide that the only way to settle their dispute is to put it into practice. They recruit a penniless and friendless American, Henry Adams (Peck), to their cause. Armed with the note, Adams soon finds society’s doors opening for him and business establishments more than happy to let him live on credit. He even becomes a buzzword on the stock exchange, sending stocks soaring whenever his name is mentioned.

He soon discovers a downside to this heady life, however. Falling in love with Portia (Jane Griffiths; the producers originally wanted Dinah Sheridan for the role but she retired from acting after Genevieve), the niece of the Duchess of Cromarty (the redoubtable Joyce Grenfell), their relationship is threatened when Adams tells Portia the truth about his status. And when the note goes missing (stolen by the Duke of Frognal (AE Matthews), who is annoyed that he was turned out of his hotel suite upon Adams’s arrival), the American’s credit-rating seems decidely less healthy. A sprightly satire adeptly directed by Ronald Neame (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), The Million Pound Note makes for priceless entertainment.

production details
UK | 90 minutes | 1954

Director: Ronald Neame
Writer: Jill Craigie (based on a story by Mark Twain)

cast
Gregory Peck as Henry Adams
Joyce Grenfell as Duchess of Cromarty
Wilfrid Hyde-White as Roderick Montpelier
Brian Oulton as Lloyd
Maurice Denham as Jonathan Reid
John Slater as Parsons
Hugh Griffith as Potter (uncredited)
Ronald Squire as Oliver Montpelier
Ronald Adam as Samuel Clements (uncredited)
Ernest Thesiger as Mr. Garrett, Bank Director (uncredited)
Bryan Forbes as Todd
Reginald Beckwith as Rock
Wilbur Evans as American Ambassador
Hartley Power as Lloyd Hastings
George Devine as Chop House Proprietor
Gudrun Ure as Renie
Hugh Wakefield as Duke of Cromarty
Jane Griffiths as Portia Lansdowne
Christopher Hewett as Irate Investor (uncredited)
A.E. Matthews as Duke of Frognal
Richard Caldicot as James, the Butler
Fanny Carby as Nursemaid at Belgrave Square
John Chandos as 2nd Businessman at Bumbles Hotel
Peggy Ann Clifford as Assistant Matron
Ronnie Corbett as Photographer
Larry Dann as Boy
Andrew Faulds as Chief Assistant at Tailor Shop
Willoughby Goddard as Stockbroker
Harold Goodwin as Horace
Fred Griffiths as Serpentine Boatman
May Hallatt as Hysterical Woman at Bumbles Hotel
Joan Hickson as Maggie
Hugh Latimer as Bumbles Hotel Receptionist
Eliot Makeham as Consulate Official
Percy Marmont as Lord Hurlingham
Gibb McLaughlin as Sir William Collinge
Jack McNaughton as Williams
Laurence Naismith as Walter Craddock
Hal Osmond as Arthur
Totti Truman Taylor as Singer
Mona Washbourne as Mum with Pram
Ian Wilson as Photographer
Lesley Scoble as uncredited