A Touch of Larceny

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A Touch of Larceny
A Touch of Larceny FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Ivan Foxwell
Written by Paul Winterton (novel)
Ivan Foxwell (screenplay)
Starring James Mason
George Sanders
Vera Miles
Music by Philip Green
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • December 1959 (1959-12) (UK)
  • 16 March 1960 (1960-03-16) (U.S.)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English, Russian

A Touch of Larceny is a 1959 British black-and-white comedy film, produced by Ivan Foxwell, directed by Guy Hamilton, that stars James Mason, George Sanders, and Vera Miles, and co-stars Harry Andrews, Rachel Gurney, and John Le Mesurier. It is based on the 1956 novel The Megstone Plot by Paul Winterton, written under the pseudonym Andrew Garve.

The film was nominated for the BAFTA award for Best British Screenplay but it lost out to The Angry Silence.


A British World War II naval war hero, Commander Max "Rammer" Easton (James Mason), is charming and a bit of rake. He holds a mid-level staff position at the British Admiralty, but spends most of his free time playing squash and pursuing women.

While at his private club, he meets Sir Charles Holland (George Sanders) and later Holland's American companion, Virginia Killain (Vera Miles). As soon as Holland goes away for a few days, Max makes a play for Virginia, but she is engaged to be married to Holland and is offended by Max describing him as "dull". Undaunted, he continues to slowly charm her until she agrees to have lunch with him.

They later go sailing on Easton's sailboat, and he continues to put his charm on display. Max can tell that Virginia is impressed by Holland's old school wealth. He claims that it is easy to acquire money, which she challenges, so on the spot he comes up with an unscrupulous scheme to demonstrate to her just how easy it is: After suddenly disappearing under suspicious circumstances, he would leave behind clues and red herrings leading others to jump to the conclusion that he is a traitor, having stolen top secret naval documents from his division, then defected to the Soviet Union. The scandal would leak and spread though the British press like wildfire. Upon his sudden and surprising return, he would sue the press for libel, raking in thousands of pounds in out-of-court settlements.

To prove that he is quite serious about her, he implements his complex scheme. Max is later publicly branded a traitor by the press, all according to plan. Virginia is at first amused by this, then annoyed when she realizes he has actually gone through with it. When she tells Sir Charles, he is outraged and says something must be done. Max's elaborate plan backfires, however, when just as he is about to return, he becomes marooned for real on an out-of-the-way rocky island off the Scottish coast and cannot get home.

After eventually being rescued, Max learns that Sir Charles has revealed to authorities everything that Virginia told him about Max's hoax. When confronted by authorities about his deception, Max cleverly frees himself from suspicion of any wrong-doing. He then continues to charm Virginia by saying he now plans on selling his story of survival and rescue to the very same press he originally intended to defraud. Against her better judgment, having now split from Sir Charles over the incident, she agrees to marry him, finding him irresistible.


See also[edit]

1959 in film

External links[edit]