Chance of a Lifetime (1950 film)

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Chance of a Lifetime
Directed byBernard Miles
Produced byBernard Miles
Written byWalter Greenwood
Bernard Miles
StarringBasil Radford
Niall MacGinnis
Bernard Miles
Music byNoel Mewton-Wood
CinematographyEric Cross
Edited byPeter Price
Distributed byBritish Lion
Pilgrim Pictures
Release date
  • 1950 (1950) (UK)
  • 14 March 1951 (1951-03-14) (U.S.)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Chance of a Lifetime is a 1950 British film starring, produced, co-written and directed by Bernard Miles. The Rank and Associated British cinemas refused to show the film, claiming it was too political and “would annoy employers”. The Ministry of Labour and the British Employers Confederation argued that the film would damage management-employee relations, particularly in the light of renewed industrial unrest in early 1950. The chairman of the Board of Trade, Harold Wilson, argued in cabinet that this was overreaction and the cabinet approved the film’s release, using the 1948 Film Act to ensure the film was shown on the major cinema circuit.[1] It was nominated for the 1951 BAFTA for Best British Film, which was awarded to The Blue Lamp.


In the times of austerity after the Second World War, Dickinson works hard to try to keep his failing agricultural implements factory going. His disgruntled workers do not appreciate his efforts, however. He has a suggestion box installed as a safety valve, but the only response is an insult directed at him. When Bland, Dickinson's manager, sacks Bolger, the author of the suggestion, the rest of the workers go out on strike. Dickinson confronts them and, in the heat of the moment, tells them he works much harder than they think and dares them to run the business themselves. Baxter gets the others to take him up on his suggestion, and they elect Stevens and Morris to do just that. Dickinson is taken aback, but reluctantly agrees to let the factory on condition that they pay him annually 5% of the capital value of the business, £120 a week.

Bland, the despised works manager, Miss Cooper, Dickinson's secretary and a few others quit as well. That night, Dickinson's solicitor and doctor advise him to take a holiday and recommend Miss Cooper return to work.

A supplier changes its credit terms, causing a financial crisis. The local bank manager is unwilling to extend a temporary loan, so Baxter goes to the bank's head office in the City of London and speaks to the bank's managing director, Sir Robert Dysart, but has no luck. Finally, Stevens and Morris put up the deeds to their own homes, Palmer raises money on his insurance policy, and, after some grumbling, some of the workers make up the required sum.

Meanwhile, a trade delegation from the (fictitious) country of Xenobia contact the factory to arrange a demonstration of the "one-way plough" that Dickinson had been working on. Miss Cooper invites Dickinson to attend, but he merely watches from a distance through binoculars. The Xenobians are impressed and order 800 ploughs for £50,000. After the contract is signed, Adam insists the only way to fulfil such a large order is to focus their efforts solely on the plough, to the exclusion of other work they have already contracted for from longtime customers. Morris returns to the factory floor rather than be a party to abandoning their other customers, and Adam takes his place.

Meanwhile, a few of the workers, led by Baxter, are unhappy with the new, lower pay rate. Two trades union men are called in to try to sort things out, and Baxter eventually drops his objections.

Dickinson shows up at the factory late at night and is invited in for a cup of cocoa by the watchman. He meets Miss Cooper and has a chat with her about how things are going. He learns that Stevens may have trouble with a steel supplier, so the next day he goes to see Garrett, its managing director. Garrett strongly disapproves of the experiment and refuses to help it along, but Dickinson suggests that a newspaper article about its sabotaging, with a photograph of Garrett, would not be in his best interests. The steel is delivered.

Then the Xenobian government announces that "in view of their foreign currency position, all outstanding import licences are suspended". Dickinson returns and is able to find other foreign customers for the ploughs. Disaster averted, he goes to leave, only for Stevens to offer him his old position back. Dickinson accepts a lesser position, and indicates that Adam should be the managing director. Stevens walks out, saying he prefers to do real work.



  1. ^ Tony Shaw, British Cinema and the Cold War: The State, Propaganda and Consensus (I.B. Tauris, 2006) pp148-151

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