Genevieve (film)

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Genevieve
Genevieve original 1953 film poster.jpg
Directed by Henry Cornelius
Produced by Henry Cornelius
Written by William Rose
Starring Dinah Sheridan
John Gregson
Kay Kendall
Kenneth More
Music by Larry Adler
Cinematography Christopher Challis
Edited by Clive Donner
Production
company
Distributed by GDF (UK)
Universal-International (US)
Release dates
  • July 1953 (1953-07) (UK)
  • 16 February 1954 (1954-02-16) (US)
Running time
86 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Genevieve is a 1953 British comedy film produced and directed by Henry Cornelius and written by William Rose. It stars John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More and Kay Kendall as two couples comedically involved in a veteran automobile rally. The main theme of the musical score was composed and performed by Larry Adler. Composer Graham Whettam was commissioned to write the orchestral score incorporating Larry Adler's tune. Dance numbers were added by Eric Rogers.

The comedic tone of Genevieve was established by the following disclaimer at the end of the opening credits:

For their patient co-operation the makers of this film express their thanks to the officers and members of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Any resemblance between the deportment of our characters and any club members is emphatically denied—by the Club.[1]

This was meant to underscore the fact that the actual event portrayed in the film was, as stated in its Official Entry Regulations, "NOT A RACE."[2]

Plot[edit]

Two veteran cars and their crews participating in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Alan McKim (John Gregson), a young barrister, and his wife, Wendy (Dinah Sheridan), drive Genevieve, a 1904 Darracq. Their friend Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More), a brash advertising salesman, his latest girlfriend, fashion model Rosalind Peters (Kay Kendall) and her pet St. Bernard ride in a 1905 Spyker.

The journey to Brighton goes well for Claverhouse, but the McKims' trip is complicated by several breakdowns, and they arrive very late. As Alan cancelled their accommodation in their usual plush hotel during a fit of pique, they are forced to spend the night in a dingy run-down hotel (with a noteworthy cameo performance by Joyce Grenfell as the proprietress) leaving Wendy feeling less than pleased.

They finally join Ambrose and Rosalind for after-dinner drinks, but Rosalind gets very drunk, and insists on playing the trumpet with the house band. To the surprise of all, she performs a hot jazz solo before falling fast asleep moments later, to Wendy's great amusement. (Kendall mimes the performance of "Genevieve" to a rendition by jazz trumpeter Kenny Baker.)

Alan and Wendy have an argument over Ambrose's supposed romantic attentions to her, and Alan goes off to the garage to sulk. Whilst working on his car in the middle of the night, Ambrose turns up. Angry words are exchanged and Alan impulsively bets Ambrose one hundred pounds that he can beat Ambrose back to London, despite racing not being allowed by the club. Ambrose accepts the bet—"First over Westminster Bridge."

The following morning, despite Rosalind's massive hangover and Wendy's determined disapproval of the whole business, the two crews race back to London. Each driver is determined that his car is the better, come what may, and they both resort to various forms of cheating. Ambrose sabotages Alan's engine, and Alan causes Ambrose to be stopped by the police.

Finally, on the outskirts of London (West Drayton), both cars are stopped by traffic police and the four contestants are publicly warned after Alan and Ambrose come to blows. At Wendy's insistence, they decide to call off the bet and have a party instead. But whilst waiting for the public house to open, words are exchanged and the bet is on again.

The two cars race neck-and-neck through the southern suburbs of London. But with only a few yards to go, Genevieve breaks down. As Ambrose's car is about to overtake it, its tyres become stuck in tramlines (London's tram network had closed in 1952 but many of the tracks were still in evidence when the film was made the following year) and it drives off in another direction. The brakes on Genevieve fail and the car rolls a few yards onto Westminster Bridge, thus winning the bet.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Henry Cornelius had made the classic Passport to Pimlico for Ealing Studios but left the studio to go independent. He approached Michael Balcon to made Genevieve for Ealing but as his returning would displace the studio's production schedule and he had not won any friends at Ealing for leaving, Balcon turned the film down leaving Cornelius to have his film made for Rank Studios.[3]

The original choices for the male leads were Guy Middleton and Dirk Bogarde who turned the film down, with their roles given to Kenneth More and John Gregson respectively.[4] Dinah Sheridan says that the studio wanted Claire Bloom to play her part.[5]

Kenneth More was approached by Henry Cornelius to play his role while appearing in the enormously successful production of The Deep Blue Sea. More says Cornelius never saw him in the play but cast him on the basis of his work in an earlier movie, The Galloping Major. More's fee was £3,500.[6]

Rutland Mews South, SW7, was used as the location for the home of Alan and Wendy McKim during the filming of Genevieve.[7]

Cars[edit]

The 1905 Spyker 12/16-HP Double Phæton that was used as Ambrose Claverhouse's car in the film. As of 2012 this car is held in the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands, along with Genevieve. A still from the film can be seen in the background

The script originally called for the rivals to be driving British cars, Alan McKim a Wolseley or Humber and Ambrose Claverhouse a Lanchester. No owners of such cars were willing to lend them for filming, and eventually Norman Reeves loaned his Darracq and Frank Reese his Spyker.[8][9] The Darracq was originally named "Annie", but was permanently renamed "Genevieve" after the film's success. Genevieve returned from a 34-year visit to Australia in 1992, and takes part in the London-Brighton Run every year. In July 2002, Genevieve and another Spyker participated in a 50th anniversary rally touring the filming locations.[10] Both Genevieve and Ambrose Claverhouse's Spyker are, as of 2012, on display at the Louwman Museum in The Hague.

Reception[edit]

Genevieve was critically reviewed by Bosley Crowther for The New York Times, giving the film a very positive appraisal. "On the strength of the current mania that some restless people have for automobiles of ancient vintage—what are fondly called "veteran cars"—a British producer-director, Henry Cornelius, has made a film that may cautiously be recommended as one of the funniest farce comedies in years." [11]

Genevieve was the second-most-popular at the British box office in 1953.[12]

Awards[edit]

Genevieve was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay (William Rose) and Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Genevieve won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film and was nominated for Best British Actor (Kenneth More) and Best Film from any Source. It won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and National Board of Review award for Top Foreign Film.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Movie review: 'Genevieve'," Buick Club of America (BCA), Yankee Chapter Newsletter, April 2011.
  2. ^ "2012 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (VCR) Official Entry Regulations." Regulation 4.3.4.
  3. ^ Barr 1998, p. 46.
  4. ^ Golden 2002, p. 59.
  5. ^ MacFarlane 1997, p. 538.
  6. ^ More 1978, p. 157.
  7. ^ "Mews News." Lurot Brand, Spring 2010. Retrieved: 19 September 2013.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Louwman Museum." Louwmanmuseum.nl. Retrieved: 4 November 2013.
  9. ^ Burgess-Wise, David. "Genevieve's History." donbrockway.com. Retrieved: 13 February 2007.
  10. ^ Burgess-Wise, David. "Genevieve Rally July 2002." donbrockway.com. Retrieved: 13 February 2007.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "The Screen in review: 'Genevieve' (1953).", The New York Times, February 16, 1954.
  12. ^ "From London." The Mail, (via National Library of Australia), 9 January 1954, p. 50. Retrieved: 10 July 2012.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Barr, Charles. Ealing Studios: A Movie Book. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-5202-1554-2.
  • Golden, Eve. The Brief, Madcap Life of Kay Kendall. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8131-2251-9.
  • McFarlane, Brian. An Autobiography of British Cinema. London: Methuen, 1997. ISBN 978-0-4137-0520-4.
  • More, Kenneth. More or Less. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978. ISBN 0-340-22603-X.

External links[edit]