The Admirable Crichton (1957 film)

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The Admirable Crichton
The Admirable Crichton 1957 poster.jpg
Original British cinema poster
Directed byLewis Gilbert
Produced byIan Dalrymple
Screenplay byVernon Harris
Lewis Gilbert (adaptation)
Based onThe Admirable Crichton
by J. M. Barrie
StarringKenneth More
Diane Cilento
Cecil Parker
Sally Ann Howes
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyWilkie Cooper
Edited byPeter R. Hunt
Modern Screenplay Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 11 June 1957 (1957-06-11)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Admirable Crichton is a 1957 British comedy film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Kenneth More, Diane Cilento, Cecil Parker and Sally Ann Howes. The film was based on J. M. Barrie's 1902 stage comedy of the same name. It was released in the United States as Paradise Lagoon.


In 1905 William Crichton is the efficient butler in the London household of the Earl of Loam and his family. Crichton knows his place in the highly class-conscious English society. The Earl insists that all men are equal, and to prove it, he orders his daughters to treat the staff as guests during an uncomfortable afternoon tea. Lady Brocklehurst arrives and strongly disapproves of the arrangement, as does Crichton.

When Lady Catherine (Mercy Haystead), one of the Earl's daughters, is arrested at a suffragette protest, Crichton recommends the family take a trip on the Earl's steam yacht to the South Seas until the scandal dies down. When the yacht's motors explode during a storm, all are forced to abandon ship. By the time Crichton rescues the still sleeping "tweeny" maid Eliza, the lifeboats have already departed. They jump into the water and are picked up by the wrong boat, the one reserved for the upper class.

Crichton, Eliza, the Earl, his daughters Mary, Catherine and Agatha (Miranda Connell), the clergyman John Treherne and Lord Ernest Woolley land on a deserted island. The aristocrats prove to be helpless in their strange new surroundings. It is up to Crichton to start a fire, provide shelter and find food.

When the abandoned yacht appears and drifts into an offshore rock formation, Crichton swims out to salvage what he can. Upon his return, however, the others order him to pick up unnecessary luxuries rather than vital supplies on his next trip. He reluctantly complies, but at dinner, he insists he must take charge. The Earl instead discharges him. Eliza throws in her lot with Crichton, and the two depart. The Earl and his party soon realise that they cannot do without Crichton and capitulate, Mary being the sole exception. She is eventually forced to give in as well.

After two years, the social order has been completely upended: Crichton, now affectionately known as "the Guv", is in charge, while his former betters are his servants. In fact, the aristocrats have toughened up admirably and are quite content with their lot. Romantically, however, the situation is in disarray, as everyone waits to see whether Crichton will choose Mary or "Tweeny" (as Eliza is now called), both of whom are deeply in love with him. All three of the other men are smitten with Tweeny.

Finally, Crichton chooses Mary. However, just as they are exchanging wedding vows, a ship is sighted. Mary begs the others not to light a signal fire, reminding them how happy they have been on the island, but in the end, Crichton does so. When a rescue party lands, he has put on his butler's uniform and resumed his servile duties, much to the discomfort of the others.

The castaways return to London. Woolley writes a book of their experiences, one that portrays him as the saviour of the group. Lady Brocklehurst, suspecting that the work is full of lies, insists on questioning all of the party privately. Crichton tells the truth, but in such a way as to conceal everything. After the Duchess leaves, he tenders his resignation. When the Earl offers financial assistance for his plan to start a business, Crichton shows him a bag of valuable pearls acquired while on the island. Mary begs him to return there with her, but Crichton tells her they cannot fight civilisation. In the end, Tweeny is ecstatic when he accepts her offer to go with him.



The movie was a co production between Alexander Korda's old company and Columbia.[1]

Lewis Gilbert said the film:

Was freely adapted from the Barrie play to suit Kenny, and it was a very successful film. I don't think you owe total allegiance to the original text because you are, in a sense, making something that is very different. I was very fond of Kenny as an actor, although he wasn't particularly versatile. What he could do, he did very well. His strengths were his ability to portray charm; basically he was the officer returning from the war and he was superb in that kind of role. The minute that kind of role went out of existence, he began to go down as a box office star.[2]

The film was shot from September to December 1956 in Bermuda and at London Film Studios in Shepperton, England.[3]


The Admirable Crichton was the third most popular film at the British box office in 1957, after High Society and Doctor at Large.[4]

Other film adaptations[edit]

Other film versions of Barrie's play include a 1918 film adaptation directed by G. B. Samuelson, Cecil B. DeMille's Male and Female (1919), and We're Not Dressing (1934) with Bing Crosby. The play was also filmed twice for television, in 1950 and 1968.


  1. ^ Drama: Kenneth More to Star in 'Crichton;' Indonesia Novel Dozier Purchase Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 Mar 1956: A9.
  2. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 222
  3. ^ Paradise Lagoon at the TCM Movie Database
  4. ^ 'BRITISH ACTORS HEAD FILM POLL: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY', The Manchester Guardian (1901–1959) [Manchester (UK)] 27 December 1957: 3.

External links[edit]