The Rake's Progress (film)

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The Rake's Progress
"The Rake's Progress" (1945).jpg
British trade ad
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Produced by Frank Launder
Sidney Gilliat
Written by Frank Launder
Sidney Gilliat
Val Valentine (story)
Starring Rex Harrison
Lilli Palmer
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Edited by Thelma Connell
Distributed by Eagle-Lion Distributors
Release date
6 December 1945 (London premiere)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office over $1 million (US rentals)[1]

The Rake's Progress is a 1945 British comedy-drama film.[2] In the United States, the title was changed to Notorious Gentleman.[3] The film caused controversy with U.S. censors of the time, who trimmed scenes for what was considered graphic amoral and sexual content.[3]


The plot follows the career of upper-class cad Vivian Kenway (Rex Harrison). He is sent down from Oxford University for placing a chamber pot on the Martyrs' Memorial. Sent to South America, he rebels against plantation life, eventually becoming a car racing driver. He descends to a life of woman-chasing and drunkenness, which causes the death of his father, Colonel Kenway (Godfrey Tearle). The plot diverges from the theme of the Rake's Progress paintings by having him redeem himself by a hero's death in World War II.


Critical reception[edit]

The New York Times described the film as "an oddly deceptive affair which taxes precise classification. It plays like a comedy-romance, but all the way through it keeps switching with brutal abruptness to the sharpest irony...As a consequence, a curious unevenness of emphasis and mood prevails, and initial sympathy with the hero is frequently and painfully upset";[4] while more recently, TV Guide wrote, "the film is filled with wit and style. It does not treat its unattractive subject with sympathy, yet remains sensitive and touching."[5]


  • Pym, John (2002). Time Out film guide. Harmondsworth [Eng.]: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-029395-7. 

External links[edit]