The Ladykillers (1955)

The LadykillersThe Ladykillers (1955)
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Written by William Rose
The Rank Organization/Ealing Studios
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#290 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen.

One of Ealing Studio’s last comedies is among its very best.

Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) has an intricate and  fool-proof plan for an an armored car robbery.  He gathers together a gang to accomplish this.  Part of his plan is to use an unsuspecting little old lady to carry the loot away.  He thinks he has found one in Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson).  He takes a room for rent in her house and meets with the gang in the guise of a chamber quintet.  These people are some of the most unlikely looking musicians ever, but Mrs. Wilberforce grows to like them and to love the music coming out of the room (via a gramaphone).


The robbery itself goes brilliantly but runs into some glitches when Mrs. Wilberforce is on her way back to the house.  There are many more mishaps to come.  With Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers as gang members.


This is a hilarious twist on the classic heist plot that builds to a crescendo of pitch-black comedy.  I love the way that the robbers are reduced to acting like little boys by the end.  It has seemed fresh every time I have seen it.  In some ways, it even gets funnier when you know what is about to happen.  Guinness is really great as is everyone else.  Highly recommended.

This was remade under the same title by the Coen Brothers in 2004.  I can’t imagine that it came close to topping this.

The Ladykillers was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Original.


8 thoughts on “The Ladykillers (1955)

  1. I love, love, love this one. It is so funny through and through and pitch black. It is difficult to pick a favorite scene but the tea party is such a riot. Katie Johnson is the real star here even is Alec Guinness is the most spectacular.

    • Have you seen the remake? From the commentary on the DVD, I gather that they made the old lady smart and sassy. That would kind of wreck the punch line!

    • I think the story would be very fun on stage. I see you are near Gothenburg? I have visited there several times. My husband has nieces in Gothenburg and Warburg.

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