The Man In The White Suit (1951)

Alec Guinness always said that this inspired manufacturing industry satire from director Alexander Mackendrick was his personal favourite among the Ealing pictures in which he appeared. Reunited with Joan Greenwood (and, briefly, Miles Malleson) from their triumph in Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts & Coronets (1949), Guinness is endearingly childlike here as mad scientist Sidney Stratton, a niave but brilliant chemist who secretly develops a luminous, indestructible fabric while working as a lab technician at a Lancashire textile mill. When the factory's boss Mr Birnley (Cecil Parker) learns of Stratton's combustible but potentially lucrative invention, he is keen to press on with its mass production, only for his rivals to round on him and point out that such a move would destroy their entire business as consumers would never require more than one suit of clothes in a lifetime. When the plant's trade union members learn of Stratton's miracle material, they too rise up and the poor fellow is unceremoniously imprisoned and then chased through the streets as both capital and labour unite to try and suppress his creation.

Perhaps not the funniest of Ealing's capers but arguably the studio's weightiest and most thought-provoking script (from an unproduced play by Mackendrick's cousin, Roger MacDougall), The Man In The White Suit serves as an allegory for the restriction of scientific progress under a conservative capitalist hierarchy. However, Stratton's resilient and dirt-resistant cloth (barring instabilities in its structure) would certainly have put millions out of work had it been embraced - a detail that makes it as destructive a prospect as the A-bomb and which makes the film more relevant today than ever as we find ourselves shufflingly unthinkingly into a digital economy founded on self-service supermarket checkouts, eReaders and mass unemployment. "Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What about my bit of washing, when there's no washing to do?" What indeed.

Greenwood is as sexy as ever as the plucky daughter of Parker's compromised local industrialist, Vida Hope is utterly authentic as a strident socialist, Ernest Thesiger is hilarious as a sickly, ghoulish tycoon (very much a proto-Mr Burns) and there's an early part for Michael Gough (best known to modern audiences for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in the pre-Christopher Nolan Batman films, 1989-1997). Guinness and Parker, meanwhile, would team up with Mackendrick one final time for The Ladykillers (1955) before the Scot packed his bags for America and the mighty Sweet Smell Of Success (1957). Critic Charles Barr divided Michael Balcon's directors into the categories "mainstream" and "maverick" in his 1977 study Ealing Studios, singling out Mackendrick and Robert Hamer for the latter label. Its an apt description of two men whose work was more cynical, irreverent and morally complex than the liberal but safe output of Charles Crichton, Charles Frend and Basil Dearden. The Man In The White Suit is as fine an example of a "maverick" Ealing production as you could wish for.


Passport To Pimlico (1949)

"We always were English and we always will be English and it's just because we are English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundian!"

I just received a nice new Ealing box set for Christmas courtesy of my dear old Dad and the first one we plumped for was this smart satire from prolific studio writer T.E.B. Clarke and first time director Henry Cornelius about the discovery of a treasure trove of jewels and gold coins belonging to the last Duke of Burgundy near the site of an unexploded bomb in darkest Pimlico, London. Amongst this stash is a royal charter from Edward IV of England bequeathing the area to the fleeing ruler after he was presumed dead following the Battle of Nancy in 1477. The authentication of this parchment by Margaret Rutherford’s dotty academic Professor Hatton-Jones leads the locals to declare the Miramont Place estate a free territory independent of the United Kingdom, whereupon the locals run riot with glee (“Blimey! I’m a foreigner!”) and the moustaches of Whitehall begin to twitch and bristle with vexation.

A fine example of producer Michael Balcon’s “mild revolution”, Passport To Pimlico stands as a comic fantasy of liberation from the necessary restrictions imposed on Brits living in tenement rubble and brick dust by the post-war austerity Labour government of the day. There’s a palpable sense of fear detectable here about a return to the horrors of evacuations, conflict and the siege mentality of the war years, still so fresh in the memory, but also a nostalgic yearning for a revival of the famous “Dunkirk spirit” the British people pulled together to demonstrate under those same dark skies. In 1949 the ration book was still king and many were beginning to feel exasperated by the ongoing scarcity and want and dreamed of deliverance from the deprivation they encountered every day, a mood Passport To Pimlico captures perfectly and is typified by the scene in which Stanley Holloway’s Arthur Pemberton proposes a new children’s playground be built nearby and is met with a frosty response from the chair of the local council: “This borough is in no position to finance daydreams”. Clarke’s script is always quick to set idealism crashing against the rocks of practical reality and the story actually unfolds as a logical examination of the likely problems a new microstate such as Burgundy might encounter – the immediate appearance of black marketeers (the rogue fishmonger purporting to be selling “Danish” eels at extortionate rates), the festivals of bureaucracy taking place at its borders and diplomatic wrangling in its corridors of power, a dependence on its neighbours for water and food supplies and the potential collapse of law and order (British manners and respect for rank are abruptly cast aside in the pub in favour of drinking and dancing). The result is an extremely satisfying enterainment and no doubt provided a welcome escape for contemporary audiences.

Balcon insisted his studio's films should tell stories "ripped from the headlines" and Clarke’s tale of the South London Burgundians was duly inspired by a news story he encountered during wartime concerning the pregnant Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, who went into labour with the country’s heir while living in exile in Canada, a turn of events that would have rendered the boy ineligible for the throne because he wasn't born on home soil. To remedy the situation, the maternity wing of the Canadian hospital in question was temporarily handed over to the Netherlands and Dutch law was appeased. Ingenious! Of the many highlights among a cast including Raymond Huntely, Hermione Baddeley, Sydney Tafler, Michael Horndern and a young Charles Hawtrey, it's great to see the return of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, Charters and Caldicott themselves, as representatives of the British government. The film also includes arguably the best pathetic fallacy joke of all time – the whole picture takes place during an unseasonal heat wave, which only ends when Burgundy is welcomed back into the UK, whereupon it immediately begins to rain.


Scrooge (1951)

A very merry Christmas to all my readers - both of you - and here's an early gift, my favourite of the seemingly infinite number of screen adaptations of Charles Dickens' most beloved tale.

Composer Bernard Herrmann once observed, "Audiences are like children; they don't mind hearing the same story over and over again. It's how you tell it." The endless reworkings of A Christmas Carol (1843) appear to bear out this notion perfectly. Brian Desmond Hurst's spin on the old yarn really is a gem though - authentically spooky thanks to C.M. Pennington's Richard's gloomy cinematography and extremely faithful in tone to its source ("There's more of gravy than of grave about you"), filled with the sad experience of its author but tempered with a sympathetic pro-welfare state message. As much as I like the Muppets, this is most certainly the version for me. Alastair Sim makes for a marvellous Ebeneezer Scrooge - fearsome early on and exuberantly joyful at the close - and there's fine support from Mervyn Johns as a charming Bob Cratchit, Michael Hordern as the ghostly Jacob Marley, Kathleen Harrison as Scrooge's Cockney charwoman and Jack Warner as roguish embezzler Mr Jorkin. Look out too for George Cole as young Ebeneezer, Ernest Thesiger as an undertaker, Miles Malleson as the wry pedlar Old Joe, Hattie Jacques as Mrs Fezziwig and Patrick Macnee as young Marley.

As essential a Yuletide movie as It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle On 34th Street (1947), A Christmas Story (1983) or Bad Santa (2003), go for this baby every time (though perhaps not the sickly colourised print from 1989) and, whatever else you do, remember to steer well clear of the Patrick Stewart and Kelsey Grammer TV movie travesties. Those really are frightening.


Christmas In July (1940)

A little more Dick Powell for you in Preston Sturges' underrated follow-up to the same year's The Great McGinty, based on a never-produced play the writer-director had drafted in 1931, A Cup Of Coffee. It may not actually have anything to do with Christmas but, hey, so sue me.

A real product of the Great Depression - think My Man Godfrey (1936) - Sturges' satire on consumer-capitalism concerns Jimmy MacDonald (Powell), a poor but earnest young clerk at New York's Baxter Coffee Company who enters a contest to compose the new slogan for rival firm Maxford House Coffee ("If you can't sleep, it isn't the coffee. It's the bunk"). Taking advantage of a delay in the announcement of the winner (William Demarest's Mr Bildocker causes it by anticipating 12 Angry Men (1957) and refusing to side with the majority vote, driving his fellow executives, including Robert Warwick and Jimmy Conlin, to distraction with his stubbornness), three of Jimmy's colleagues decide to play a prank on him by writing a phoney telegram in which he is declared the lucky recipient of the $25,000 first prize. When Jimmy's boss (Ernest Truex) gets wind of this triumph, he decides to hand the lad a promotion to the advertising department, where Jimmy immediately impresses. Having picked up his cheque from an unquestioning Dr Maxford (Raymond Walburn), Jimmy and his loving girlfriend (Ellen Drew) proceed to hit the stores to buy a wedding ring, a high-tech davenport for his mother and gifts for everyone on the block. However, when the truth is discovered, all hell breaks loose and a fish fight erupts between Jimmy's neighbours and the department store creditors trying to retrieve their goods, leaving the naive victim disillusioned and debt-ridden. Until...

There's some real pathos on show here in the desperate dreams of Sturges' protagonist of hitting the jackpot and selflessly delivering those around him from the poverty and desperation that has blighted their lives. Powell and Drew make for an adorable couple and her impassioned speech to save his job is a truly touching moment, as is the scene in which the trio of contrite jokers bring the MacDonalds a replacement couch for their pains. This is a fable as timeless as they come and as relevant now as when it was penned but, as a spoof of modern business culture, the hollow pursuit of material wealth and the illusory nature of success, Christmas In July is perhaps not as biting as it might have been. Still, Mr Baxter's rationale for thinking less of Jimmy when he learns he hasn't really won the competition has an enjoyably crooked logic - without the quantifiable endorsement of others, his ideas have no capital and are thus to all intents and purposes worthless, no matter how fine they may have seemed at first ("I didn't hang on to my father's money by backing my own judgement, you know"). There are also some splendid character turns to enjoy here, from the likes of Truex, an animated Walburn, Franklin Pangborn as a frazzled radio personality and Alan Bridge as an eccentric jewelry salesman. Not Strurges' finest but rather lovely all the same.


Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935)

Kathleen Howard struggles to conceal her disgust at husband Ambrose Wolfinger (W.C. Fields) talking with his mouth full in this inspired Paramount comedy from dear old "Charles Bogle's" best period. Like Harold Bissonette in the previous year's It's A Gift (who was also married to a Howard moaner), Wolfinger is another of Fields' stoical family men, a breadwinner who has been forced to survive on cold toast for eight years because of the greed and selfishness of the ungrateful in-laws he's been doing his best to support. The last laugh is most assuredly his, of course.

I've written fairly extensively about The Great Man before so there's no need to dwell on his back story too much here. Instead, let's just stand back and admire the brilliance of one of his very finest films. Man On The Flying Trapeze, essentially a remake of his 1927 silent feature Running Wild, benefits from the simplicity of its premise, that Fields' unassuming office file clerk and "memory expert" wants to take his first afternoon off work in 25 years to see a wrestling match, a championship bout between Tosoff, the Russian Behemoth (played by Swedish beast Tor Johnson, later a star of Ed Wood's infamous Z-movies) and Hookallockah Meshobbab, the Persian Giant. Ambrose's boss Mr Malloy (Oscar Apfel, returning from 1934's The Old Fashioned Way) isn't too keen on the idea so Wolfinger is forced to volunteer the lie that his hated, shrewish mother-in-law Cordelia (Vera Lewis) has recently passed away from alcohol poisoning. However, with his ticket for the match swiped by work shy brother-in-law Claude Neselrode (Grady Sutton, Ogg Oggilby from The Bank Dick, 1940) and the premature memorial wreaths stacking up at home, the poor devil's going to have to come up with something pretty special to win the day and appease his bossy wife Leona (Howard), the sort of woman who delights in reading aloud "Gertrude Smodden" editorials from the newspaper.

The highlights here are many. Arguably the stand-out is the opening sally in which Fields takes a nip in the bathroom while he's supposed to be brushing his teeth, performs a laborious blowing-and-rolling ritual with his socks (twice) before taking up arms and venturing down to the basement to apprehend two burglars supping on his homebrewed applejack and instead joining them in a sentimental croon, along with the equally sozzled cop they are handcuffed to. Fields caterwauling along with these two hoodlums (played by future cowboy character actor Walter Brennan and Fields regular Tammany Young) to 'On The Banks Of The Wabash' is a real moment of brotherly fellowship and just too funny for words. His manic chase downhill and onto the railroad tracks in pursuit of an escaped spare tire is also splendid as is Wolfinger's surprisingly violent final confrontation with Claude and Cordelia - knocking the former out cold and chasing the latter away with a wild swing that only narrowly misses. However, as always, our man has plenty to say about the human condition as well, depicting a cruel world populated by ghastly relatives, sycophantic superiors (Lucien Littlefield's fastidious Mr Peabody is especially memorable) and patronising traffic cops. It's genuinely affecting to see Ambrose cross the threshold to his own home sporting a black eye and a nosegay of wilting flowers ("Things happened...") and the only source of solace and relief in this man's dreary and unhappy existence is a quiet drink and the love of his doughty daughter (Mary Brian) from an earlier marriage - tellingly christened Hope. It is she who clears his name and wins him back his job with a stellar raise and she who most deserves her place in the front of his new car as the credits role while Claude and Cordelia cower in the rumble seat, drenched by a sudden rain storm to the driver's beaming satisfaction.

Aspects of Man On The Flying Trapeze are thought to be autobiographical - Fields' own estranged son was named Claude, he himself really did have a photographic memory (he read precociously and was able to recall lengthy passages from hefty tomes in detail) while his on-screen secretary is played by Carlotta Monti, the comedian's long-term mistress. These are mere details and dalliances, however. Our man deals in universal truths. "It's hard to lose your mother-in-law. Almost impossible..."


Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Dick Powell as Raymond Chandler's celebrated private eye Philip Marlowe, temporarily blinded by gun smoke and under suspicion from the cops, in Edward Dmytryk's excellent adaptation of the author's 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely. The former Warner Brothers musical star tends to divide opinion in the role but, personally, I love his light comic touch and whimsical, perpetually amused take, perfect for smirking through Chandler's witty dialogue. A scene in which Marlowe strikes a match off the cold marble buttocks of a statue of Cupid to light his cigarette before grinning wryly up into its eyes in anticipation of annoyance sums the character up beautifully. Powell may handle Marlowe pretty differently to Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946) - he's no hard man but then Marlowe's no Mike Hammer - though he did get there first and there's surely plenty of room for both interpretations. Some of Powell's lines are unbeatable, however: "'OK Marlowe,' I said to myself. 'You're a tough guy. You've been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you're crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let's see you do something really tough - like putting your pants on.'"

Powell would be rewarded for his brilliance in 1949 when he was granted his own radio series on NBC, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. The show enabled Powell to combine his talents, delivering snappy dialogue between mysteries and crooning a song to his devoted secretary at the end of each episode , making Diamond the original singing detective.

But back to Murder My Sweet. Dmytryk's leading man is by no means let down by his supporting players in this superlative tale of missing dames, extortion, phoney stick-ups, trophy wives and jade MacGuffins. Mike Mazurki (above) is unforgettable as hulking simpleton Moose Malloy in his best known role, a character described by Chandler as, "a big man not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck.. He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough grey sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated grey flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes... Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula in a slice of angel food."

Brilliant stuff and Mazurki gives life to this creature so magnificently that his Malloy ends up as immortal a screen monster as King Kong or Boris Karloff's in Frankenstein (1931), two more big brutes in search of love. Anne Shirley is also sweet as the distrustful Ann Grayle while Claire Trevor makes for a fine femme fatale, seductive, street smart and entirely believable with a pistol in her hands during the climactic beach house scene. It's easy to imagine her clipped delivery and sharp manner providing the inspiration for Julianne Moore's avant-garde artist Maude in The Big Lebowski (1998), just as Ben Gazzara's Jackie Treehorn in the same film seems to echo Otto Kruger's turn as quack blackmailer Jules Amthor here. The surreal dream sequence Marlowe endures after being knocked out and doped seems to have provided a further cue for the Coen Brothers. Another postmodern spin on Chandler's mystery came in 2009 with the launch of HBO's inspired comedy series Bored To Death, in which Jason Schwartzman's depressed writer Jonathan Ames rediscovers the novel and sets out to become a detective himself (unlicensed) like a latter day Don Quixote, with similarly disastrous results.


The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The magnificence of the Ambersons may have begun in 1873 but it looks like we may never get to see it in all its glory. Orson Welles's follow-up to Citizen Kane (1941), an opulent adaptation of Booth Tarkington's Nobel Prize-winning novel of 1918, was famously butchered by nervous executives at RKO when the director's back was turned - its editor Robert Wise instructed to shave over an hour of footage from Welles's final cut, burn the negatives and shoot a more optimistic ending after a lukewarm preview screening had given the suits the jitters and before Welles could return from the set of his unfinished It's All True in Brazil in time to intervene. Some say a complete reel of Welles' finished cut was sent to him for safe keeping in South America by loyal crew members but, if such a treasure ever existed, it has long since been given up as lost. However, after the amazing rediscovery of a longer cut of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) in an Argentine storeroom in 2008, the possibility of an unadulterated Magnificent Ambersons turning up suddenly feels that little bit less remote.

What we have left of Welles's lost masterpiece remains a spellbinding piece of cinema. This elegaic gem concerns a wealthy Midwestern dynasty living in splendour at the turn of the century before being brought low by the bull-headed arrogance and destructive snobbery of its heir, George Minifer Amberson (Tim Holt), who opposes his widowed mother Isabel's (Dolores Costello) last chance at happiness with the true love of her life, a nouveau riche automobile pioneer named Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten), whose fortune might have saved the Amberson estate from crumbling into nothing. George's oediapl jealousy and misguided preoccupation with protecting the family name from gossip and rumour leads him to sneer at Morgan's "horseless carriage", even though he himself is ostensibly in love with the man's spirited and devoted daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter). Anxiety over their feud eventually drives poor Isabel to an early grave and Eugene away to grieve while the Ambersons fall on hard times and are forced to exchange their gloomy mansion for labouring jobs, a cheap boarding house and a life of toil, destitution and quiet desperation.

Welles was introduced to Tarkington's novel by his father Richard Hodgdon Head Welles, who was a close friend of the author and may even have inspired the character of Eugene, having made his name with the invention of a best-selling range of bicycle headlamps and married a society beauty, one Beatrice Ives, an accomplished concert pianist. Orson was actually the director's middle name, incidentally. His Christian name was George. The young Welles became fascinated by a novel with such close ties to his own childhood and produced a version for his radio series The Campbell Playhouse in 1939, in which he took the role of George himself but in which only Ray Collins appeared from the later cast. By the time the director came to shoot a film of The Magnificent Ambersons in the wake of his critical triumph with Kane, Welles decided that he was too old and had become too portly for the central role so instead cast Tim Holt as George, a performer he considered, "one of the most interesting actors there's ever been in American movies" but whom he felt squandered his talent by taking easy, minor roles in Hollywood Westerns. Welles doesn't appear on screen but his pitying, murmurous narration reverberates around the halls and haunts proceedings superbly, his presence always felt. Cotten, the redoubtable Agnes Moorehead and composer Bernard Herrmann were all Mercury Theater veterans while Anne Baxter was handed a role because she knew something herself of living with a legacy, being the granddaughter of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The stately Amberson house was built in full on a studio sound-stage - parts of it reused in countless films since - with the idea that its walls could be removed so that Stanley Cortez's camera could roam freely around the place like a character in its own right. This effect is noticeable in the scene in which George confronts his Uncle Jack (Collins) soaking in the bathtub, swapping glances from each man's perspective and catching their reflections in the mirror and also in the scene in which the bullied Aunt Fanny (Moorehead) appears at the top of the third tier of bannisters, eavesdropping on the arguments below.

Like Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons presents a personal empire tearing itself apart with hubris and resentment and demonstrates the powerlessness of humanity and all its impermanent trinkets and monuments to withstand the ravages of time, recalling the "Colossal Wreck" of Ozymandias in Percy Shelley's poem of 1818. The Magnificent Ambersons is arguably a more mature, disciplined work than its celebrated predecessor, however, taking the bold decision to centre itself around a protagonist so sour and unpleasant that he risks alienating the popcorn crowd from the get-go and capsizing the whole venture. No wonder the Philistines were spooked and chose to pair Ambersons in contemporary picture houses with the loopy Lupe VĂ©lez vehicle Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost (1942). In a movie full of wonder, my favourite scene has to be the magical moment in which Morgan's shivering jalopy finally breaks down in deep snow, whereupon the merry inventor cranks it up gamely and keeps everybody cheerful by starting a sing-along to 'The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo'. Everyone except George, that is. Cotten, Costello, Moorehead and Collins give memorable performances as a quartet of sad and kindly ghosts who have been so terribly wronged by their spoilt offspring.


Night & The City (1950)

American hustler, confidence trickster and nightclub tout Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) was a lifelong loser who came to London after the war with dreams of striking it rich and damn near made it. For one fleeting moment, he had it all right there in the palm of his hand. This one wasn't like the football pool's scam or the Birmingham greyhound track. This one was big.

A chance encounter with the Great Gregorious (Stanislaus Zbyszko), an ageing Greco-Roman wrestling champion and a purist disgusted by the fakery and choreography of the modern game, gives Fabian the idea that he could become a big shot promoter. But such a venture would require a solid backer and his bloated boss at the Silver Fox, Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan), may have one too many ulterior motives to be truly trustworthy, not least his jealousy towards Fabian over his ruthless wife Helen's (Googie Withers) wandering eye. The boy will also need to overcome the objections of another party, Gregorious's son Kristo (Herbert Lom), a shady fellow keen to modernise the sport into a more contrived, spectacular entertainment without losing the old man's love.

Director Jules Dassin was dispatched to a Britain still smouldering in the rubble and ruin of the Blitz to make Night & The City by Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck, who knew that Dassin was about to be blacklisted for his alleged Communist sympathies after fellow director Edward Dmytryk dropped his name to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Gene Tierney was sent along with him for this adaptation of Gerald Kersch's 1938 novel in order to get over a particularly bad break-up that had led Zanuck to believe her suicidal. It's perhaps this melancholy background that explains the resulting production's relentless pessimism and abiding gloom. Tierney's Mary Bristol, Fabian's doting girlfriend, is one of the few characters we are introduced to who is anything other than a crooked parasite in pursuit of their own interests. Dassin's London is a nightmarish underworld of squalor, poverty and desperation, its winding alleyways cloaked in expressionistic shadows, in which no one decent has a shilling to spare - an atmosphere no doubt reflecting the director's troubled state of mind at the time. Noir always deals in fatalism but rarely has the point been so unromantically made as in this account of the utterly pointless life and death of Harry Fabian. Czech hood Lom flicking his cigarette butt absently into the Thames after watching The Strangler (Mike Mazurki) polish off Fabian and dump his body in the water just says it all.

Widmark is fabulously energetic in the lead, his bony, taut face and staring eyes barely concealing Harry's frantic ambition. He spends much of the film running, darting away from hoodlums and into doorways and new scrapes and seems to be almost perennially sweating, refusing to surrender to the idea that he can't outrun death. It's hard to resist reading the character as a metaphor for Dassin's plight. Withers and Sullivan also make for a memorably frightful couple, he as beady and wearily knowing here as he was playing Jaggers in David Lean's remarkable Great Expectations (1946). Full-time henchman Mazurki is also well cast as a boorish rival wrestler (a nod to his earlier career) and his bout with the older Zbyszko (the Pole had also been a professional Greco-Roman brawler, see below) is one of the most memorable cinematic sporting contests I can recall.


Dassin may have been discarded by Hollywood because of his political affiliations but he continued to work and followed Night & The City by relocating to France and making Rififi (1955), possibly the greatest of all bank heist capers. As sweet a kiss-off as they come.