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Film / The Lavender Hill Mob

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The Lavender Hill Mob is a 1951 Ealing Studios crime comedy film, starring Alec Guinness and directed by Charles Crichton. Guinness plays Henry Holland, a bank clerk in charge of refining and delivering gold bullion. One day a frustrated artist, Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) moves in to Holland's rooming house. Pendlebury would like to be an artist, but instead he has a less inspiring business making tourist trinkets—including lead paperweights shaped like the Eiffel Tower. Holland, seeing that Pendlebury has smelting equipment just like the bank does, hits on the idea of stealing the bullion from his bank, smelting it into Eiffel Tower figurines, and shipping said figurines out of England to be sold on the black market. Of course, something goes wrong.

The Lavender Hill Mob won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Nearly 40 years after this film, Charles Crichton would direct A Fish Called Wanda, another comedy about a heist that goes wrong. Look for a brief appearance by none other than Audrey Hepburn, prior to her Star-Making Role in Roman Holiday, as Holland's Brazilian girlfriend.

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Tropes:

  • All for Nothing: Holland gets away with only six gold Eiffel Towers, spends all the money from said towers in Rio, and is arrested.
  • Armed Blag: A good example of the peculiarly British "rob an armored car" crime film.
  • Book-Ends/Framing Device: The film begins and ends with Holland relaxing in a restaurant in Rio, telling the story of the robbery to a fellow Englishman.
  • The Cameo: In retrospect (as she wasn't a star yet); Audrey Hepburn appears in the opening sequence of the film in a virtually non-speaking role that lasts about 20 seconds.
  • The Caper: Pend car carrying gold bullion!
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Shorty lights a cigarette from the crucible in Pendlebury's workshop.
  • Covers Always Lie: Video releases of this film have heavily promoted the fact that Audrey Hepburn's in it, even though she has exactly one line.
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  • Dramatic Irony: Pendlebury indignantly shouts "I am not a thief!" at the police station, having been falsely accused of shoplifting a cheap painting while the big robbery is happening.
  • Eureka Moment: When Holland sees Pendlebury's smelter and instantly hits on his scheme.
  • How We Got Here: Opens with Holland in Rio, having fled there after the robbery.
  • Make It Look Like a Struggle: Holland wants Lackery and Shorty to tie him up and rough him up to make the robbery look convincing. However, they have to flee as the police approach, having only had time to bind, gag and blindfold him. Holland has to finish the job by rolling in the dust, tearing his clothes on a hook, and falling in the river (which was definitely not part of the plan).
  • Staging the Eavesdrop: Holland and Pendlebury publicly discuss that they left the safe open. They wait in the building at night, and when thieves break in, they recruit them into their criminal scheme.
  • Title Drop: "The Lavender Hill Mob" is the name under which Holland reserves a room for him and his fellow thieves to party after successfully robbing the bullion.
  • Tropical Epilogue: Amusingly subverted. The Rio de Janeiro Framing Device ends with Holland finishing his story, telling the Englishman he's been chatting with that he sold the six paperweights for £25,000 and has spent the money. Then they get up from the table together and the film reveals that Holland is handcuffed to the man he's been sitting with.

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