February 28, 2017


The Rake’s Progress – 1945 | 110 mins | Drama | B&W

Plot Synopsis

The Rake's Progress

Launder and Gilliat’s satirical overview of upperclass decadence is a caustically witty comedy-drama that is undercut by the script’s mistaken implication that all the charming scoundrel needs is a good war to straighten him out. The debonair Rex Harrison produces a memorable performance as the quintessential upper class cad, scion of a family which traditionally breeds Tories for Westminster. Lilli Palmer, then Harrison’s real-life wife, is outstanding among the hearts he rakishly, recklessly breaks.

Playboy Vivian Kenway (Rex Harrison) is sent down from Oxford after crowning the Martyrs’ Memorial with a chamber-pot, and he is packed off by his father to a South American coffee. He soon returns to England,and after a carefree period philandering and holidaying in most of Europe’s society hotspots, he is declared bankrupt. Salvation arrives in the shape of old college friend, Sandy (Griffith Jones), but Vivian repays him by entering into an affair with his best friend’s wife, Jill (Jean Kent), which ultimately leads to a scandalous divorce.

Next, Vivian turns his hand to motor racing, and after a brief period of glory as a driver he’s left stranded in Vienna as WWII looms.Whilst locked in his Viennese hotel room due to an unpaid bill he is rescued by rich Austrian heiress Rikki Krausner (Lilli Palmer), who claims to have along-standing crush on the loveable rogue. Kenway quickly see’s through her ploy, which is to marry an Englishman and flee Jewish oppression by moving to London. Vivien agrees to marriage as a ‘business proposition’, but his affair with his father’s secretary, Jennifer (Margaret Johnston), causes Rikki to attempt suicide. Vivian’s downward spiral and selfish habit of hurting everyone he comes into touch peaks with the death of his father after a bout of drunken driving.

For a period the guilt-ridden cad avoids high society,and drifts between jobs selling used cars, a door-to-door salesman and selling himself as a professional dancing partner. Eventually Jennifer tracks him and whisks him away to the country to put him back on his feet. But the urge to seek adventure soon resurfaces within Vivian.

Production Team

Sidney Gilliat: Director
Norman G Arnold: Art Direction
Wilkie Cooper: Cinematography
Yvonne Caffin: Costume Design
Thelma Connell: Film Editing
WT Partleton: Makeup Department
William Alwyn: Original Music
Frank Launder: Producer
Sidney Gilliat: Producer
David Rawnsley: Production Design
Frank Launder: Script
Sidney Gilliat: Script
Leslie Hammond: Sound Department
BC Sewell: Sound Department
Eric Wood: Sound Department


Rex Harrison: Vivian Kenway
Lilli Palmer: Rikki Krausner
Godfrey Tearle: Colonel Kenway
Griffith Jones: Sandy Duncan
Margaret Johnston: Jennifer Calthrop
Guy Middleton: Fogroy
Jean Kent: Jill Duncan
Marie Lohr: Lady Parks
Garry Marsh: Sir Hubert Parks
Alan Wheatley: Edwards
John Salew: Burgess
Joan Hickson: Miss Barker
David Horne: Sir John Brockley

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