The Rebel – 1961 | 105mins | Comedy | Colour
The Rebel was Tony Hancock’s only truly successful film after years of popularity with his Hancock’s Half Hour TV series. Simpson and Galton wrote the screenplay, the director was Robert Day, and Frank Cordell wrote an attractive musical score. The story concerns an office worker with artistic leanings who goes to Paris and becomes the centre of the art world, more by accident than design. The cast was impressive – George Sanders, Paul Massie, Dennis Price, Irene Handl, John Le-Mesurier, Nanette Newman and Gregoire Aslan.
Frustrated by office routine and his landlady’s lack of sympathy for his painting and sculpting, Tony Hancock moves to Paris, and falls in with an artistic set. His dreadful paintings are acclaimed by a collection of weird bogus intellectuals, and his room-mate, Paul, a genuinely good painter, returns to England in despair. Paul’s paintings are mistaken for Hancock’s by Sir Charles Brouard, an art critic and dealer, and Hancock finds himself acclaimed as a great painter on the strength of them. Commissioned to produce a statue of a rich patron’s apparently nymphomaniac wife, Hancock presents another version of the monstrosity he had been working on in London. It is not appreciated. In London, Hancock finds himself having to produce a set of paintings in a hurry for a show arranged by Sir Charles. He calls in Paul – who is now painting in Hancock’s infantile style. In Paul’s hands, however, the results are once again acclaimed. Hancock abandons the pretence, introduces Paul to Sir Charles, and defiantly returns to his old rooms to resume his sculpting.
On the whole, the film is extremely good. Occasionally Hancock’s timing is not allowed its full scope as the director makes use of opportunities for local colour and action, but there are many classic moments. The plot-involving Hancock in the longest performance he had yet given hangs together well, and provides plenty of opportunity for him to explore the artistic pretensions of his character. A few in jokes are used in one sequence; Hancock appears once more in the budgerigar outfit which had appeared in A-Z, Christmas Night with the Stars and at the 1958 Royal Variety performance. It is his fancy dress for a ball on board the boat of his millionaire patron. Forced to abscond without time to change, he arrives at the airport and demands to fly to London. Galton and Simpson had tried to introduce a gag with Sid James… James would have made a brief appearance in a swimming pool – but Hancock would not allow this. His point was that James had been appearing without Hancock for years in films; now Hancock wanted to show that he could make his own mark in the cinema without having to rely on James.
The film was premiered at the Beirut Film Festival, and given a trade showing in London on January 27th 1961. It was an immediate critical and box-office success; a considerable achievement. Few British comedians have made such a spectacular success in their first significant film-even Peter Sellers took some time to become an international star.
Robert Day: Director
Robert Jones: Art Direction
Gilbert Taylor: Cinematography
Richard Best: Editing
Stanley Black: Music Direction
Frank Cordell: Original Music
WA Whittaker: Producer
Alan Simpson: Script
Tony Hancock: Script
Ray Galton: Script
Tony Hancock: Anthony Hancock
George Sanders: Sir Charles Broward
Paul Massie: Paul
Margit Saad: Margot
Gregoire Aslan: Carreras
Dennis Price: Jim Smith
Irene Handl: Mrs Crevatte
John Le Mesurier: Office manager
Mervyn Johns: Manager of Art Gallery, London
Peter Bull: Manager of Art Gallery, Paris
Liz Fraser: Waitress
Nanette Newman: Josey