Vice Versa – 1948 | 111 mins | Comedy | B&W
Peter Ustinov at twenty-six is just the right age to direct Two Cities Vice Versa, for F. Anstey was twenty-six when he published the book. That was way back in 1882, but this classic of late Victorian humour comes to life on the screen with its preposterous situations and absurd characters as fresh as ever they were, and with a little modern something added for good measure by Peter Ustinov and his co-producer George Brown. Making this light-hearted frolic must have been as much fun as seeing it on the screen, especially as the cast included an elephant, four white mice, one Pekinese dog, one seal, a troop of monkeys, a 1912 vintage car and actors dressed in all the strange sartorial elegance of the ‘eighties. But. amusing as such a collection might be, there was work to be done too, and at times this varied cast was a little difficult. The Pekinese, for example, was required to take a violent dislike to Roger Livesey, who plays Paul Bultitude. This was beyond her powers, and indeed she loved him from the first! But as she was chosen from fifty applicants for the part, it seemed a pity to replace her; so, one way or another (but don’t ask how!) she was persuaded to attack Roger tooth and claw, and as the film shows, she was then a very formidable Pekinese indeed.
Paul Bultitude is a pompous and prosperous stockbroker. One chilly evening in the year 1890 he is saying goodbye to his elder son, who is returning unhappily to boarding school. Fatuously he expresses the wish to become a boy again. At the same time the boy wishes to be a man like his father; and because he is holding a jewel stolen years before from an Indian temple, the miracle happens. The schoolboy Dick becomes Paul Bultitude. The reluctant stockbroker, who has suddenly been turned into a knicker-bockered boy, is hustled off to school by the butler – his son becomes head of the prim Victorian household.
Dr Grimstone, the headmaster, is scandalised by the ‘boy’s’ antics. His daughter Dulcie, to whom the real Dick was most attentive, is heartbroken. His school fellows, amazed by the behaviour of the prig that ‘Dick’ seems to have become during the holidays, proceed to deal with him as only schoolboys can. At home in London, ‘Paul’ gives children’s parties on a lavish scale, flirts with the parlour maid, wards off his father’s shady lady friend, Mrs Verlayne, and starts a motor car factory in partnership with his reprobate Uncle Marmaduke, who stole the temple jewel. At length, ‘Dick’ escapes to London. With the help of his younger son and the magic stone he reverses the situation. Once more Paul becomes the real Paul – and Vice Versa.
Peter Ustinov: Director
Carmen Dillon: Art Direction
Jack Hildyard: Cinematography
John Guthridge: Editing
Anthony Hopkins: Music
Muir Mathieson: Music Direction
F Anstey: Novel
George H. Brown: Producer
Peter Ustinov: Producer
Peter Ustinov: Script
Henry Harris: Special Effects