I write on Last Holiday, the dryly witty 1950 comedy starring Alec Guinness living up his last days in splendor, for Turner Classic Movies.
A melancholy comedy of rebirth and regret, Last Holiday was an original screenplay by the popular and prolific British author and playwright J.B. Priestley, who also produced the film, and is arguably the most successful film based on his work. The story follows the odyssey of George Bird (Alec Guinness), a meek farm implement salesman whose life is upended when, after a routine medical check-up, he is rather abruptly informed that he suffers from a rare incurable disease and has only weeks to live. Recommended to live up his final days, George quits his job, cashes in his savings, buys a second hand wardrobe of high-end suits and heads to a luxury hotel, where he becomes the buzz of the clientele: who is this mystery man? Only the housekeeper knows. Nervous and out of place, George confides the truth of his situation (or most of it anyway, short of his fatal diagnosis) to the resentful Mrs. Poole (Kay Walsh) and, pulled out of feeling sorry for herself by his honesty, she counsels him to hold himself with confidence and speak his mind. “It’ll do them good,” she chirps, and she’s right. The guest list includes a brash but self-conscious businessman with working class manners (Sid James, later famous as a member of the Carry On stock company), a pompous government minister, a cheery inventor (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and the pretty young wife (Beatrice Campbell) of a charming criminal (Brian Worth) whose schemes are catching up with him. Through the course of the film, George’s honesty, forthrightness and generosity brings out the best in everyone around him.
Read the complete feature on the TCM website here. The film plays on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, October 23.