The Ladykillers: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the 1955 film. For the remake by the Coen Brothers, see The Ladykillers (2004 film).
For the 1988 TV movie, see Ladykillers (TV movie).
"Ladykillers" redirects here. For the single by Lush, see Lovelife (album).
The Ladykillers

original film poster
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Produced by Seth Holt associate producer
Michael Balcon producer (uncredited)
Written by William Rose
Starring Alec Guinness
Cecil Parker
Herbert Lom
Peter Sellers
Danny Green
Jack Warner
Katie Johnson
Music by Tristram Cary
Cinematography Otto Heller
Editing by Jack Harris
Distributed by Continental Distributing Inc.
Release date(s) 1955
Running time 97 minutes
Country U.K.
Language English

The Ladykillers (1955) is a dark comedy film, another edition in a series of post-war Ealing comedies. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, it stars Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Katie Johnson.

American William Rose wrote the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay. He claimed to have dreamt the entire film and merely had to remember the details when he awoke.



A comically sinister criminal, "Professor" Marcus (Guinness), rents rooms in the gradually subsiding "lopsided" King's Cross house of an innocent and eccentric old lady, Mrs Louisa Wilberforce (Johnson), a widow who lives alone with her parrots. The Professor has put together a gang for a sophisticated security van robbery at Kings Cross Station in London: the gentlemanly con-man "Major" Courtney (Parker), the Cockney spiv Harry Robinson (Sellers), the slow-witted ex-boxer "One-Round" Lawson (Green), and the vicious continental gangster Louis Harvey (Lom). However, the Professor convinces Mrs Wilberforce that they are an amateur string quintet using the room for rehearsal space. To maintain the deception, the gang members carry musical instruments and play a recording of Boccherini's Minuet (3rd movement) from String Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5 during their planning sessions.

Mrs Wilberforce confronts Professor Marcus and his "ensemble"

After the successful heist, which involves putting the cash in a cabin trunk and placing it in the station parcel office, with Mrs Wilberforce playing an unwitting but crucial role by escorting the loot through the police cordon, the real conflict of the film begins. As the gang leaves her house, One-Round accidentally gets his cello case full of banknotes trapped in the front door as it is closed by Mrs Wilberforce. As he pulls the case free the banknotes spill out in front of Mrs Wilberforce. She realises the truth and informs Marcus that she is going to report them to the police.

The gang, it seems, has no choice but to do away with her. No one wants to do the job, so they draw matchsticks. The Major loses, but tries to make a run for it with the cash in hand. In quick succession, the criminals double-cross and kill one another, with the bodies ending up dumped into railway wagons passing behind the house. Throughout all this, the oblivious Mrs Wilberforce remains asleep.

In the end, the gang members are all dead, and Mrs Wilberforce is left with the money. The deaths occur in the following order:

  • Major Courtney is killed by Louis Harvey on Mrs Wilberforce's rooftop.
  • Mr. Robinson is killed by One-Round when One-Round thinks that Mr. Robinson has killed Mrs Wilberforce.
  • One-Round is killed by Louis when he tries to shoot Professor Marcus and Louis but "stupidly" leaves the safety catch on making him vulnerable in a cloud of smoke from a passing train.
  • Louis is thwarted by Professor Marcus, who loosens the trackside ladder on which Louis is standing, causing him to fall into a railway wagon.
  • Shortly after killing Louis, Professor Marcus, standing on a railway signal gantry, is hit by a signal arm when it falls, and he drops directly into another railway wagon.

Left alone with the money, Mrs Wilberforce goes to the police. They are familiar with her strange stories and pretend to believe her account, but jokingly tell her to keep the money. Ironically, Professor Marcus had earlier assured her that, because the money was insured, any effort on her part to return it would only confuse things. She is therefore finally persuaded that keep it she must. On the way home she rewards an astonished pavement artist with a £5 note.


The British comedian Frankie Howerd has a cameo role as an agitated market fruit seller caused when a horse begins to eat his apples, along with Kenneth Connor as a taxi driver. A young Stratford Johns (Charlie Barlow from Z-Cars) plays the driver of the lorry that gets robbed.

Guinness based Professor Marcus on the popular comedian and actor Alastair Sim.[1] Sim's daughter has claimed in interviews that many assume that her father actually played the part.

Awards and nominations




In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted The Ladykillers the 36th greatest comedy film of all time.

Film locations

Mrs Wilberforce's house, No 57, was a set built at the western end of Frederica Street, directly above the southern portal of Copenhagen Tunnel on the railway line leading out of King's Cross station. However, the views from her house show Argyle Street, a couple of miles away, with the tower of St Pancras Station in the background.


  • A radio adaptation of the film was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 13 January 1996.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Ladykillers (1955) is a British dark comedy film.


Professor Marcus

  • One-Round, there is a wheelbarrow outside, could you fetch it? The Major has a train to catch.

Mrs Wilberforce

  • Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen.


  • The Superintendent: (as Mrs Wilberforce is leaving, the superintendent follows her out with her umbrella) Mrs. Wilberforce, wait! Just a moment!
    (Holding out the umbrella) You forgot it, mum.
    Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: (Reaches for it, then changes her mind) Oh. Oh, no I don't think I want it. I never liked it. Now I can buy a dozen new ones.
  • (Mrs. Wilberforce has knocked on the door and the Major is about to open it)

Louis: (Aside to Harry) Excuse me, Major Courtney, I wonder if perhaps you'd like some tea? (the Major opens the door)
Mrs. Wilberforce: I wonder if perhaps you'd like some tea, Major Courtney?

  • (after Louis has 'dealt' with the Major on the roof)

Professor Marcus: Well, where is he? Where is the Major? Is he up there still?
Harry: No, no, he, uh, he come down.
Professor Marcus: Well bring him here!
Harry: He come down... with the chimney-pot.
Professor Marcus: With the chimney- ?(chuckles)
Professor Marcus: Is he hurt?
Louis: I shouldn't think he felt a thing.

  • One-Round: I said nobody was to do her!

(Begins attacking Louis, who beats him continuously over the head with a blackjack. Mrs. Wilberforce comes out of the next room) Mrs. Wilberforce: Mr. Harvey! One-Round: I said - I said nobody was to do Mrs. Lopsided! Mrs. Wilberforce: Stop that! (Louis hits One-Round one last time with the blackjack) Mrs. Wilberforce: What "are" you doing? (Adjusting her hat) Mrs. Wilberforce: And who is 'Mrs. Lopsided,' may I ask? Where is Mr. Robinson? One-Round: He's, uh, he's outside. Mrs. Wilberforce: Somebody took the key. The cello case is gone! One-Round: It's, uh, out there too. Mrs. Wilberforce: Well... bring it in. (One-Round heads outside) Mrs. Wilberforce: I fell asleep. Somebody took the key out of my pocket. I'm *very* angry! Professor Marcus: As you have every right to be. It's disgraceful, Mrs. Wilberforce, shameful! Mr. Robinson will answer for it. Mrs. Wilberforce: (One-Round brings in the cello case] I'll take that, thank you. Professor Marcus, this is another black mark against you. I shall certainly tell the police. [she goes back into the nextk room) Professor Marcus: (as she shuts the door) What happened? One-Round: I thought they'd, uh, done 'er in. I thought, uh, I thought Harry done 'er. Professor Marcus: So? One-Round: So all right, I made a mistake! Professor Marcus: (Puts his face in his hand) Put him in the barrow...

  • (Harry and Marcus are distracting Mrs. Wilberforce while Louis deals with the Major on the roof)

Mrs. Wilberforce: It won't do any harm to tell you now that Major Courtney has gone to the police. They'll be here shortly. (there is a loud crash from outside) Mrs. Wilberforce: Oh! Whatever is that? Harry: I expect something fell off the roof, mum. Mrs. Wilberforce: The roof? Harry: Probably a... chimney-pot. Mrs. Wilberforce: A chimney-pot? Professor Marcus: See who it is, Harry (pushes Harry out the door)

  • One-Round: (looking blankly at his cello) Are we supposed to make noises with these things? What kind o' noises?

Louis: Who is she? Professor Marcus: Not 'noises,' One-Round, "music"! Louis: I said what does she mean, you... (Professor Marcus shushes him and turns on the record, dancing a bit to the music)

  • Mrs. Wilberforce: ...May I ask you where you studied?

One-Round: ...Well, I didn't really study any place, Lady... I just sort of... picked it up. Mrs. Wilberforce: You know, I was so surprised when I heard what you were playing. It brought back something that, really, I'd completely forgotten all about: my 21st birthday party. You see, my father had engaged a string quintet to come in and play in the evening; and while they were playing Boccherini, someone came in and said the old queen had passed away. And everyone went home. And that was the end of my party, all that time ago, in Pembroke. (Silence) Mrs. Wilberforce: Well, if you'll excuse me, I'll run and make the tea. The kettle "must" be nearly on the boil. (She leaves) One-Round: Who's she talkin' about? Old queen who?

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