Notorious Gentleman Film Details
Overview: Vivian Kenway (Sir Rex Harrison), a young Englishman from an aristocratic background, flunks out of Oxford, and decides to use his considerable charm to achieve his goal of, apparently, …
Review: The reviews of ‘The Rake’s Progress’ – the US title of ‘Notorious Gentleman’ is absurd, and obscures the connection with the Hogarth’s famous series – seem to miss the many elements of social satire in this rather political film. Vivian Kenway, brilliantly played by Rex Harrison as a version of himself, is a risk-taker, and abhors hypocrisy and convention. Apart from the present-day opening, the first scene in the film finds him on Armistice Day 1918, as a boy, having found his way into a crowded pub to celebrate the victory. It is a brilliant beginning; the boy never grows up. We next see him sent down from Oxford for neglecting his studies and climbing monuments. (He, and especially Guy Middleton, look a little elderly for student hi-jinks, while the fashions and hairdos are resolutely mid-40s throughout the film.) Anyway, he leaves Oxford, and back to his father, who has been re-elected as Conservative MP. This is election day, 1931 – the day the National Government was elected; there is much talk of Tory leader Stanley Baldwin’s being in touch with the people. Here we get our first satirical comment – when the film was made in 1945, the National Government was viewed as the weak coalition government that had deepened the 30s recession and failed to deter Hitler’s Germany from rearming; Baldwin at that point was seen as one of the most culpable men. It is no coincidence that Vivian’s Oxford career ends on that day – at that point, the weak and the conventional take power, and Vivian’s brand of devil-may-care risk-taking will only handicap him. He is sent to South America to learn the coffee trade (sent there by his Aunt, a wonderful battleaxe performance from Marie Lohr, together with Garry Marsh, excellent as her henpecked husband), and here he finds the only enthusiasm in his life. He spurns the easy life of leisure open to him, and throws his energies into working out a system for efficiently growing coffee. The hypocritical company chairman responds by sacking his scientists, complaining about English tea-drinking habits (while drinking tea). Again the satire is just below the surface – coffee wakes you up, just like the tea-drinking English need to be woken up. Vivian is sacked, for drunkenly telling it like it is. After that, a series of increasingly distasteful adventures. He has a fling with a friend’s wife, leading to the divorce courts. The friend, Sandy, has been ignoring her obvious infidelity; again, Vivian feels he is just bringing the obvious truth to the surface. The inevitable crisis follows a trip to Vienna, when he sees the Nazis in action for the first time, and marries a half-Jewish girl to save her. Now he is in too deep, and tragedy follows; Vivian is a broken man. His father’s former secretary Jennifer offers him a familiar way out; her support as a wife, which she accepts will be a long run of bankruptcies and love affairs. But Vivian has finally grown up. He doesn’t subject her to marriage, and instead disappears, reappearing in the present day in a tank regiment where his appetite for risk and excitement are now vital for the defence of his sleepy, hypocritical, but fundamentally decent country. As on Armistice Night 1918, Vivian is back in his element. A cad and a bounder? Undoubtedly. But hardly the unsympathetic character portrayed in some other reviews here. The script in particular is magnificent, while Harrison’s performance is pitch perfect.
Language: English, German
Duration: 110 min
Genre: Drama, Romance
Also known as: The Rake’s Progress,En charmerende synder,Ironia do Destino,L’honorable Monsieur Sans-Gêne,Notorious Gentleman,Alitis tis zois,Thymata asotou,Gentleman på galejan,Un notorio caballero,Der letzte Sündenfall,艶事師,Hurjastelija,Truhán con suerte,L’amabile furfante,Soldados Desconhecidos