A Classic London to Brighton Road Trip
Ambrose only seems to think about two things. That silly old car, and the other thing - Rosalind
As the London to Brighton car rally approaches, Alan McKim (John Gregson - The Lavender Hill Mob) and friend Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More - Scrooge) are looking forward to their annual journey out in their vintage cars. But being friends doesn't mean they're not rivals and having both made the trip to Brighton with their partners set up a friendly wager as to who can make it back to London first. But with old cars comes trouble from breakdowns to skulduggery especially when their rivalry gets out of hands.
When you think of road trip movies the wonderfully charming "Genevieve" from 1953 is probably not one you may instantly think of but it surprisingly shares a few elements with more notable road trip movies. The first half which concentrates on the London to Brighton rally has all the usual turmoil's of any road trip movie with break downs, accidents, spilled food and so on all leading to array of arguments an dodgy situations. And then there is the second half which continues on with the misery of the road trip but brings in the skulduggery part of things almost like whacky races with the rivalry between Alan and Ambrose reaching fever pitch.
As such "Genevieve" possesses a strong comedy streak equal to any Ealing Comedy which is not so surprising as although "Genevieve" is not from the Ealing Studio director Henry Cornelius had previously worked for the studio and the screenplay is written by William Rose who had also worked at Ealing studios. It has that easy going farce about it as one trouble leads to another and most of them with an obvious moment of comedy. When Genevieve, the gloriously restored 1904 Darracq breaks down and after some tinkering by Alan is about to be started you know that his wife Wendy, played by the beautiful Dinah Sheridan, is going to come a cropper some how with the coffee spilling scene being one of the most memorable.
The comedy continues through out even when the rivalry enters the frame with some obvious moments of skulduggery from missing parts to getting the police involved. But what is nice is that although there is scene after scene of light comedy it's all connected beautifully to the storyline which provides the necessary reasoning to explain why Alan and Ambrose are such rivals. It gives it not so much a deeper level of meaning because "Genevieve" is light weight fun, but makes all those moments of farce feel like more than just a series of gags.
Whilst Genevieve the vintage Darracq is a beautiful vehicle and Amrose's Spyker is equally beautiful it's the 4 main stars which bring "Genevieve" all together. As already mentioned Dinah Sheridan is wonderful as Wendy and has great chemistry with John Gregson who plays her husband Alan. But equally the partnership of Kenneth More and Kay Kendall as rivals Ambrose Claverhouse and Rosalind Peters has equally good chemistry and the four together work well. Although the scene which sees Rosalind pick up a trumpet and lead the band in a tune feels seriously out of place.
In a strange way though it is someone that you don't see who is as much a star as either the cars or the actors and that is composer and musician Larry Adler. The harmonica ditty which reoccurs throughout "Genevieve" is almost magical and the minute you hear the first few bars of it you are instantly reminded of the movie. It's no surprise that Adler was nominated for an Oscar for his work on "Genevieve" which he sadly missed out on.
What this all boils down to is that "Genevieve" is a gloriously old fashion easy going comedy which will keep you smiling from start to finish. From the glorious vintage Darracq and Spyker, through to the writing, performances and Larry Adler's wonderful harmonica playing everything about "Genevieve" is pleasant and fun.
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