Cast & Crew
Early in the twentieth century, as Ireland struggles for independence, Charles Norgate, an Irish American, arrives in London to undertake the robbery of the Bank of England, which has never been robbed in its 200-year existence. Iris Muldoon, a widow whose husband Michael died years earlier in the attempt by Irish revolutionaries to take over the Armory, previously had been sent to New York to hire Norgate on behalf of the movement, which desires to rob the bank of a million pounds as part of their political offensive. Norgate, who had once been a mining engineer, gains the Revolutionaries' confidence by saying that he still has his roots in Ireland. Told that the bank is considered impregnable, he decides to find a weakness in the "Bank Picket," Her Majesty's Brigade of Guards, which keeps watch on the gold. Norgate becomes friends with Lt. Monte Fitch of the Guard, and after he expresses an interest in architecture, Fitch tells him about the museum that houses the designs of the bank's architect, Sir John Soane. At the museum, Norgate breaks into the case containing the plans and traces them. Walsh, one of the revolutionaries who dislikes Norgate, believes there is no way they can get into the vault and tries to talk Mrs. Muldoon, of whom he is enamored, into leaving the movement with him, but she refuses. Although she had an affair with Norgate in New York, she no longer wants to be involved with him either. Since the plans have no scale, Norgate gets Fitch to show him the vault and learns that all the guards walk at exactly the same pace. By counting the paces, he figures out the corridor's length. When he learns that the guards are plagued by rats and that the floor has been reinforced, he goes to the Sewage Commission Records Department and discovers that an underground river, which has been sealed up for forty years, runs under the bank. Norgate finds an old "Tosher," a scavenger of the Thames, and after identifying himself as an archaeologist trying to examine ruins of a Roman temple, persuades the "Tosher" to show him where the river had been walled up. The group purchases a warehouse nearby and digs through until they come to the river. They plan to dig a thirty-foot tunnel during the first weekend in August, the Monday of which is a bank holiday. Before they start, Norgate taunts Mrs. Muldoon, saying she is afraid of herself and what her dead husband might think, and she responds to his kisses. Meanwhile, Lt. Fitch, on duty at the vault, becomes suspicious of Norgate and learns that he has checked out of his hotel. While digging, Walsh hits a gas pipe with his pick and the lights dim until Norgate plugs the hole with a piece of wood and mud. Fitch then commands the keeper, Mr. Greene, to open the vault door, but it can only be opened if the three officials who have keys use them together, and one, Mr. Peabody, is away on holiday. Fitch then orders that Peabody be found and brought to the vault. Meanwhile, O'Shea, one of the revolutionaries, announces that the Irish Home Rule bill is to be reintroduced, and the theft must be stopped, as nothing can be allowed to jeopardize passage of the bill. When O'Shea, who says that the movement will disassociate itself from the thieves as they did when Michael died, Mrs. Muldoon convinces Walsh to go with her to inform Norgate of the change in plans. Walsh arrives as Norgate is about to break through the floor of the vault, and astounded by the gold bars there, Walsh says nothing. They steal a million pounds worth of bullion and are about to dynamite through a sealed entrance, where Cohoun, another of the group, is to be waiting with a tug boat, when Mrs. Muldoon appears and says she sent Cohoun away. Despite her pleas, Walsh and Norgate decide to load the gold into a cart and take it to the warehouse. When Norgate realizes that the "Tosher," whom Walsh had knocked cold as he rushed past, has not come out, he goes to search for him. The "Tosher," meanwhile, has revived, and carrying a bust from a Roman ruin, arrives in the vault looking for Norgate, who finds him there. When he sees "the Queen's yellow," the "Tosher" realizes that Norgate is not the gentleman he thought he was. Just then, Fitch and the guard open the vault door, as Peabody has been located and brought back to London. On the street, as a bobby passes by, the gold breaks through the cart that Walsh, in his greed, has overloaded. When Norgate is led to a police wagon in handcuffs, Mrs. Muldoon looks in his eyes with tears in hers. She walks off, and the Tosher wanders away carrying the bust.
John Le Mesurier
The Scots Guards
J. B. Smith
Brig (rtd.) A. H. Swinton M.c.
A. W. Watkins
The Day They Robbed the Bank of England
In spite of a modest production budget, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England is a briskly directed thriller that aptly captures the look and feel of the era in which it takes place. More significantly, the film was important for launching the film career of Peter O'Toole, who appears in a key supporting role; he plays a bank guard whom Norgate befriends at the local pub, and later becomes the gang's chief nemesis. O'Toole had only appeared in minor roles in two other films before this (The Savage Innocents and Kidnapped, both in 1960) and was better known as a stage actor in London.
During of the filming of The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, O'Toole was a familiar figure in the Stratford neighborhood where he often performed. According to author Michael Freedland in his biography Peter O'Toole, the actor liked to have fun, "mostly settled around the favourite Stratford 'local,' the Dirty Duck. Ben Shepherd, the landlord, was, he said, 'the patron saint of us all.' Situated down by the river it was everyone's most popular haunt. For more than a year Peter held the Dirty Duck's speed record for consuming the yard of ale - forty seconds....As Peter once said: 'People treat Stratford as a place for pilgrimage, like Lourdes or Bethlehem. But there's nothing else to do there except drink. The locals detest the actors." Considering O'Toole's later health problems that were attributed to alcoholism, this period in his life obviously set a barroom standard for his future offscreen behavior.
Ironically, it was his performance in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England and not his acclaimed stage work in Shakespeare plays like The Taming of the Shrew that convinced director David Lean to cast O'Toole as the lead in his historical epic, Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Of course, O'Toole became internationally famous after the release of that film, but The Day They Robbed the Bank of England provides a fascinating glimpse of the young actor's natural and unaffected acting style before he began specializing in larger-than-life roles (Becket, 1964; The Lion in Winter, 1968).
Producer: Jules Buck
Director: John Guillermin
Screenplay: Howard Clewes, Richard Maibaum
Art Direction: Peggy Gick, Scott MacGregor
Cinematography: Georges Perinal
Editing: Frank Clarke
Music: Edwin T. Astley
Principal Cast: Aldo Ray (Norgate), Elizabeth Sellars (Iris Muldoon), Hugh Griffith (O'Shea), Peter O'Toole (Fitch), Kieron Moore (Walsh), Albert Sharpe (Tosher), John Le Mesurier (Green), Joseph Tomelty (Cohoun), Miles Malleson (Assistant Curator), Andrew Keir (Sergeant of the Guard).
BW-86m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford
The Day They Robbed the Bank of England
The opening credits contain the following statement: "The producers gratefully acknowledge the assistance given them by the War Office and Her Majesty's Brigade of Guards in providing officers and men for this production. Thanks are especially due to the Scots Guards." According to the pressbook for the film, it was inspired by a number of actual incidents in the history of the Bank of England. In the 1840s, an employee of a sewer maintenance company, while repairing some brick work, discovered a ventilation shaft that went under the Bank floor from a dried-up stream.
The man subsequently wrote letters to a director of the Bank of England, boasting that he could break into the vaults, and after he stated a specific time in which he would do this, armed guards were instructed to wait inside the vault. When the man broke through the floor, he was given a bonus of 1,000 pounds for his honesty. In 1872, the Bank was robbed of five million dollars, the only time such a robbery was successful. Three Americans involved were sentenced to life imprisonment, but were pardoned by Queen Victoria after twenty years. According to New York Mirror, the story of Irish revolutionaries robbing the Bank had become an Irish legend.
According to a September 14, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Geoffrey Tyrell and Arthur Lowe were added to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The film's pressbook relates that the Bank declined to give permission to film its vaults for security reasons, but that the sets were based on sketches and old prints from the British Museum of the vaults as they looked in 1900. The London County Council refused to give permission for the company to film in the sewers, so these were reconstructed on the studio lot. Her Majesty's Scots Guards, including the Regimental Pipers, were filmed on their nightly parade from Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace to the bank. The nightly walk had routinely taken place since the Gordon Riots of 1780. This was the first time permission was granted to a film company to have the road and footpaths fronting the Palace cleared. Other scenes were shot at Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and at dockyard locations in London.
Although the film was not Peter O'Toole's first motion picture acting assignment, having had a small role in the Walt Disney Production Kidnapped (see below), The Day They Robbed the Bank of England marked his first major role. The London newspaper the Evening News commented on performance: "It happened again this week-that magical moment in the critic's routine when a magnetic spark seems to come out of the screen and he knows that he is seeing the birth of a great star....I have an idea that Peter O'Toole is going to blaze a fiery trail over our screens that will make some other reigning satellites look stale." According to New York Times, after David Lean saw the film at its London premiere, he called O'Toole and asked him to test for the title role in Lawrence of Arabia (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
Released in United States 1960
Peter O'Toole makes his screen debut.
Released in United States 1960