Cast & Crew
Two couples take pleasure in vying with eachother in roadraces with their sporty roadsters in turn-of-the-century England.
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
Best Writing, Screenplay
Made on a shoestring, Genevieve was nearly shelved by Rank studio executives who thought it was too bad to release. But it became a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and was one of the most profitable films in the studio's history. The British Film Institute calls Genevieve "the best Ealing comedy that never was," not only because the film's irreverent humor is reminiscent of the eccentric comedies produced by that British studio in the 1940s and 50s, but also because of the Ealing connections of Genevieve's creators. Director Henry Cornelius had worked as an editor for French director Rene Clair, and in his native South Africa, before joining Ealing in 1944 as a producer. Cornelius' first film as director was Passport to Pimlico (1949), after which he left Ealing to become an independent producer and director. American screenwriter William Rose would later write one of the best Ealing comedies, The Ladykillers (1955). Cornelius even offered Genevieve to his former Ealing bosses, but was turned down.
So with a meager budget from the Rank Organisation, Genevieve was filmed mostly on location, on a 57-day shooting schedule between October and February. The weather was often cold and drizzly, and the perfectionist Cornelius often insisted on take after take. Kenneth More recalled that one miserable day, Kay Kendall finally snapped, grabbed a parasol out of the car and started beating Cornelius with it and screaming hysterically. There was no budget for studio rear projection, so the production crew rigged up a large flatbed truck (known as a "Queen Mary") that had been used to transport military aircraft, with a mockup of the car in the back, and camera, lights, and crew in the front. The actual driving scenes were a challenge for John Gregson, who didn't have a driver's license, although he had taken some driving lessons before production began. Dinah Sheridan later recalled giving him driving instructions under her breath in several of the long shots.
Of the four leading players in Genevieve, three were experienced film actors. Gregson had appeared in several Ealing comedies, and Sheridan had been acting in films since she was a child. More had theatrical as well as film experience. But Genevieve was the film that established all three comedy stars. As for Kendall, she had been signed to a contract and groomed for stardom in 1945 by J. Arthur Rank. She was given an important role in Britain's most expensive musical extravaganza, London Town (1946). The film turned out to be one of Britain's biggest flops, and Kendall always claimed she was told that she was ugly and untalented and had no future in films. But she persevered, rebuilt her career, and the role of the madcap model in Genevieve proved to be her breakthrough. The image of Kendall playing the trumpet in Genevieve is an icon of British film comedy.
To score Genevieve, Cornelius hired Larry Adler, the American harmonica virtuoso, who had been blacklisted in the early 1950s, and moved to England. Adler's score for harmonica and a small orchestra added to the charm of the film, but his name was taken off the U.S. prints, and the music was attributed to conductor Muir Mathieson. The score was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to The High and the Mighty (1954). Adler's credit was restored in Academy records in 1993. William Rose's screenplay was also nominated for an Academy Award, and Genevieve won a BAFTA Award as Best British Film, and a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Film.
Critics compared Kay Kendall's beauty and comedy skills to those of Carole Lombard, and Kendall, like Lombard, went on to a brilliant but tragically brief career. She died of leukemia in 1959, at the age of 32. Henry Cornelius also seemed poised for a major career, but he, too, suffered health problems, and made only three more films before his death in 1958, at the age of 44.
In early 2005, it was announced that Roger Moore would star in a sequel, Genevieve II, playing an aristocrat who takes part in the vintage car race from London to Brighton. Nothing has been heard of that proposed film since. And, no doubt, the many fans of Genevieve hope nothing will come of it.
Producer-Director: Henry Cornelius
Screenplay: William Rose
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Editor: Clive Donner
Costume Design: Marjory Cornelius
Art Direction: Michael Stringer
Music: Larry Adler
Cast: John Gregson (Alan McKim), Dinah Sheridan (Wendy McKim), Kenneth More (Ambrose Claverhouse), Kay Kendall (Rosalind Peterson), Geoffrey Keen (1st Speed Cop), Harold Siddons (2nd Speed Cop), Reginald Beckwith (J.C. Callahan), Arthur Wontner (Elderly Gentleman), Joyce Grenfell (Hotel Proprietress).
by Margarita Landazuri
This is the end! Making a public spectacle of yourselves. I couldn't have believed you could have behaved like this, either of you. Just hauling like brooligans.- Wendy McKim
Hauling like brooligans!- Ambrose Claverhouse
Well, frankly children, this is beyond me!- Ambrose Claverhouse
The United Kingdom
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Foreign Films by the 1954 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Foreign Films by the 1954 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States 1954
Released in United States 1954