William Rose, who scripted Genevieve, has fashioned a shrewd and bright comedy around the exhibition side of motion pictures. The centre of interest is a small, derelict picture house inherited by a young struggling writer.

William Rose, who scripted Genevieve, has fashioned a shrewd and bright comedy around the exhibition side of motion pictures. The centre of interest is a small, derelict picture house inherited by a young struggling writer.

The theatre, in a small, smelly provincial town, is adjacent to the mainline railroad station. The staff comprises three ancients – Margaret Rutherford, who played the piano in the silent days, but now sits at the cash desk; Peter Sellers, the boothman with a weakness for whisky; and Bernard Miles, a doorman and general handyman.

When Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna inherit the theatre, their immediate reaction is to sell out to the opposition, who had made a substantial offer to the previous owner. But the offer now forthcoming would not even be adequate to meet the inherited debts, so they set about on a big bluff, pretending to re-open in the hope that the bids will be bettered.

The film is loaded with delightful touches, and there’s one prolonged laughter sequence when the projectionist is on a drinking bout and Bill Travers takes over the booth.

The Smallest Show on Earth

UK

Production

British Lion. Director Basil Dearden; Producer Michael Relph; Screenplay William Rose, John Eldridge; Camera Douglas Slocombe; Editor Oswald Hafenrichter; Music William Alwyn; Art Director Allan Harris

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1957. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Bill Travers Virginia McKenna Leslie Phillips Peter Sellers Margaret Rutherford Bernard Miles

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