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  Love Lottery, The How Famous Is Too Famous?
Year: 1954
Director: Charles Crichton
Stars: David Niven, Peggy Cummins, Anne Vernon, Herbert Lom, Charles Victor, Gordon Jackson, Felix Aylmer, Hugh McDermott, Stanley Maxted, June Clyde, John Chandos, Theodore Bikel, Sebastian Cabot, Eugene Deckers, Andreas Malandrinos
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rex Allerton (David Niven) is one of the top movie star, matinee idols in the world, and when he arrives for his premiere the place is mobbed with fans who want a piece of him. Literally - when he walks between the crowds their hysteria gets the better of them, and they wrestle him to the ground, grabbing at his clothes. But they go further, yanking at his head and limbs until he is torn apart and the girls rush off, fighting over his detached body parts until... he wakes up in bed, a nervous wreck after yet another nightmare. He should really try to do something to allay those fears about his privacy and personal safety, but what? Even today his butler catches a couple of fans who have broken into his home and are raiding his wardrobe...

The Love Lottery was one of the last of the original Ealing comedies, a brand that even today is much respected, but in 1955 was discontinued after a couple of decades' worth of hits, and the studio sold off. It had produced a bunch of recognised classics in that time, but this little item was not one of them, and as you have doubtless noticed, lacked the name recognition to truly endure in the memory as something like The Lavender Hill Mob or Passport to Pimlico had, though that was not to dismiss it outright, for it contained plenty to intrigue. Not least an examination of the life of a movie star told from the inside that acknowledged the psychological aspect of fame may not be as welcome as the financial benefits: Rex feels like it's straitjacketed him.

Although the jokes here were never hilarious, it was such an unusual picture that it was never less than engaging, helped by Niven's accustomed charisma at his most affable (which is pretty darn affable). Those dream sequences in particular were genuinely strange, as you can surmise from the opening nightmare, often featuring Peggy Cummins as the young woman most emblematic of a Rex Allerton fan, where she plays Juliet to his Romeo but, for instance finds him so irresistible she launches herself from the balcony in a terrifying display of amorousness. Peggy was playing an actual character, the starstruck Sally, who idolises Rex and becomes significant in the film's latter stages when the lottery of the title arises, a publicity ruse for a gambling company led by a conniving Herbert Lom seeking to boost the popularity of the draws.

Lom, as Amico, has a secret weapon in the shape of Jane (actually Jeanne), played by Anne Vernon in a typical role as the demure lead in a frothy, light comedy (she is probably best known now as Catherine Deneuve's mother in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg a decade afterwards). But there was something different about Jane from the usual leading lady, as she is a mathematical genius, which renders her a lot more interesting even if her ambition is to settle down and get married to an extent. Amico tries to get Rex on side by having Jane seduce him (nothing too steamy, just out for dinner in the attractive Italian locations), since Amico wants to more or less sell the star to the lucky lottery ticket holder, a plot point that doubles as high concept and a satire of the publicity hungry nineteen-fifties where that kind of stunt abounded, if maybe not quite as extreme. So if the gags wouldn't have you rolling, the detailed images of the stress of fame were memorable, and its sympathy was valid without being cloying. Quite the casting coup in the final shot, too. Music by Benjamin Frankel.

[Network release this on Blu-ray with an image gallery and the trailer as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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