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The Green Man (1956)
Warning: The full synopsis contains "spoilers" which describe key plot points. If you don't want to know the plot and outcome of this film then please don't read any further.

Happy Days

Alastair Sim in 3rd Assassin Disguise in The Green Man Alastair Sim in 2nd Assassin Disguise in The Green Man Alastair Sim in 1st Assassin Disguise in The Green Man Begins with a voiceover as Harry Hawkins, over a photograph of his class at Embrook House Preparatory School, details how he had placed an explosive in an ink pot and an electric charge in the pen. Only intending to humiliate his despised headteacher he accidently blows him up and kills him. This is presumably the origin of his profession. He goes on to relate his finest achievments as an assassin - the proviso being he will only eliminate the so-called pompous "great" people. In the short flashback to his previous assassinations Alastair gives an absolute masterclass in acting in his various disguises as a latin american spiv, an over-effusive business investor and an extremely malign diplomat.

Sir Gregory Upshott

Hawkins listens to Sir Gregory's speechHawkins states with some irony that he retired during the war because the competition was so fierce. . . until one day, though an old contact, he receives an assignment to assassinate Sir Gregory Upshott (Bart) - a merchant banker and pompous, boring politician. Hawkins attends a speech to assess his next victim. We then learn that Hawkins has also cultivated a relationship with Upshott's secretary - Marigold - to the extent that they are engaged to be married in three weeks. Marigold Hawkins calls upon Marigold at the Officegossips about her boss and informs Harry that Sir Gregory will be visiting a hotel, The Green Man, the coming weekend as part of his predatory attempts to strike up an affair with one of his employees. As she is called in to Upshott's office, Hawkins hastily scribbles the details of Upshott's rendezvous down on a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, there is carbon paper underneath and Marigold notices what he has done and becomes suspicious of his intentions.


Hawkins returns to his home - a house called "Windyridge". Police Seargent Bassett is waiting for him but we are relieved to establish it is simply to engage in their regular Friday chess match. His technician and partner-in-crime, Angus McKechnie, is in the outhouse, putting together the bomb intended for Upshott; this creates a certain degree of tension as the chess game commences. It is wonderful to watch the expressions on Alastair's face flicker and change constantly.

Trouble with Marigold

Hawkins tries to calm Marigold

His chess match is interrupted by a telephone call from Marigold (fiancé and "light-of-his-life") who is so concerned as to why he scribbled down the rendezvous details that she is even threatening to inform the police. She states that she is coming to Windyridge to discuss the matter and will brook no argument. There is a beautiful scene in which a myriad of subtle expressions cross Alastair's face as he attempts to assuage Marigold and explain the matter away.

A Swift Swap
Green Man Original Poster

Hawkins returns to his chess game during which he thinks of a plan. He arranges for Angus to switch the housename sign with that of next door - "Windyridge" to "Appleby". Marigold soon arrives at what she thinks is "Windyridge" and is shown in to "Appleby" by Angus. Alastair's voiceover interposes: "When fate takes a hand she sometimes chooses the meanest of instruments for her purpose". This refers to George Cole as William Blake , a vacuum cleaner salesman, who arrives at what he also believes to be "Windyridge" to demonstrate his cleaner to Hawkins' housekeeper. He engages an extremely nervous Angus in a sales pitch for "The Little Wizard of the Carpet". As Blake proceeds with his demonstration by grinding dirt and grit in to the rug, Angus proceeds to switch back the housename signs. As Blake farcically discovers there is no electric in the house to enable him to vacuum the dirt from the rug, he also discovers blood on the carpet.

The Customer is always right

At this moment Miss Vincent, the new owner of "Appleby", returns to the house and is surprised to find Blake and his accompanying mess. The pair initially squabble about how the misunderstanding came about but Blake's naive enthusiasm eventually wins her around.

Blood to Turnham Green
The Green Man Lobby Card

Hawkins makes his excuses to leave the sergeant with a piece of one-upmanship straight from "School for Scoundrels". Hawkins pretends he has seen the sergeant's check-mate in eight moves; this enables him to lose and send the sergeant on his way whilst at the same time letting the sergeant know he is still a better player. Blake begins to persuade Miss Vincent that something terrible has occurred in her house and they both start to investigate what they begin to believe is a possible murder.

Upstairs, Downstairs
The Green Man - George Cole and Jill Adams

At this point, Miss Vincent's fianc�, Reginald Willoughby-Cruft, also enters the house. Alarmed at the noise he makes, Blake and Miss Vincent hide under the bed and it here that Willoughby-Cruft discovers them. He is unsurprisingly annoyed but soon begins to treat them like naughty school children and logically explains away the recent sequence of events. However, Reginald and Miss Vincent end up arguing about how to hang pictures and this ultimately leads to accusations as to why Blake was in the bedroom in the first place. Reginald finally storms out of the house.

Musical Marigold
The Green Man Trade Advert

Miss Vincent chases after Reginald in an attempt to make-up after their argument, whilst William Blake is left to clean up the mess he has made on the hearth rug. Whilst doing so he casually notices one of Reginald's pictures is based on musical notation and then attempts to try to play it on the piano. Half way through his attempt to "play the picture" he strikes some "dead" notes; when investigating, he discovers Marigold's body which has beendumped in the piano by Hawkins' assistant, McKechnie. Needless to sat, a great deal of panic now ensues as Blake tries to gather his wits and find some help.

Telephone Trick
Alastair Sim and George Cole in The Green Man

Blake runs next door in panic and in an attempt to get help in contacting the police. The leads to the famous scene which was completely improvised by Alastair and George Cole. The plot demands that Blake needs to ring the police and Hawkins needs to prevent this happening; the rest is improvised. Perhaps the finest moment of this scene is when Blake declares: "You can imagine, opening a piano and seeing a thing like that". Alastair, as the increasingly exasperated Hawkins replies (almost to himself and almost giving the game away): "A piano? He put her inside a pian. . . ? Are you telling me that whoever killed her put her inside a pianoforte?"

Marigold gets the Boot
Jill Adams as Miss Vincent

When Hawkins sees Angus retrieve the body back to his outhouse he persuades Blake to return to Appleby in case Miss Vincent returns. Hawkins tells Angus to dispose of Marigold as he sees fit. Hawkins then finalises the placement of his bomb in a radio which is to be detonated at the conclusion of Upshott's speech. Blake hears a noise upstairs (he is unaware that Miss Vincent has already returned). He picks up a golf club to defend himself and bursts in to her bedroom to discover the rather beautiful Jill Adams dressed in no more than a basque.

Reconstruction Reginald
Argentinian Poster for The Green Man

Blake, whilst innocently enjoying Miss Vincent's state of undress, tries to convince her that a murder has taken place by reconstructing what may have happened. At this moment, Reginald inevitably returns as he has forgotten a poem he is to read over the radio Reginald finds Blake and a semi-undressed Miss Vincent rolling around on the floor as Blake has been trying to reconstruct the murder. Reginald once again introduces the voice of reason and discloses that there is no body in the piano. Once again he infers an inappropriate relationship between his fianc� and Blake. Miss Vincent slaps his face and he storms out once again with the delightful comment: "By heaven, I'd thrash the life out of you, if I didn't have to read the nine o'clock news".

Stunning Entrance
The Green Man Double Video Cover

Just as Blake tries to convince Miss Vincent for the final time that there was a body in the piano, Marigold makes a dramatic entrance in to the living room. It would appear that she was only knocked unconscious by McKechnie and has escaped from the boot of his car. Marigold warns them that Upshott is to be murdered at 10:28 at The Green Man in "New . . ." (the added complication being that he is staying at the hotel under a pseudonym) but she then loses consciousness. The couple investigate and believe that it can only be The Green Man at Newcliff. We now see McKechnie spending a good part of the night digging a grave for Marigold.

A Right Charlie

The next scene sees Hawkins checking in to The Green Man with the bomb. We see him quickly identify the radio he is to replace with his own duplicate radio containing the bomb. We also see the arrival of "Charlie" Boughtflower (Terry Thomas), caddish beau of Lily the Receptionist. Charlie is cheating on his wife and feels she is behaving suspiciously and also feels he is being followed.

Bomb's Away

Next to arrive is Sir Gregory Upshott himself with his potential conquest for the evening. There is great fun with underwear and a loose catch on a suitcase. Sir Gregory as the pompous and experienced man of the world accompanied by the young and delightfully innocent Eileen Moore.


A Trio with Brio
Alastair Squirms with Delight at the Trio with Brio

Hawkins enters the hotel lounge under the pretence of writing a few letters before bed bur really intending to place the bomb in the lounge. He is initially taken by surprise and is very shocked when a trio of musicians begin to play within the lounge. This is the greatest scene of the film and one of my all time Alastair Sim favourites. Alastair goes through a wonderful array of expressions from shock, to thoughtfulness, amusement to ecstasy as, in spite of himself, he squirms with delight at the music. The three musicians are also very eccentric and it all adds up to a strange and charged atmosphere. The scene contains the wonderful comment from Hawkins: "Bravo. Ha ha. Bravo ladies. Bravo. I don't think I've heard a trio play with such brio". He then gallantly offers to buy them a drink in order to get them out of the way.

Atrocious Aliases
Hawkins distracts the Trio

Eileen cries as Upshott signs the couple in to the hotel register as Mr and Mrs. Smith. Hawkins makes his excuses and leaves the bar in order to make the swap of the radios. As the trio return to play Hawkins is dismayed to hear they will be playing until 11 o'clock and as such may become collateral casualties of his device. He therefore offers to buy them another drink if they take a break (presumably as the bomb is about to explode. Blake and Miss Vincent now arrive at the hotel. They peruse the hotel register and then attempt to find Upshott and the bomb.


Blake stops "Charlie" Boughtflower believing him to be Upshott and tells him he is in danger. Boughtflower believes it is to do with his affair and proceeds to flee. Due to an incident with the hotel clock there is great panic as Blake and Miss Vincent believes the bomb is to explode any second. All parties flee to the cellar.

The Calm before . . . . More Panic
Alastair Sim as Hawkins

Hawkins calmly re-enters the lounge to the gentle strains of music from the trio. After a while he makes gestures to the trio that it is time to re-visit the bar in an attempt to remove them from danger. They immediately speed up their previously sedate music and dash out with him. On seeing Upshott enter the lounge Hawkins follows him and switches on the "radio" with Sir Gregory's taped speech which will ultimately trigger the bomb.

And the Upshott is . . . .

Realising the mistake with the clock Blake and Miss Vincent once gain start a frantic panic in the hotel looking for Upshott and the bomb. Hawkins leaves the lounge confident that Upshott will stay to listen to his own speech on the "radio" and therefore reap his reward. Blake then spots Hawkins as he attempts to leave the hotel but fails to stop him. Blake hears Upshott's voice and understands that the radio must contain the bomb. He thrusts in to the lounge and hurls the radio out of the window. As Hawkins escapes by car he crashes in to McKechnie who is coming to tell him about Marigolds escape. They then both crash in to a police car as they attempt to escape together. Needless to say they are both apprehended. As Blake and Miss Vincent return home by car they hear Reginald reading the poem over the radio. Half way through he makes a personal appeal to Anne and tells her that their relationship is through. He then breaks down before he is taken off air. Blake and Miss Vincent seem rather pleased with the new arrangement.



Hawkins: When fate takes a hand she sometimes chooses the meanest of instruments for her purpose.

Blake:You can imagine, opening a piano and seeing a thing like that.
Hawkins: A piano? He put her inside a pian. . . ? Are you telling me that whoever killed her put her inside a pianoforte?

Miss Vincent: Reginald's got to read this tonight on the Home Service.
Blake: Well he's bound to have another copy.
Miss Vincent: I don't think he has.
Blake: Well, he's probably learned it by heart.
Miss Vincent: He can't have, it's a modern poem.
Blake: He can make it up as he goes along then.

Hawkins: Bravo. Ha ha. Bravo ladies. Bravo. I don't think I've heard a trio play with such brio.