Told by his doctor that he has no more than a few months to live, drab British workingman George Bird (Alec Guinness) decides to spend his savings on lodging at a seaside resort. Once there, however, he finds his identity ... more »caught between upstairs and downstairs, the guests and the ?help.? A droll social commentary as well as an unpredictable dark comedy about life, death, and luck, Last Holiday is one of Guinness?s finest moments.« less
"Alec Guinness is in top form in this dark comedy about an unexceptional, practically invisible salaryman who decides to take one last vacation upon learning that he only has a short time to live. The seemingly innocuous, inauspicious George Bird is exactly the kind of role that Sir Alec was born to play. Bird goes through some big changes throughout this seemingly slight entertainment, but Guinness makes every one of them believable and consistently goes for more than the easy laugh.
Be forewarned that the film does not end on a happy note. I was expecting to be entertained--and I was--but I was surprised at how moved I was by the ending (which is both sudden and ironic). Although Last Holiday isn't as well known as many of Guinness' Ealing-era comedies (most notably 1948's Kind Hearts and Coronets), it should be. It really isn't a slight entertainment at all. On the contrary, it's more substantial than most, dealing as successfully as it does with the notion that it isn't how long you live but how well, and features one of this great actor's finest, most indelible performances. The colorful supporting cast (including the ubiquitous Wildrid Hyde-White and Bernard Lee of James Bond's "M" fame) is with him all the way. A keeper."
A dark, superior British comedy
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 01/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A young Alec Guinness stars in this clever story of a mild-mannered, average sort of fellow who is told by his doctor that he has only days, perhaps weeks left to life. On medical advice, Guinness quits his job, liquidates his life savings, and goes off to a posh country resort on one last, luxuriously bittersweet holiday. Naturally, once he's given up all hope, everything in his life starts coming up roses: mistaken as a man of means by the hotel's inquisitive clientele, Guinness finds all sorts of new creative, financial and romantic opportunities arising out of nowhere. J. B. Priestley's script is in part a wry, piercing comment on Great Britain's class-bound society, where initiative and imagination were stifled by prejudice and regimentation... Only because he feels he has nothing left to lose does Guinness's George Bird work up the nerve to give business tycoons and Lords of Parliament a piece of his mind; once he does they recognize him as a man of great standing. Politics aside, though, this is also a very entertaining and somewhat sad little comedy, with an twist ending that happy, happy Hollywood wouldnt touch with a ten-foot pole. Recommended."
Low-key, touching masterpiece
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | 02/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"George Bird is an unimportant cog in the merchant machine when he learns that he has Lampington's Disease--invariably fatal. Through luck--meeting a beneficent salesman looking for the perfect man for an estate-sale bounty--and fatalism--losing any inhibition against speaking his true thoughts--the down-to-earth, plain-spoken words of Bird strike a spark in a broad range of characters at a posh resort and change the course of more than a few lives. Guinness is real, honest, and touching in his best role ever, in my mind. If the ending is sentimental and cutting at the same time, well, good for these old black-and-white movies. Bird is a prince among men in his triumph of substance over style and appearance."
Can Hardly Wait for This One
A Reader/Viewer from Northern Calif | 05/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have yet to see the DVD of this splendid Guinness film, but it is most certainly one of his very best. I do happen to have it on VHS and am thrilled it will soon be available on DVD. My only hope is that the transfer has been remastered and will be worthy of this exceptional film. If you are a Guinness fan, or a fan of intellignet, older British films, then don't miss this one."
Quality not up to Janus/Criterion Standards
Atlanta Guy | East Coast, USA | 08/07/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The film itself is enjoyable; however, the video quality of this particular transfer (Essential Art House, released by Janus Films -- sister company of Criterion) leaves much to be desired. This is certainly watchable, but the blacks are muddy, detail is lacking, and there is just that overall "late-night rerun" look about the whole thing that tends to turn the uninitiated away from older films.
All of the black and white Essential Art House and Criterion titles I have seen in the past were all of excellent-to-breathtaking quality (just watch Antonioni's "L'eclisse" or any of the Bergman Trilogy of Faith), and that is why this release has me a little worried... guys, please stay on your game. We're counting on you! "