One of the hardest questions you can as a big movie fan is, “So, what’s your favorite movie?” It’s just not that cut and dry for many of us. For me there are many movies I’d like to mention when asked that question. Maybe it’s because I feel like just naming one film doesn’t give an accurate picture of my movie viewing habits. My wife, on the other hand, who is not a huge movie fan, is very quick with naming her favorite flick…Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. For some reason this sweet woman who is often so offended by evil deeds in movies has a thing for films about con artists. That given, I have a feeling she would enjoy this little film about a con-artist trying to leave the grift and achieve a normal life…1953’s Always a Bride.
The setting is a ritzy hotel on the French Riviera where Terence Winch (Terence Morgan), an investigator for the British treasury, stays as he investigates Brits who are cheating on the holiday allowance. One day he notices a unique newlywed couple checking into the hotel…Clare Hemsley (Peggy Cummins) and her new husband Victor Hemsley (Ronald Squire), who is much much older than his bride. As it turns out, though, Victor and Clare are a father-daughter team of con artists. Their ruse is that on their wedding night, the old man supposedly runs off with all the young bride’s money. This leads to the other rich socialite women staying in the hotel pitching in to give the young penniless girl a substantial cash gift to get her on her feet. It helps that the woman who starts up the collection is in on the con. Unfortunately, Clare is growing tired of working the con and longs for a normal life with a husband in the suburbs. Still, she goes through with the plan.
As the collection is taken up among the rich hotel guests, Terence decides to extend his kindness to Clare. She, sees in him an opportunity to snag the husband she’s been looking for and quickly decides to accompany him on a night out in Monte Carlo. The romantic sparks soon start to fly. This makes it very easy for her to tell her father that she is officially out when she meets up with him in Nice.
When Terence realizes that Clare has left, he learns where she’s headed and sets off to find her. Along with him is a police inspector (Jacques Brunius) who is pursuing the grifters, but doesn’t let on to Terence. Meanwhile, Victor runs across an old con artist pal, Teddy (Geoffrey Summer), and the two start to concoct a new plan. It’s a scheme they’ve used before where they convince a wealthy target that they are selling him the hotel they are staying in. Though she wants nothing to do with it, Clare decides the best way out is to help her dad with one last job, but the challenge is keeping it from Terence.
This is a sweet little movie that manages to be very funny at times. I think part of what my movie enjoys about con artist movies is that they are always changing things up. Who’s conning who and all that. This movie does do a fine job of keeping the viewer guessing as it twists and turns through the different con games. There are also many funny little side gags sprinkled throughout. My favorite comes courtesy of James Hayter, playing the wealthy mark of the final con. In one scene his many young children (played by the actor’s actual kids) come demanding their “pocket money,” which he gives to them in thick bundles of large bills.
What really made me a fan of the film, though, was the performance by Peggy Cummins. To begin with, she is absolutely luminous in this film. It’s easy to see why Terence Morgan’s character would become so enthralled with her when she stares at him with those hypnotic eyes. She also does a wonderful job in the scenes where she’s playing the con. No mark could ever believe she had anything less than honest intentions. The fact that we know what she’s up to gives her performance a sly comedic edge. It’s a wonderful role and she is amazing in it.
Always a Bride was a great surprise. It’s got a clever premise and a skilled cast – which also includes Sebastian Cabot in a small role as a taxi driver. It is sweet, sly and funny throughout.