Alexander Mackendrick directed The Ladykillers, a 1955 British black comedy crime film for Ealing Studios. Mrs. Wilberforce is played by Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner, and Katie Johnson. The script was written by William Rose, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and won a BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay for it. He said that he had dreamed the entire movie and that all he had to do when he awoke was remember the specifics.
Professor Marcus, who has taken both rooms available so that he and his four companions – Major Courtney, Mr. Harvey, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Lawson – can practice as a Christian singing group, in the most recent lodger of Louisa Wilberforce. All of this is a ruse, as Marcus is a criminal genius who, along with the other four members of his current gang, is plotting their newest crime out of the house, an armored car robbery. Marcus is banking on Mrs. Wilberforce’s character being true to what he knows about her, allowing him to exploit her as a dupe in the scheme.
However, as other pieces of the crime emerge, Marcus and the four must determine what to do, even if they feel Mrs. Wilberforce has figured out what’s going on. What they do may be influenced by the fact that Mrs. Wilberforce is nice with the cops, despite the fact that the cops, in turn, mostly amuse her in her role as the proverbial harmless little old lady.
The Ladykillers Filming Locations
Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) unintentionally gives houseroom to Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness, in a role, meant for Alistair Sim) and his gang of robbers who are disguised as a string quintet in this classic Ealing black comedy. The setting is King’s Cross in London, back before the area became associated with drugs and prostitutes.
The Car Robbery
The armored car robbery begins beneath the Victorian gasometers on Goods Way, near King’s Cross Station, and actually occurs on Battle Bridge Road. This cobblestone street, flanked by the magnificent ironwork of the gasometers, was a well-known location in films including Alfie, Backbeat, Chaplin, The Missionary, and L’accompagnatrice. As part of the King’s Cross regeneration, the area has been considerably rebuilt. Only one of the gasometers is still operational.
Mrs. Wilberforce’s Street
Although the view from the house is of Argylle Street, the house was built on an empty lot on the western end of Frederica Street, about a mile north of Caledonian Road and facing Pentonville Prison.
The lopsided house was designed with no genuine right-angles, in keeping with the off-kilter plot. Regrettably, the entire street has subsequently been renovated into a housing development, leaving no trace of the ancient houses depicted in the film.
The tunnel entrance was indeed behind Frederica Street, where the remains are loaded into freight trailers leaving King’s Cross Station. It’s the Copenhagen Tunnel’s entrance. There are three tunnels in all, with the one used in the film serving the line to the King’s Cross goods yards.
Vale Royal, a cul-de-sac leading east from York Way, N7, leads to a small car park where the Professor and Louis (Herbert Lom) conduct their final shoot-out, as well as the decrepit grandeur of the tunnel entrances, can no longer be seen from Frederica Street. Old-fashioned signals that appeared to be lethal have long been superseded.
St Pancras Station
Mrs. Wilberforce’s house appears to be at the end of a cul-de-sac in Euston Road, NW1, facing St Pancras Station, now St Pancras International. The home is clearly meant to be in Argylle Street, which runs south from Euston Road, as seen from the station. Argylle Street, on the other hand, is not a cul-de-sac, and the railway lines from the terminus continue north.
Remakes Of The Ladykillers
Ilja Hurnk, a Czech composer, transformed the film into an opera called The Lady and the Robbers in 1966. Bruce Bedford’s radio adaptation of the film, starring Edward Petherbridge and Margot Boyd, was the first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on January 13, 1996.
In 2004, the Coen Brothers directed an American remake of the film featuring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J. K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, and Ryan Hurst, which starred Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J. K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, and Ryan Hurst. The film’s setting is relocated from London to Saucier, Mississippi, which is home to a riverboat casino.