There was more to JM Barrie than 'Peter Pan' and some rather unsavoury rumours. A superb satire of the British class system and a huge West End, 'The Admirable Crichton' was perhaps Barrie's biggest success besides the boy who never grew up. Such a sensation it was turned into a feature film, GB Samuelson's adaptation is now all but forgotten partially because it was silent but largely due to the fact the play was filmed more successfully in 1957.
The Admirable Crichton brought together two of British film's most prolific talents. Kenneth More mightn't be to everybody's taste but the man who'd previously been called on to play the braver-than-brave Douglas Bader (Reach For The Sky) was the perfect choice to play Crichton, the man-servant who comes into his own when he and the wealthy Brocklehurst family are stranded on a desert island. As for the man behind the camera, Lewis Gilbert's list of great movies is longer than most directors' filmographies. Educating Rita, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, Alfie, Carve Her Name With Pride - they're films anyone would be proud to have made. And since Gilbert had previously enjoyed success with More on the aforementioned Reach For The Sky, he was the perfect person to call the shots of Crichton.
In addition to a charming lead and a versatile director, The Admirable Crichton features great work from the talented Australian actress (and future Mrs Sean Connery) Diane Cliento, and a unbilled cameo from the adorable John Le Mesurier. As for the story, if it seems familiar that might be because it provided the inspiration for a particularly fine sketch featuring Messrs Corbett and Barker. As good as the Ronnies' effort was, Gilbert's Crichton is admirable indeed.
In a nutshell: Gilbert and More make a fine fist of bringing Barrie's play to the big screen.
By Richard Luck