by Alec Guinness
Monday 6 May (1996)
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB is being shown on TV this evening but I won't be watching it. (If only I had received 1 [pound] each time one of the Ealing comedies was shown I would be a rich man. My contract didn't cover mechanical reproduction.) It was a good film, I think; well over forty years old now and mercifully it only lasted an hour and a half. Stanley Holloway and I got on exceedingly well and became good friends. He was always genial, easy-going and meticulously professional.
Ealing Studios never succeeded in killing me in spite of some quite good tries, the first of which was during the making of LAVENDER HILL. Rehearsing a brief scene in which Stanley and I were required to escape from the top of the Eiffel Tower, the director (Charles Crichton) said, 'Alec, there is a trap door over there - where it says Workmen Only - I'd like you to run to it, open it and start running down the spiral staircase. Stanley will follow.' So I did as asked. A very dizzying sight to the ground greeted me. But I completed half a spiral before I noticed that three feet in front of me the steps suddenly ceased - broken off. I sat down promptly where I was and cautiously started to shift myself back to the top, warning Stanley to get out of the way.
'What the hell are you doing?' the director yelled. 'Down! Further down!'
'Further down is eternity,' I called back.
Stanley and I regained the panoramic view of Paris pale and shaking. No one had checked up on the staircase and no one apologized; that wasn't Ealing policy.