At the turn of the 20th Century, HG Wells turned from writing futuristic sci-fi to more down to earth accounts of British society. In Kipps, he draws on his own experiences of Britain’s class-ridden social structure to provide an entertaining autobiographical tale. Director Carol Reed, who also made such classics as The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, sticks faithfully to the core of Wells’ novel and produces a diverting comedy of Victorian manners.
Michael Redgrave is unquestionably superb in the title role. As Kipps, he’s the epitome of the honest working class lad – cheerful, unremarkable (despite the subsequent renaming of this film as The Remarkable Mr Kipps), but intelligent enough to realise when he’s having the wool pulled over his eyes. The film follows his rise from orphan to draper’s assistant in stuffy Folkestone and thence, via a fortuitous legacy, to upper-middle-class wannabe.
Although observations on the tedium of working class life are sharp and true, the film really comes into its own when, post-windfall, Kipps meets the grasping Helen Walshingham (Wynyward), a social climber keen to introduce Kipps into society, and to part him from his money. But underneath his newly acquired gloss, Kipps remains a simple man, and after a chance meeting with first love Ann (Calvert) at a party, he starts to long for a life uncomplicated by self-improvement.
Michael Redgrave as Kipps (adult)
Diana Wynyard as Helen Walshingham
Phyllis Calvert as Ann Pornick (adult)
Max Adrian as Chester Coote
Philip Frost as Kipps (boy)
Diana Calderwood as Ann Pornick (girl)
Michael Wilding as Ronnie Walshingham
Helen Haye as Mrs. Walshingham
Hermione Baddeley as Miss Mergle
Director: Carol Reed
Novel: H.G. Wells
Screenplay: Sidney Gilliat
UK | 82 minutes | 1941