Gordon Harker was fifty-five when Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday came out. It’s very strange to see a film from this period with someone his age the lead in a comedic mystery. I’ve never seen him in anything and I can’t remember seeing Alastair Sim in anything but I know Sim’s name. I spent the entire film trying to picture Harker as Scrooge, not thinking the bumbling sidekick could have been Sim.
What’s also interesting Harker’s brilliant detective’s fallibility. He makes mistakes, overlooks clues, thinks about things and even tries to work them out with other people’s help. In short, he’s a terrible film detective. It makes him so human, so believable, some of Sim’s more absurd characteristics are smoothed out. At the end, it’s not clear Sim is such a bumbler, which works for and against the film.
I have two complaints about the film. First, it doesn’t really take place on Harker’s holiday. The first act–the film is beautifully structured, especially for a whodunit, with a real fifteen minute first act–does take place on holiday but then it ends as the murder investigation begins. The holiday scenes were amusing and the setting good; I felt a little let down.
The second problem is more significant. We never find out the motive for the crime. The film concentrates on the rather complicated method and the explanation behind it, but never the simple motive. The ending is hurried with no time spent explaining.
But it’s a fun picture, with great acting.
Directed by Walter Forde; screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on an adaptation by J.O.C. Orton, a novel by Leo Grex and characters created by Hans Wolfgang Priwin; director of photography, Jack E. Cox; edited by R.E. Dearing; music by Charles Williams; produced by Edward Black; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Gordon Harker (Inspector Hornleigh), Alastair Sim (Sergeant Bingham), Linden Travers (Miss Meadows), Wally Patch (Police Sergeant), Edward Chapman (Captain Fraser), Philip Leaver (Bradfield), Kynaston Reeves (Dr. Manners), John Turnbull (Chief Constable) and Wyndham Goldie (Sir George Winbeck).