...This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: “Let’s try to make a story about it.” C.S. Lewis.
In The Guardian of 25.10.15, Philip French’s choice of “classic DVD” was The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955):
“…The dedicated criminality of the Marcus quintet, accompanied as it is by incompetence (Lom’s Louis alone seems like a true professional, though his confidence is undermined by paranoia), proves no match for Mrs Wilberforce’s combination of old-fashioned Victorian values. They’re dispatched to their early graves with witty heartlessness, as she goes magisterially on her way, hatpin firmly in place, Edwardian skirt an inch above the ground and umbrella at the ready for rain or retributory justice…”
From user reviews at the IMDb.com website:
Jeremy-93 30 October 1999:
“One of the Ealing studio’s finest achievements, this immensely entertaining crime caper looks at first glance to be pure, inconsequential entertainment. But it doubles as a sly, subtle rummage around the psychology of the respectable, old-fashioned middle classes, with Katie Johnson deserving top billing alongside Alec Guinness (she doesn’t get it) for her remarkable turn as the lady in question, the redoubtable Mrs Wilberforce.
No less than the not-quite-ruthless-enough gang of criminals who scheme in her house, she lives in her own private universe with its own particular rules and values. Though she begins the film as the stereotype of a maddeningly officious pillar of local society, it gradually emerges that there is a freer as well as shrewder spirit locked in there than meets the eye. The umbrella she is always losing (she herself suggests that she unconsciously wants to lose it), the escapologist parrot, and most poignantly the memory of a 21st birthday party interrupted by the end of the Victorian age, all hint at an inner life that the comic plot could easily have done without. The screenplay, deservedly Oscar-nominated, has the genius and economy to provide us with all these hints without ever slowing down a tightly-edited and superbly directed narrative…”
theowinthrop 20 September 2005:
“…In her costume throughout the film, her real symbol is her umbrella. She always carries it, even when it is sunny out. The umbrella is a symbol of respect too – in one scene a police officer stops her to return the umbrella when she leaves it behind accidentally. Umbrellas are for protection, like Victorian morality is supposed to be. Interestingly enough, at the tail end of the film, when she is convinced by the police (who don’t realize it) to keep the stolen money, her morality is dented, and she abandons her old umbrella…”