» » How to Murder a Rich Uncle (1957)

Short summary

The impoverished Clitterburn family live on a grand English estate but times are hard and the head of the household, Sir Henry, seizes upon news of the impending arrival of their rich Canadian Uncle George as the solution to their financial troubles.

Last film of Katie Johnson.

Early film role for Michael Caine who repeats his one-word line "Aye" several times during the story.

Nigel Patrick introduces the cast at the end of the film and pronounces the name of Athene Seyler as Atheeny Siler.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Abywis
    Nigel Patrick does double-duty as star and director of this low-key but hilarious spoof of such genteel British thrillers as AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. John Paxton's script finds rich American uncle Charles Coburn paying a visit to the English ancestral home where, unbeknownst to him, his aristocratic nephew (Patrick) and the rest of the requisite wacky family members are suffering a severe money deficiency. No sooner has kindly old Uncle unpacked than Patrick, his wife Wendy Hiller, and nearly all of the rest of the cash-crazed clan are plotting the unsuspecting Yank's untimely demise in hope of inheriting his fortune. Much to their dismay -- and the viewer's merriment -- all their efforts to provide Coburn with an "accidental death" backfire big-time (heh heh)... Katie Johnson of THE LADYKILLERS fame nearly steals the show as a sweetly dotty yet vaguely spooky cousin who takes a shine to Coburn. I was surprised, though, by the youthful Anthony Newley as the crackpot criminologist suitor of Patrick's and Hiller's daughter. Not only is Newley far less grating than he became in later films, he's downright funny! Also, keep your eyes peeled (or should I say "pealed" :-) for a very young Michael Caine as a gangly bell-ringer. In a running sight gag to which mere words can't do justice, Caine teams up with a much shorter fellow to ring the church bells for each new funeral; I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the highlights of the movie. This...RICH UNCLE is well worth putting out the "Welcome" mat for!
  • comment
    • Author: Timberahue
    Is there any way to get a copy of this film? I saw it several times when it was released in the 50s and have never seen it again....I have tried to check on its DVD availability to no avail and have never seen it listed on TV.....It is absolutely hilarious and the cast contains actors who were famous veterans and some (Anthony Newley and Michael Caine) appearing in small but marvelous roles. I don't understand why it hasn't had a big following, enough to be able to see it and obtain a copy. Nigel Patrick is at his top form as the patriarch of the family down on its financial luck. One scene has himself and Wendy Hiller dressing as always for dinner which she has had to cook. It's a funny movie in itself, but as a satire of the British stiff upper lip, among other things, it deserves re-seeing many times.
  • comment
    • Author: ᴜɴɪᴄᴏʀɴ
    I first saw this film when it was released at the Odeon Temple Fortune and have remembered it ever since.I have just obtained a copy and i have to say that it wears very well.This was the last film of Katie Johnson and i think that this was trying to build on her great success in The Ladykillers as the film is also a black comedy.It doesn't have the edge of The Ladykillers but it is still very good fun.A great cast featuring a very young Michael Caine who doesn't speak a word.The film was co directed by one of my favourites Nigel Patrick with assistance from Max Varnel,son of Marcel.There is one unusual feature towards the end when a ghostly Nigel Patrick introduces the whole cast once again.He refers to Caine as Mike Caine.
  • comment
    • Author: Uscavel
    It has been decades since this film, to my knowledge, has been broadcast on British Television. Probably so to stop giving ideas to conniving families, but from what I can remember, it is one of the funniest "black comedies" I have ever seen. If I remember correctly there was a long winded scene involving a poisoned tea-bag which poisoned the wrong person, also when the elderly batty cousin digs out some old cheque books with large amounts paid out in the past, suggesting that as they paid out well before, then surely the cheque book would still be usable. I would relish seeing it again and would sincerely hope it would actually be as funny and enjoyable as I last remember it. See it if you can.
  • comment
    • Author: fightnight
    Wondrous British comedy about Henry, a destitute aristocrat (Nigel Patrick) and his family living in a rotting castle. Along comes a wealthy uncle from America (Charles Coburn), making a visit to his family home. So Henry decides to do away with the old boy, but being a black comedy, none of his plans go as planned.

    In a similar vein to the classic film THE LADYKILLERS, this one is a riot as the plot goes on its murderous-but-merry way and boasts an excellent cast.

    Coburn is a delight as the unsuspecting uncle with a fondness for martinis, and Patrick (who also directed) is the perfect hapless plotter. Also in the cast are Wendy Hiller as the dutiful wife, Athene Seyler as the grandmother, Katie Johnson as the vaguely related Alice, Kenneth Fortescue as the son, Patricia Webster as the daughter, Anthony Newley as her criminologist boyfriend, Noel Hood as Aunt Marjorie, Ian Wilson as Harold the postmaster, Trevor Reid as the Inspector, Cyril Luckham as the coroner, and Michael Caine in one of his first film roles.

    A total delight and full of surprises. This one marks Katie Johnson's only film followup to THE LADYKILLERS and proved to be her final film.
  • comment
    • Author: Jeb
    It has been years since I saw this film, but it has left some vivid memories.
  • comment
    • Author: Tori Texer
    And to Katie Johnson, too, that cute old British sweetheart who stole the scenes in that 1955 Ealing comedy out from the hands of Alec Guennis and Peter Sellers. Having died only a month before the British release of this black comedy, Johnson had a lengthy career but had only come into her own thanks to "The Ladykillers", leaving a sad quality to the history of this delightful film.

    I must admit when watching this, I had a sudden urge to utilize this in a plot line on "Downton Abbey" as a great family on a great estate discovers that they are destitute and must somehow plot to murder wealthy uncle Charles Coburn who had left England years before to move to America and is only now coming over for a visit. Family patriarch Nigel Patrick has it set up that he will accidentally shoot Coburn as he arrives, but ironically, it is a distant cousin that is killed instead. One by one the family with the exception of Coburn, Johnson and Patrick are all killed off, and that includes Patrick's irritating mother (Atheyne Seyler), unknowing wife (Wendy Hiller) and cousin Kenneth Fortescue who had intended to drowned his uncle yet fell in the water himself, only to die of pneumonia. A sweet bond is started between Coburn and innocent Johnson, another distant cousin who is considered the black sheep of the family simply because she seems so simple. As luck turns out, Coburn is accused of knocking off his family, thanks to the presence of Anthony Newley, boyfriend of one of Patrick and Hiller's daughters, seen taking notes at family functions as certain "hints" are dropped.

    Deliciously droll in every way, this remains consistently funny in the way everybody is dispatched, along the lines of "Kind Hearts and Coronets", later musicalized for Broadway as "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder". In spite of how close it seems to the Ealing comedies, it was independently made and released by Columbia, which is perhaps one reason why it is not known as well. This was one of the first major roles for a young Michael Caine, barely recognizable as a town local. Patrick underplays his role of the murderous nephew, a smart choice that would have been much broader had Alec Guennis played the role. In fact, Patrick plays the part without much guilt, as if his family duty called for those killed to be willing victims to the future of the family, and that is what makes this film all the more intelligent. The ghosts of the deceased make curtain call appearances, but there is delightfully sweet close-up of Coburn and Johnson as the film ends. This is a must for those who like intelligent comedy with a bit of naughtiness to it.
  • comment
    • Author: Rleillin
    If you liked The Ladykillers, you'll want to rent How to Murder a Rich Uncle the next time you have a movie night planned. Just don't want it with your family!

    In this British comedy, a high-brow family is in financial ruin, but they desperately want to hide that from the public. Nigel Patrick, the patriarch of the family, plots along with his wife, Wendy Hiller, and son, Kenneth Fortescue, to murder their extremely wealthy uncle and inherit his fortune. Katie Johnson, Athene Seyler, and Paddy Webster also live in the house, and while everyone pitches in to take part in an "accidental" murder, something always goes wrong! The titular character just can't be killed!

    Charles Coburn plays the rich uncle. He just has one of those faces that make you want to wrap him up in a big hug, doesn't he? I've had a soft spot in my heart for him ever since I first saw him as Piggy in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and I've called him 'Piggy' ever since. Not only is Piggy absolutely adorable, but his character in How to Murder a Rich Uncle is written to be incredibly likable, so the audience is put in a very difficult situation. How can we possibly root for Nigel Patrick and his family, even though they're the protagonists, when their main goal is to kill the lovable Charles Coburn? The answer is simple: root for Piggy and watch with baited breath and hope he stays alive as long as he can.

    As a side note, in a very small part, in which he's on screen for only a few minutes and only speaks "Aye" three times, Michael Caine is seen in one of his first movies. This is an adorable, hilarious film that you can't help but love, even though you don't really like the main family. Rent it and see if you like it!
  • comment
    • Author: Bumand
    Henry Clitterburn is in charge of running an old, crumbling estate. His problem – he doesn't have the funds he needs. Enter a rich old uncle from America. Henry believes that if the uncle were to pass, his money troubles will be solved. Surely Henry can come up with a foolproof plan to do away with his doddering old uncle, right?

    What a cleverly written, humorous, entertaining film! Even though How to Murder a Rich Uncle only bears passing resemblances, for whatever reason, I was reminded of Ten Little Indians mixed with Arsenic and Old Lace. The comedy in How to Murder a Rich Uncle is incredibly dark. Much of the humor is derived from death being treated in a matter-of- fact manner. Each attempted murder of Uncle George is more elaborate than the next. Sure, all are doomed to failure (well, they don't kill their intended victim), only adding to the humor. The final one is so ridiculously complicated that it reminded me of something out of Wile E. Coyote's twisted brain. And with each attempt on his life, the unaware Uncle George manages to stumble his way out of trouble. Very funny stuff.

    The cast in How to Murder a Rich Uncle is superb. Nigel Patrick, Charles Coburn, Wendy Hiller, and Anthony Newly all give very fine performances. All, however, are upstaged by Katie Johnson. In what would sadly prove to be her last role, she steals the scene every time she's on-screen. Finally, there's the impossibly young Michael Caine in one of his very first roles. He's okay in his small part, but there's nothing to indicate he'd go on to the long, distinguished career he's enjoyed.
  • comment
    • Author: Eigonn
    Two years before "How to Murder a Rich Uncle" debuted, the British also made a fine film, "The Ladykillers". Their plots are very similar but "The Ladykillers" is much funnier and better written. They're similar enough that you might just want ot skip "How to Murder a Rich Uncle".

    When the film begins, Henry (Nigel Patrick) has come to the realization that his family is broke. Despite their manor home and good name, they cannot afford to keep living the way they do and, God forbid, they might have to actually work for a living. However, this is apparently more distasteful than the notion of murdering the rich uncle (Charles Coburn) who is coming to visit from America. Amazingly, Henry's plans fail repeatedly...and in the process he helps to off members of his own immediate family.

    The film is enjoyable and Coburn, as usual, is a joy to watch. But the movie lacks the comedic edge to make it a must see movie. Good...but hardly as good as it could have been.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Nigel Patrick Nigel Patrick - Henry
    Charles Coburn Charles Coburn - Uncle George
    Wendy Hiller Wendy Hiller - Edith Clitterburn
    Katie Johnson Katie Johnson - Alice
    Anthony Newley Anthony Newley - Edward
    Athene Seyler Athene Seyler - Grannie
    Kenneth Fortescue Kenneth Fortescue - Albert
    Paddy Webster Paddy Webster - Constance (as Patricia Webster)
    Michael Caine Michael Caine - Gilrony
    Trevor Reid Trevor Reid - Inspector Harris
    Cyril Luckham Cyril Luckham - Coroner
    Johnson Bayly Johnson Bayly - Radio Officer
    Martin Boddey Martin Boddey - Police Sergeant
    Kevin Stoney Kevin Stoney - Bar Steward
    Anthony Shaw Anthony Shaw - Colonial Type
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