Barrister Alan McKim and his wife, bicker their way to Brighton in their 1904 Darracq, as they race against insufferable advertising executive Ambrose Claverhouse and his free-spirited girlfriend, Rosalind Peters, in their 1904 Spyker.
Although it was produced by Rank, this timeless comedy coasted to success in the Ealing slipstream. Director Henry Cornelius had served a five-year apprenticeship at the studio before directing one of its legendary comedies, Passport to Pimlico, while John Gregson had featured in The Titfield Thunderbolt, another celebration of vehicular heritage, this time involving a steam train. Indeed, Cornelius even offered William Rose's screenplay to Michael Balcon, but the Ealing chief decided he had too many comedies on the go and passed (although he would learn his lesson and hired Rose for both The Maggie, and The Lavender Hill Mob).
Even Rank placed only cursory faith in the project, presenting Cornelius with such a miserly budget that he had to shoot most of the picture on the roads around Pinewood and only managed a couple of days each in London and Brighton, for the start and climax of the veteran car rally that provides the backdrop to the Darracq-Spyker wager. Yet, what resulted was Britain's best-loved road movie, which also doubled as satire on male posturing that was made all the more amusing by the fact that the quaint antiquity of the motors undercut Alan and Ambrose's machismo and emphasised their bourgeois gentility. Ably capturing the obsessiveness of the enthusiast, Gregson is both a boor and a bore and he's perfectly complemented by Dinah Sheridan's feisty loyalty, Kenneth More's affable arrogance and Kay Kendall's maverick charm. Indeed, everything looks so relaxed, with the humour emerging from both the character contrasts and situations that remained within the bounds of probability. Adding to this freewheeling atmosphere was Larry Adler's harmonica score (for which Muir Mathieson received an Oscar nomination, as Adler was blacklisted in Hollywood). But what makes Genevieve so remarkable was that it was written by an American and directed by a South African and yet its insights into the British psyche match Ealing at its best.
One of Britain's best-loved road movie comedies.