A Touch of Larceny

A Touch of Larceny

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Ivan Foxwell
Written by Paul Winterton (novel)
Ivan Foxwell (screenplay)
Starring James Mason
George Sanders
Vera Miles
Music by Philip Green
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 1959 (1959-12) (UK)
  • 16 March 1960 (1960-03-16) (U.S.)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English, Russian

A Touch of Larceny is a 1959 British black-and-white comedy film, produced by Ivan Foxwell, directed by Guy Hamilton, that stars James Mason, George Sanders, and Vera Miles, and co-stars Harry Andrews, Rachel Gurney, and John Le Mesurier. It is based on the 1956 novel The Megstone Plot by Paul Winterton, written under the pseudonym Andrew Garve.

The film was nominated for the BAFTA award for Best British Screenplay but it lost out to The Angry Silence.


A British World War II naval war hero, Commander Max "Rammer" Easton (James Mason), is charming and a bit of rake. He holds a mid-level staff position with the Admiralty, but spends most of his time playing squash and pursuing women.

While at his club, he meets Sir Charles Holland (George Sanders) and later Holland's American companion, Virginia Killain (Vera Miles). As soon as Holland goes away for a few days, Max makes a play for Virginia, but she is engaged to be married to Holland and is offended by Max describing him as "dull". Undaunted, he continues to slowly charm her until she agrees to have lunch with him.

They later go sailing on Easton's sailboat, and he continues to put his charm on display. Max can tell that Virginia is impressed by Holland's old school wealth. He claims that it is easy to acquire money, so on the spot he comes up with an unscrupulous scheme to demonstrate to her just how easy it is: After disappearing under suspicious circumstances, he would leave behind clues and drop hints leading others to jump to the conclusion that he is a traitor, now in league with the Soviet Union. Upon his sudden return, he would sue the press for libel, raking in thousands of pounds in out-of-court settlements.

To prove that he is quite serious about her, he implements his complex scheme. Max is later publicly branded a traitor by the British press, all according to plan. Virginia is at first amused by this, then annoyed when she realizes he has actually gone through with it. Sir Charles is outraged and says something must be done. Max's elaborate plan backfires, however, when just as he is about to return, he becomes marooned for real on an out-of-the-way rocky island off the Scottish coast and cannot get home.

After eventually being rescued, Max learns that Sir Charles has revealed to the authorities everything that Virginia told him about the hoax. When confronted by authorities, Max cleverly frees himself from any suspicion of wrong-doing. He then continues to charm Virginia by saying he now plans on selling his story of survival and rescue to the very same press he originally intended to defraud. Against her better judgment, having now split from Sir Charles over the incident, she agrees to marry him, finding him irresistible.


See also

1959 in film

External links

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