Hancock’s Half Hour started out in 1954 as a radio comedy before transferring to TV. The series starred Tony Hancock as Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock, the perpetually frustrated resident of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam. The series was notable for abandoning the traditional variety format used for comedies of the time and pioneering the sitcom. Written by Galton and Simpson, the series was hugely influential and remains funny to this day.
In 1961, The Rebel was released. The film was written by Galton and Simpson and starred Tony Hancock as Anthony Hancock, a perpetually frustrated office drone with artistic ambitions that significantly exceed his ability.
After multiple setbacks, Hancock decides to quit his job and head to Paris where his art will be appreciated.
Hancock may lack talent, but he can bluster with the best of them and it’s not long before his arrant nonsense is mistaken for artistic genius. And then things start to get out of hand…
The Rebel probably isn’t the first film to portray the desire of an individual to break the shackles of conformity, but it does manage to both embrace and mock this tradition. Hancock never allows himself to stop and reflect on either his lack of talent or his inability to dedicate himself to his ambitions because, if he did so, he would be forced to face the same despair he shows in the opening scenes of the film.
The film also turns this around somewhat to make an aside about the way in which unstudied conformity exists everywhere, as does the small-minded snobbery exemplified by Anthony Hancock.
I have already mentioned Galton and Simpson and the writing and the dialogue is absolutely spot-on. Not a single line is out of place and, while some of the specifics reflect the time in which they were written, the film as a whole is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.
At heart, The Rebel is a film about an insignificant but pretentious man who wants to escape the rat race and become someone important. Yet the film manages to avoid becoming downbeat and remains a joy to watch throughout.