review for The Promoter on AllMovie

The Promoter (1952)
by Craig Butler review

Very few films can be both as charming and as cynical as The Promoter, and it is a tribute to director Ronald Neame and scenarist Eric Ambler that they are able to pull off this difficult combination. Neame, whose understated approach to material often leads him into dullness, has a very fine grip on things here, keeping the general tone leisurely, but never lazy, and Ambler's screenplay is sharply detailed and finely realized. But as good as the work of these two men is, the real reason that The Promoter works so well is Alec Guinness' flawless performance. While Guinness won his Oscar (and widespread recognition in America) for the showier The Bridge on the River Kwai, it's because of his quiet, incredibly detailed performances in films such as this that he is remembered as an actor of rare talent. His skill is especially evident in The Promoter, which would be unbearable with a less charming actor -- and unbelievable with one who depended too much on that charm. His performance is a marvel of subtlety, although he also knows how to go "full out" when the film calls for it. He's ably aided and abetted by the delightful trio of Glynis Johns, Valerie Hobson, and Petula Clark, and there's fine work from many in much smaller roles, but the faint heart and tainted soul of the movie is definitely Guinness.