THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES is a witty comedy from director Charles Crichton. The House of MacPherson has been supplying Scottish tweeds for years--its weavers make the tweed in their homes on the Scottish islands, and the staff sells it in the company's Edinburgh premises. When Old MacPherson (Ernest Thesiger) dies, his son, Young MacPherson (Robert Morley), takes over and brings in an efficiency expert. That's bad enough, but worse, the expert is a woman and, even worse than that, she is an American woman. Horrors. The staff, led by Mr. Martin (Peter Sellers), is aghast. The expert Angela Barrows (Constance Cummings) begins to organize, to streamline, and to make plans to update the company's manufacturing methods. Young MacPherson is entranced--seduced by the idea of becoming famous for "his" soon-to-be-implemented revolutionary manufacturing methods. However, the ever-deferential Mr. Martin discovers unexpected levels of cunning as he pits his wits against the brash American. THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES is crisply directed by Charles Crichton, with a witty script by Monja Danischewsky, based on a James Thurber story. And Peter Sellers gives a fine performance as the shy, inhibited Mr. Martin, who turns out to be an extraordinary schemer.
Freely adapted from James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES is about a female efficiency expert who is brought into the old established Scottish tweed firm the House of MacPherson to modernize their methods, bringing consternation and extreme irritation to the staid accountant who has been with the firm for 35 years. The timid accountant soon plots to murder one of his coworkers, but his zany plans go comically astray.
Theatrical release: February 25, 1960. Filmed on location in Edinburgh, Scotland. Made just after Ealing studios closed, BATTLE OF THE SEXES is an Ealing film in all but name. It was made at Bryanston, where Ealing alumni Michael Balcon and Hal Mason had become the studio heads. It was directed by Ealing director Charles Crichton, written and produced by Ealing scriptwriter Monja Danischewsky, and edited by Ealing editor and director Seth Holt. Its stars--Peter Sellers, Robert Morley and Constance Cummings--had worked at Ealing. And many of its supporting actors appeared in Ealing's two Scottish comedies, WHISKEY GALORE and THE MAGGIE, both of which were directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Finally, although it is based on James Thurber's story "The Catbird Seat," the story of BATTLE OF THE SEXES is very Ealing-like with its emphasis on the battle between tried-and-true tradition and promising-but-problematic progress. When Russian-born Monja Danischewsky first joined Ealing studios in 1938, he became the company's publicity director--he developed the company's distinctive policy for poster design. Later, Danischewsky became a writer, then a producer, for Ealing. He combined these two functions on BATTLE OF THE SEXES. BATTLE OF THE SEXES was the fourth movie that Seth Holt edited for director Charles Crichton--he had previously edited DANCE HALL, THE LAVENDER HILL MOB, and THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT. Holt's other editing credits include THE SPIDER AND THE FLY and HIS EXCELLENCY for Robert Hamer (who was also his brother-in-law); MANDY for Alexander Mackendrick; and SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING for Karel Reisz. Holt was also a director--he directed the highly regarded NOWHERE TO RUN, and his other movies include TASTE OF FEAR (also known as SCREAM OF FEAR), STATION SIX SAHARA, and THE NANNY, starring Bette Davis.