The Sleeping Tiger

The Sleeping Tiger is a 1954 British film noir directed by Joseph Losey and starring Alexis Smith, Dirk Bogarde and Alexander Knox. It was Losey's first British feature, which he directed under the pseudonym of Victor Hanbury due to being blacklisted in the McCarthy Era.[1] It was shot at Walton Studios and on location in London. The film's sets were designed by the art director John Stoll. It was released by Anglo-Amalgamated while in America it was distributed by Astor Pictures.

The Sleeping Tiger
The Sleeping Tiger poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Losey
Screenplay byHarold Buchman
Carl Foreman
Based onThe Sleeping Tiger
by Maurice Moiseiwitsch
Produced byVictor Hanbury
Stuart Levy
Joseph Losey
StarringAlexis Smith
Alexander Knox
Dirk Bogarde
CinematographyHarry Waxman
Edited byReginald Mills
Music byMalcolm Arnold
Insignia Films
Dorast Pictures
Distributed byAnglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors
Release date
  • 21 June 1954 (1954-06-21) (London)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Two criminals are stalking the streets of London one dark night. Frank Clemmons (Dirk Bogarde), a cocky middle-class young man, holds up psychiatrist Dr. Clive Esmond (Alexander Knox) at gunpoint outside his affluent home, but Dr. Esmond overpowers him.

Arriving home from in Paris, Dr. Esmond's wife Glenda (Alexis Smith) is taken aback to discover Clemmons staying in their home as the new household guest. To avoid being turned over to the police, Frank agreed to stay as a guest at Dr. Esmond's house as a human guinea-pig subjected to Dr. Esmond's psychoanalysis, which aims to release him from his criminal recidivism. Glenda has reservations about Frank and behaves in a cold, aloof manner towards him.

Frank undergoes regular analysis with Dr. Esmond, who is determined to get to the root of his criminality. In between these sessions, he goes horse riding with Glenda. Although at first indifferent to him, Glenda soon finds herself growing attracted to Frank. With a fellow criminal in tow, Frank leaves the house one night and steals some jewellery. A police inspector later interviews him about the crime, but he denies having committed it. Some time after, Frank takes Glenda to the Metro, a hipster nightclub in Soho where her conflicted attraction to him deepens. The next day Glenda admonishes Frank for his violent behaviour towards the house-maid Sally (Patricia McCarron), but their argument ends with a passionate clinch which indicates the beginning of an affair between Glenda and Frank.

Initially oblivious, Dr. Esmond eventually finds Frank and his wife in a compromising position. Glenda's conflicted feelings plague her. Back at the Metro club with Frank, the two have a huge argument that overwhelms her. As they begin their journey home, Glenda driving recklessly and out of control. A police car soon pursues them but they manage to escape.

Sally's fiancé pays Dr. Esmond a visit to complain about the abuse she has had to endure from Frank. Her fiancé threatens to tell the police about the assault. No charges are pressed and Frank finds out that this is due to Dr. Esmond buying the man off with £100. Frank reacts by carrying out another robbery. When questioned by the police, Dr. Esmond ends up lying on Frank's behalf. A cunning ploy, this results in Frank pouring out a dramatic account of his tyrannical father, whom he deeply despised. As a boy, Frank stole and his father consequently turned him in to the authorities. Frank vowed revenge on his Father when he was released, but was then given a beating. His father died shortly thereafter and his mother blamed him. Frank admits that he prayed for his father's death, and has seen himself as worthy of punishment ever since. Dr. Esmond concludes that with the father's death, Frank has had to provide his own punishment for the rest of his life.

Dr. Esmond soon begins acting like a father figure towards Frank. The two enjoy carefree activities together until Glenda finds out and grows intensely jealous. She asks Frank to elope with her. However, with Dr. Esmond's psychiatric experiment over and his patterns of behaviour understood, Frank leaves and decides to turn himself in to the police. Glenda hysterically rushes to Dr. Esmond, claiming that Frank has assaulted her. Dr. Esmond goes upstairs with a gun and returns claiming that he has shot Frank dead. Glenda is heartbroken and ends up declaring her love for Frank. She then finds out that though there was a gunshot, Frank has escaped and she goes after him in her car. Frank gets into Glenda's car and they drive off at high speed. The highly distressed Glenda swerves to avoid a lorry, but crashes. Frank survives, but Glenda dies in the wreckage.


Production notesEdit

Due to his alleged ties with the US Communist Party, the blacklisted Joseph Losey moved to London and began work on The Sleeping Tiger, his first British feature film. Despite being in England, he faced more problems. The British director Victor Hanbury, who had not directed a film since Hotel Reserve in 1944,[2] allowed Losey to use Hanbury's name as an alias. The American stars, Alexis Smith and Alexander Knox, were fearful of how appearing in Losey's film would affect their Hollywood careers.[3]

The Sleeping Tiger was the beginning of Losey's partnership with Dirk Bogarde, whom he later directed in The Servant, King & Country, Modesty Blaise and Accident, and with editor Reginald Mills who edited The Servant and King & Country.


  1. ^ The Sleeping Tiger at IMDb.
  2. ^ "Victor Hanbury". IMDb. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  3. ^ Caute, David, Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life, 1994, p. 121

External linksEdit