101 Funniest Screenplays

A lively jewel heist farce, involving two American grifters, one of whom consumes goldfish, a British gangster, his stuttering subordinate, and Cleese himself as a seduced barrister. The script, Oscar- and Writers Guild Award-nominated, was a collaboration between Cleese and director Charles Crichton, whom Cleese had met when Crichton directed humorous training videos for Cleese’s company, Video Arts. “Faced with considerable industry opposition to his choice,” The New York Times noted in its 1999 obituary of Crichton, “Mr. Cleese used both his reputation and personal wealth [Video Arts had made him a millionaire] to overcome doubts about Mr. Crichton's stamina, health and unfamiliarity with changes in the world of feature films.” Crichton was a veteran of Britain’s so-called “Ealing Comedies,” named for London’s famed Ealing Studios, where Crichton had directed films including 1951’s The Lavender Hills Mob, starring Sir Alec Guinness, and which, like Wanda, centered on a London robbery.