The Day They Robbed The Bank of England

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First Posted: 12/23/2014

It’s common knowledge among NEPA film fans that one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and early 1960s – Jayne Mansfield – spent a chunk of her childhood in Pen Argyl, the tiny Northampton County town with a population of about 3,500.

But what most movie-lovers don’t know is that Aldo Ray, another Hollywood mainstay, also hailed from Pen Argyl. Ray was born and reared in the small town, departing Pennsylvania in 1944 to join the Navy.

After World War II, Ray moved to Crockett, California, where he worked as the sheriff. One day he agreed to drive his brother Guido to an audtion for the film “Saturday’s Hero.” Guido failed to impress, and Aldo got the job.

Soon, the raspy-voiced tough guy was signed to a prestigious contract with Columbia Pictures and began turning up in some of the studio’s highest-profile pictures. During his career, he worked with Judy Holliday (“The Marrying Kind”), Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (“Pat and Mike”), Rita Hayworth (“Miss Sadie Thompson”), Humphrey Bogart (“We’re No Angels”), Jane Wyman (“Let’s Do It Again” ) and John Wayne (“The Green Berets.”)

Earlier this month, one of Ray’s least-known but best efforts finally made its DVD debut. “The Day They Robbed The Bank of England” (1959, Warner Archive, unrated, $20) gives Ray the name-above-the-title role of an American thief who agrees to help a gang of IRA members fund their political activities by knocking over the Bank of England.

Lean and mean, the film generates plenty of suspense not only during the robbery itself, which involves the crooks tunneling into the bank from the sewers below, but also during Ray’s sessions with a loose-lipped bank guard (Peter O’Toole, in his first major role). It’s a first-rate introduction to Ray, who passed away in 1991 at the age of 64.