Flashback – London, July 1954. Henry Paulson (Charles Victor), a lead cashier in a small bank, has spent his entire life at the same bank, performing the same duties, married to the same person, performing the same daily routines – day in and day out. Nearing his late 50s, Henry is presented with a bleak medical prognosis. Distracted by flashy travel posters, Henry finds himself day dreaming about traveling to France, to live an exciting life – something he has never done, before he dies.
One day Paulson steals the bank vault’s contents (not exactly an embezzlement), and nervously escapes to France, constantly looking over his shoulder with fear of being caught. He checks into a rooming house where another guest is busy fleecing fellow guests. Paulson detects exactly what he is doing and is all over it – warning the guests to be cautious. It seemed as if Henry would never lead the exciting life he dreamed with his stolen money, until he used some of the funds to help another guest (being extorted by the man). For his next act of charity, he sponsored a party for orphans, something that clearly made him happy. Shortly thereafter detectives catch up with him at the home, and he died from his ailment – having spent only a fraction of the stolen funds.
The book this movie was based upon was much more in tune to an embezzlement by a bank employee in 1947. The story as told through Paulson was quite different from the storyline in the book. However, it was a pleasure to travel back in time to the early 1950s, and watch how the bookkeeping was maintained for the bank. The irony here was that there were checks and balances of their manually-maintained books and records – at the beginning and end of each day, one employee reviewed and reconciled the others’ work. In each scene, the safe was always opened by two employees.
One could only wonder what would have happened if Paulson simply skimmed funds on a regular basis and forced the ledgers to balance. It seemed clear the other employees as well as the manager trusted Henry, as he had been at the bank for so long (31 years). Henry was given a poor prognosis and a short time to live, and in response took a large amount easily and quickly noticed by the manager. Had Henry been given more time, I am confident he could have accomplished his theft, retired off to France, and the loss would have likely gone undetected. That would have made it more consistent with a common embezzlement scheme by a trusted employee versus a robbery.
Here’s the URL to the movie: