A Kid For Two Farthings
Film poster
Directed byCarol Reed
Screenplay byWolf Mankowitz
Based onA Kid for Two Farthings
1953 novel
by Wolf Mankowitz
Produced byCarol Reed
StarringCelia Johnson
Diana Dors
David Kossoff
Joe Robinson
CinematographyEdward Scaife
Edited byBert Bates
Music byBenjamin Frankel
Distributed byRomulus Films
Release date
  • 15 August 1955 (1955-08-15)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A Kid For Two Farthings is a 1955 British comedy-drama film directed by Carol Reed. The screenplay was adapted by Wolf Mankowitz from his 1953 novel of the same name. The title is a reference to the traditional Passover song, "Chad Gadya", which begins "One little goat which my father bought for two zuzim".[2] At the end of the film, Mr. Kandinsky softly sings fragments of an English translation of the song.

It was one of the last films produced by Alexander Korda before his death.[3]


In the busy wholesale-retail world of London's East End everyone, it seems, has unattainable dreams. Then a small boy – Joe – buys a unicorn, in fact a sickly little goat, with just one twisted horn in the middle of its forehead. This, he has been led to believe by a local tailor, Kandinsky, will bring everyone good fortune.

The film has a haunting last image, of Kandinsky carrying the tiny body of the "unicorn" to the graveyard, whilst passing in the opposite direction is a Torah-reading Rabbi pushing a horn gramophone, a character that appears in the background several times during the film.



Film rights to the novel were purchased by Carol Reed, who had made another film featuring a child protagonist, The Fallen Idol, a few years previously. After making The Man Between, Reed wanted to do something smaller scale.[4]

The role of the six-year old went to Jonathan Ashmore.[5]

The New York Times called Diana Dors' casting "a surprise choice" because "she has made no films of consequence before and has usually been thought of as a kind of junior Marilyn Monroe."[6]

Filming started in June 1954. It took place at the studio and on location at Petticoat Lane in London. It was Carol Reed's first movie in colour.

Korda had just signed a deal with Romulus for them to distribute his movies. Kid for Two Farthings was the first.[7]

Sidney Gilliat said he wanted to direct the film. He later said "I never would have thought of making it a non Jewish subject. But Carol managed to make the whole thing without a single reference to the character's background or religion at any point. And it was a very Jewish story. It lost a tremendous amount through not being a Jewish story." Gilliat also felt "all his little boys turned out to be beautifully well behaved prep school boys. "[8]


Critical response

Reviews for the film were mixed. Reed said, "I loved that book. The film was alright in parts but not in others. It cost very little money but did well."[9]

Filmink said it contained " an archetypal Dors performance in many ways – she's down-to-earth, warm, kind, the best looking girl in a low-rent area (glamorous, but "East End" glamorous)."[10]


A Kid for Two Farthings was nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.[11]

Box office

According to the Monthly Film Herald The film was the 9th most popular movie at the British box office in 1955, after The Dam Busters, White Christmas, Doctor at Sea, The Colditz Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Above Us the Waves, One Good Turn, and Raising a Riot. The film's popularity helped exhibitors vote Diana Dors the 9th most popular British star in British films (after Dirk Bogarde, John Mills, Norman Wisdom, Alastair Sim, Kenneth More, Jack Hawkins, Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, and in front of Alec Guinness.)[12] According to Kinematograph Weekly it was a "money maker" at the British box office in 1955.[13]



  1. ^ Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 359
  2. ^ Steven H. Gale, Mankowitz, Wolf, Literary Analysis, Encyclopedia of British Humorists, Vol. 2, 1996.
  3. ^ DEATH OF SIR ALEXANDER KORDA The Irish Times 24 January 1956: 7.
  4. ^ Wapshott p 269
  5. ^ "THIS STAR IS NOT INTERESTED". The Beverley Times. Western Australia. 17 February 1955. p. 10 (Supplement). Retrieved 9 July 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ NOTES ON THAMES FILMS: Olivier Transcribes 'Richard III' -Lean, Reed and Others in Action By STEPHEN WATTS LONDON. New York Times 29 August 1954: X5.
  7. ^ "Korda to Distrib Pix". Variety. 21 July 1954. p. 1.
  8. ^ Fowler, Roy; Haines, Taffy (15 May 1990). "Interview with Sidney Gilliat" (PDF). British Entertainment History Project. p. 123.
  9. ^ Wapshott p 272
  10. ^ Vagg, Stephen (7 September 2020). "A Tale of Two Blondes: Diana Dors and Belinda Lee". Filmink.
  11. ^ "Festival de Cannes: A Kid for Two Farthings". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  12. ^ "Dirk Bogarde favourite film actor". The Irish Times. 29 December 1955. p. 9.
  13. ^ "Other Money Makers of 1955". Kinematograph Weekly. 15 December 1955. p. 5.