Above Suspicion (1943 film)

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Above Suspicion
600full-above-suspicion-poster.jpg
1943 US theatrical poster
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Produced by Victor Saville
Written by Keith Winter
Melville Baker
Patricia Coleman
Leonard Lee (uncredited)
Based onAbove Suspicion (1941 novel)
by Helen MacInnes
Starring Joan Crawford
Fred MacMurray
Conrad Veidt
Basil Rathbone
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Cinematography Robert Planck
Edited by George Hively
Production
company
Distributed by Loew's Inc. [1]
Release date
  • May 1943 (1943-05)
Running time
90 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Above Suspicion is a 1943 American spy film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray. The screenplay was adapted from the 1941 novel Above Suspicion by Scots-American writer Helen MacInnes, which is loosely based on experiences of MacInnes and her husband, Gilbert Highet.

The spy film genre deals with the subject of fictional espionage, either in a realistic way or as a basis for fantasy. Many novels in the spy fiction genre have been adapted as films, including works by John Buchan, le Carré, Ian Fleming (Bond) and Len Deighton. It is a significant aspect of British cinema, with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions and many films set in the British Secret Service.

Richard Thorpe American actor and film director

Richard Thorpe was an American film director best known for his long career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Joan Crawford 20th-century American actress

Joan Crawford was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway. Crawford then signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925; her career spanned decades, studios, and controversies. In 1999, The American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

Contents

The plot follows two newlyweds who spy on the Nazis for the British Secret Service during their honeymoon in Europe.

Plot

In the spring of 1939 in England, Oxford University Professor Richard Myles (Fred MacMurray) and his new bride Frances (Joan Crawford) decide to honeymoon on the Continent. Because they are American tourists and therefore "above suspicion," they are commissioned by the British secret service to find a scientist who has developed a countermeasure against a new Nazi secret weapon, a magnetic sea mine. [2] Without knowing his name, what he looks like, or where to find him, the couple look upon the search as an adventure and cross Europe seeking clues from clandestine contacts.

Fred MacMurray American actor

Frederick Martin MacMurray was an American actor and singer who appeared in more than 100 films and a successful television series during a career that spanned nearly a half-century, from 1930 to the 1970s.

A honeymoon is a holiday taken by newlyweds immediately after their wedding, to celebrate their marriage. Today, honeymoons are often celebrated in destinations considered exotic or romantic.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

In Paris, Frances is given a hat decorated with a rose as a signal for their first contact, who silently instructs them to go to a café in Montmartre. An unseen contact plants a tourist guidebook to southern Germany in Richard's coat. The couple notice a series of ink dots on a map in the book, which, linked together, form a musical staff with the opening notes to the song "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose." They deduce this is their password. Three pinpricks in the same map direct them to the book's seller, A. Werner (Felix Bressart), in Salzburg. Werner instructs them to go to a certain museum. There a man named Count Hassert Seidel (Conrad Veidt), calling himself a "guide," suggests that they check into a guest house run by Frau Kleist (Johanna Hofer). She provides them with a book on Franz Liszt with annotations that reveal their next stop should be the village of Pertisau in the Tyrol, where they should inquire about a doctor who collects chess pieces.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Rose Genus of plants

A rose is a woody perennial flowering plant of the genus Rosa, in the family Rosaceae, or the flower it bears. There are over three hundred species and thousands of cultivars. They form a group of plants that can be erect shrubs, climbing, or trailing, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers vary in size and shape and are usually large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows and reds. Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwestern Africa. Species, cultivars and hybrids are all widely grown for their beauty and often are fragrant. Roses have acquired cultural significance in many societies. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach seven meters in height. Different species hybridize easily, and this has been used in the development of the wide range of garden roses.

Montmartre hill in the north of Paris, France

Montmartre is a large hill in Paris's 18th arrondissement. It is 130 m (430 ft) high and gives its name to the surrounding district, part of the Right Bank in the northern section of the city. The historic district established by the City of Paris in 1995 is bordered by rue Caulaincourt and rue Custine on the north, rue de Clignancourt on the east, and boulevard de Clichy and boulevard de Rochechouart to the south, containing 60 ha. Montmartre is primarily known for its artistic history, the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on its summit, and as a nightclub district. The other church on the hill, Saint Pierre de Montmartre, built in 1147, was the church of the prestigious Montmartre Abbey. On August 15, 1534, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier and five other companions bound themselves by vows in the Martyrium of Saint Denis, 11 rue Yvonne Le Tac, the first step in the creation of the Jesuits.

Some days later, the couple intends to go to a performance of Liszt but are advised against it by Thornley (Bruce Lester), a fellow houseguest and recent graduate of Oxford. They go anyway. During the passage that Thornley had been practicing earlier, a Nazi colonel, the Commandant of Dachau concentration camp, is shot and killed. Officials insist on questioning each member of the audience. Richard and Frances are rescued by Gestapo Chief Count Sig von Aschenhausen (Basil Rathbone), a former Oxford schoolmate of Richard's. Thornley later tells Richard that he killed the Nazi colonel as revenge for the torture and murder of his Austrian fiancée. He also warns Richard that he and his fiancée had also once been "above suspicion."

Bruce Lester actor

Bruce Lester was a South African-born English film actor with over 60 screen appearances to his credit between 1934 and his retirement from acting in 1958. Lester's career divided into two distinct periods. Between 1934 and 1938, billed as Bruce Lister, he appeared in upwards of 20 British films, mostly of the cheaply shot and quickly forgotten quota quickie variety. He then moved to the US, where he changed his surname to Lester, and found himself for a time appearing in some of the biggest prestige productions of their day, alongside stars such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn. Lester himself never achieved star-billing, but was said to have remarked that this at least meant that if a film was a flop, no blame ever fell on his shoulders.

Ranks and insignia of the Nazi Party

Ranks and insignia of the Nazi Party were paramilitary titles used by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) between approximately 1928 and the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945. Such ranks were held within the political leadership corps of the Nazi Party, charged with the overseeing the regular Nazi Party members.

Dachau concentration camp Nazi concentration camp in Germany before and during World War II

Dachau concentration camp was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in 1933, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos, and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945.

Frances and Richard go to the home of chess collector, Dr. Mespelbrunn (Reginald Owen). While he does not appear, Count von Aschenhausen does. They notice sheet music for "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose" on the piano. But when Sig fails to respond to a code signal that Richard gives him, the couple becomes suspicious. They hear thumping noises upstairs and discover that Sig is holding Mespelbrunn prisoner. Mespelbrunn tells them to run and says they are being hunted by the Gestapo. The couple leaves the house just in time, and Count Seidel arrives to help them free Mespelbrunn. He is revealed as the missing scientist "Dr. Smith". All four head for Innsbruck, and Mespelbrunn gives Richard the plans for the countermeasure.

Reginald Owen British actor

John Reginald Owen was an English actor known for his many roles in British and American film along with television programs.

Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of musical notation that uses musical symbols to indicate the pitches (melodies), rhythms or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Arabic or other languages – the medium of sheet music typically is paper, although the access to musical notation since the 1980s has included the presentation of musical notation on computer screens and the development of scorewriter computer programs that can notate a song or piece electronically, and, in some cases, "play back" the notated music using a synthesizer or virtual instruments.

Innsbruck Capital city of Tyrol, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital city of Tyrol and the fifth-largest city in Austria. It is in the Inn valley, at its junction with the Wipp valley, which provides access to the Brenner Pass some 30 km (18.6 mi) to the south.

The couple obtain counterfeit passports from an elderly couple named Schultz. They are planning to catch the train to Milan at separate stations; but, when the Schultzes are arrested by the Gestapo, the police are on the lookout for the Americans. Frances is detained and questioned by the Gestapo; but Thornley, in Innsbruck to catch the same train, finds Richard. Richard, Thornley, and Seidel gain entry to where Frances is being held and kill her captors, including Sig; but Thornley is also killed. After fooling the Nazi border guards, Seidel and the American newlyweds reach freedom in Italy.

Cast

Reception

Variety wrote, "Both MacMurray and Miss Crawford completely handled their roles, despite drawbacks of script material", and T.S. in The New York Times commented, "Joan Crawford...is a very convincing heroine." [3]

Critic Howard Barnes wrote in The New York Herald Tribune : "There are so many floral, musical and cryptographical passwords in the film's plot that the whole show becomes a sort of super treasure hunt... Unfortunately, neither Joan Crawford nor Fred MacMurray looks quite bright enough to unravel the tangled skeins of this screen melodrama." [4]

DVD release

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on April 6, 2010 from the online Warner Bros. Archive Collection. This film marked the end of Crawford's 18-year career with MGM before signing with Warner Bros. [4] It was the last role for character actor Conrad Veidt, who died of a heart attack a few weeks after shooting ended. [5]

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References

  1. Above Suspicion at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 92. ISBN   978-0-498-06928-4.
  3. Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.
  4. 1 2 "Above Suspicion". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  5. Bret, David (2006). Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr, Da Capo Press, ISBN   0-306-81624-5, pp. 149–151