Above Suspicion (1943 film)

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

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 the experiences of MacInnes and her husband Gilbert Highet.


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


In the spring of 1939 in England, Oxford University professor Richard Myles and his new bride Frances spend their honeymoon in continental Europe. 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 the scientist, the couple look upon the search as an adventure and cross Europe seeking clues from clandestine contacts.

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 that this is their password. Three pinpricks in the same map direct them to the book's seller, A. Werner, in Salzburg. Werner instructs them to go to a certain museum, where a man named Count Hassert Seidel, calling himself a "guide," suggests that they check into a guest house run by Frau Kleist. She provides them with a book on Franz Liszt with annotations that reveal that their next stop should be the village of Pertisau in Tyrol, where they should inquire about a doctor who collects chess pieces.

Some days later, Richard and Frances attend a performance of Liszt's music. During a passage that Thornley had been practicing earlier, a Nazi commandant 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, a former Oxford schoolmate of Richard's. Thornley killed the Nazi colonel as revenge for the torture and murder of his Austrian fiancée.

Frances and Richard visit the home of chess collector Dr. Mespelbrunn and von Aschenhausen is there. They notice sheet music for "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose" on the piano. But when von Aschenhausen fails to respond to a code signal that Richard gives him, the couple become suspicious. They hear thumping noises upstairs and discover that von Aschenhausen is holding Mespelbrunn prisoner. Mespelbrunn tells them to run and that they are being hunted by the Gestapo. Frances and Richard leave 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.

The couple obtain counterfeit passports from the Schultzes, an elderly couple. 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 von Aschenhausen, but Thornley is also killed. After fooling the Nazi border guards, Seidel and the American newlyweds reach freedom in Italy.


This film marked the end of Crawford's 18-year career with MGM before she signed with Warner Bros. [3] It was Veidt's last role, as he died from a heart attack several weeks after shooting had ended. [4]


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." [5]

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." [3]

Home media

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on April 6, 2010 as part of the Warner Bros. Archive Collection.

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  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. 1 2 "Above Suspicion". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  4. Bret, David (2006). Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr, Da Capo Press, ISBN   0-306-81624-5, pp. 149–151
  5. Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.