Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Above Suspicion (1943)

Much of my recent viewing has, by chance, centered around World War II espionage stories, such as NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940), BERLIN CORRESPONDENT (1942), and THE CONSPIRATORS (1944).

Tonight's movie, ABOVE SUSPICION, fits right in with those films, particularly the first two, as they are all set in Germany in the early days of WWII. I'd been wanting to see ABOVE SUSPICION for some time now and was happy to record it when it aired yesterday on Turner Classic Movies.

The movie is an entertaining piece of wartime hokum about an Oxford professor, Richard Myles (Fred MacMurray), and his American bride Frances (Joan Crawford), who are asked to undertake a mission for the British foreign office while honeymooning in "Southern Germany" (Austria) in 1939 -- the thought being that honeymooners taking in the sights will be ABOVE SUSPICION. The mission turns out to be much more dangerous than expected, and if Richard and Frances want to live, they've got to stay one step ahead of the Gestapo until they can flee the country.

The plot is a bit silly at times, as Richard and Frances follow a trail of clues from sympathetic contacts -- and later in the film run around overly obvious soundstage exteriors -- but it's good fun, if such can be said about a wartime film. I think the first half of the movie works the best; as the danger level grows later in the film, the movie loses some of its more lighthearted fizz and becomes another "Battle the Nazis and flee to the border" type story. While the good guys in NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH headed for Switzerland and the hero of BERLIN CORRESPONDENT commandeered an airplane, Professor and Mrs. Myles make a dash for Italy -- the last line of the movie finds the Professor exclaiming "Let's go eat some spaghetti!"

MacMurray and Crawford have excellent chemistry, and it's a nice angle that the film starts with their characters' marriage and then follows their romancing and sleuthing together, in the tradition of Nick and Nora Charles, Joel and Garda Sloan, Lord Peter and Harriet Wimsey, and other MGM detective couples. Crawford looks gorgeous in a wardrobe by Irene, photographed in shimmering black and white by Robert Planck.

This was Crawford's last film at MGM before leaving for Warner Bros. (and MILDRED PIERCE). MGM was an unusual stop for MacMurray, who mainly worked at Paramount in the early '40s, although he also appeared in films released by other studios, including DIVE BOMBER (1941) for Warner Bros.

This was the last film appearance by Conrad Veidt (CASABLANCA), who plays an Austrian resistance fighter. Veidt died before the film was released.

Basil Rathbone plays a nasty Nazi, while Reginald Owen plays one of the good guys. Felix Bressart, Ann Shoemaker, Sara Haden, and Richard Ainley are also in the cast.

ABOVE SUSPICION was directed by Richard Thorpe. It runs 91 minutes.

The film is based on a novel by the same name, written by Helen MacInnes.

ABOVE SUSPICION is available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive. It's also had a release on VHS.

ABOVE SUSPICION will next air on Turner Classic Movies on October 20, 2010.

The trailer is here.

1 Comments:

Blogger Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

ABOVE SUSPICION will next air on Turner Classic Movies on October 20, 2010.

Though I'm sure that somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this, I'm glad you confirmed its repeat performance. I wanted to record this one but couldn't due to a scheduling conflict.

9:49 AM  

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