Saturday, May 08, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Raffles (1930)

RAFFLES (Ronald Colman) is a famous cricket player who has a secret life as a London jewel thief known only as "The Amateur Cracksman."

The quick-thinking Raffles seems to enjoy the thrill of the challenge -- and one suspects he also needs a way to support his high-flying social life. When he becomes engaged to Gwen (Kay Francis), Raffles decides it's time for the Amateur Cracksman to retire. But will he remain on the straight and narrow?

Colman and Francis are perfectly cast as the charming thief and his love. This is one of those films designed for the audience to root for a man who is, after all, a crook -- but it's all very much make believe and quite fun. The Scotland Yard inspector (David Torrence) clearly enjoys his battle of wits with the elegant Raffles, and Raffles' victims don't seem to mind overly much, being more concerned with keeping their names out of the paper than recovering their jewelry!

RAFFLES was remade very closely in 1939, starring David Niven and Olivia deHavilland; I reviewed it last June. The films even share the same cinematographer, Gregg Toland. (Toland was aided on the 1930 version by George S. Barnes.) The most significant difference between the two versions is the ending; the pre-Code conclusion of 1930 was not acceptable by 1939 filmmaking standards, when justice had to prevail. Although I also liked David Niven in the lead role, I think that overall Colman's pre-Code version works better.

The supporting cast includes Bramwell Fletcher, Alison Skipworth, and Frederick Kerr. Virginia Bruce is said by IMDb to have a bit part; I'll have to be on the lookout for her next time.

RAFFLES was directed by George Fitzmaurice and the uncredited Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast. It runs 72 minutes.

This film has had a release on VHS. It does not appear to have had a DVD release.

RAFFLES can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Update: RAFFLES is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. It's part of a two-film set with the 1939 remake starring David Niven and Olivia de Havilland.


Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

Your post triggered a memory, so I went back and looked it up. Betsy of Betsy-Tacy fame and her Crowd go to see the silent film Raffles the Amateur Cracksman in Betsy in Spite of Herself. This would have been in 1907. So are there three versions of this movie?

10:26 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're right, Barb, there were multiple filmings of RAFFLES -- I think there was more than one silent version. What a great memory, I'd forgotten about the Betsy-Tacy "connection"! I have more Betsy-Tacy news in my roundup today (May 9th).

In fact, some interesting trivia is that the Colman and Francis version of 1930 was the last film WB filmed in both a silent and a "talkie" version. (I saw the sound version.)

Best wishes,

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really loved this one. I'm a big fan of the books and the UK television series, and on top of that I'm a Ronald Colman fan and a huge Cricket follower...what a treat, right?

Colman is muchly ignored these days, probably because his movies were generally pretty early...I think that's sad. thanks for the review!


10:11 PM  

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