Monday, June 23, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Saint in London (1939)

George Sanders' second SAINT film, THE SAINT IN LONDON (1939), is a bit unusual in that it was actually filmed in England rather than recreating London on the backlot.

THE SAINT IN LONDON features a largely British cast and was directed by John Paddy Carstairs. London-born Sally Gray, who starred a few years later in the classic GREEN FOR DANGER (1946), is Sanders' leading lady.

Simon Templar has recently returned to London from New York. Templar immediately hires Dugan (David Burns), a friendly pickpocket from New York -- by way of San Quentin -- to serve as his valet. It's a good thing, as Templar will need the street-savvy, quick-witted Dugan to bail him out of a jam or two in the days to come.

Templar, followed everywhere by the lovely and admiring society girl Penny (Gray), becomes mixed up in solving a crime involving smuggling stolen foreign currency. The plot gets a tad murky at times, but no matter! Sanders' Templar is smart and suave, and there's some excellent dialogue along the way. The film moves like lightning, with a 72-minute running time. (IMDb indicates there was a British cut running five minutes longer.) All in all it's a diverting entry.

I particularly liked the Dugan character, who is very much like Goldie Locke in the Falcon series. There are a couple of exchanges between Dugan and Inspector Teal (Gordon McLeod) which are especially amusing.

Gray would return as the leading lady in a later Saint film, THE SAINT'S VACATION (1941), starring Hugh Sinclair as Simon Templar. However, in her second SAINT outing Gray played a completely different character! On the other hand, Gordon McLeod recreated his role as Inspector Teal of Scotland Yard in the same film.

It's interesting RKO didn't see it as potentially confusing having one actor playing the same character while another actor appeared as a completely new character in films released just two years apart. But then, RKO also didn't think it would be confusing to have Louis Hayward play Simon Templar in THE SAINT IN NEW YORK (1938) and then switch to Sanders the following year!

The "recycling" of actors was fairly typical of RKO series in general; actresses such as Joan Woodbury and Rita Corday appeared over and over again in the FALCON films, always as a new character. And as a matter of fact, Wendy Barrie played three different characters in three different SAINT films.

THE SAINT IN LONDON is available on DVD in the Warner Archive's George Sanders Saint Movies Collection. I previously reviewed the first film in the set, THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939).

THE SAINT IN LONDON has also been released on Region 2 DVD. It had a VHS release as a TCM double feature paired with THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE (1940).

THE SAINT IN LONDON can also be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I became a fan of Sally Gray's after seeing her appearances in the two Saint movies. She seems very contemporary to me, and a very likeable actress.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'll look forward to seeing her other SAINT film down the road. After watching this I had a sudden yen to see GREEN FOR DANGER again... :)

Best wishes,

9:56 AM  

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