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Above Suspicion

1943

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VHS cover.MGM. 91 minutes. US release: 8/6/43.

VHS release: 11/13/91. DVD release: 4/6/10.

Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Frances Myles"), Fred MacMurray, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone, Reginald Owen, Cecil Cunningham, Richard Ainley, Ann Shoemaker, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, Bruce Lestor, Johanna Hoper, Lotta Palfi, Alex Papana.

Credits: Based on the 1941 novel by Helen MacInnes. Screenplay: Keith Winter, Melville Baker, and Patricia Coleman. Producer: Victor Saville. Director: Richard Thorpe. Camera: Robert Planck. Art Direction: Randall Duell. Music: Bronislau Kaper. Costumes: Irene, Gile Steele.

 

Plot Summary: If you believe all-American Fred MacMurray as an Oxford don, you'll probably swallow the rest of Above Suspicion. Newly married to Joan Crawford, MacMurray goes on a honeymoon in prewar Germany. Actually it's more business than pleasure: they are secret agents for the British, attempting to smuggle back information about a new superweapon being developed by the Nazis. Evil, mean, cruel and also wicked German officer Basil Rathbone imprisons and tortures Crawford (though she still looks like a million bucks), but MacMurray comes to the rescue, paving the way for a suspenseful race-to-the-border climax. The tenor of Above Suspicion can be summed up in a scene in which, after being confronted by a monolingual stormtrooper, Fred MacMurray says in English "Nuts to you, dope!," whereupon the Nazi scratches his head and wonders aloud, "Vass iss das 'dope'?" ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

 

IMDb page.


 

Critics' Reviews:

 

T.S. in the New York Times

August 6, 1943

Things are looking up again. At a moment when Broadway is suffering a temporary dearth of straight melodrama, "Above Suspicion" has arrived at Loew's State, and a rattling good melodrama it is, too. For here is a lovely compound of cryptic clues and unknown dangers, of dubious faces and sudden violence—a good chase film that doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't pretend to be more than it is—a melodrama without a message. Perhaps it lacks the finesse of the Hitchcock style—and on at least one occasion borrows a trick from his "The Man Who Knew Too Much"—but this is slight exception. The fact remains that "Above Suspicion" does manage to make an hour and a half pass like twenty minutes. What more can one ask of a hectic yarn?

Briefly, it recounts the misadventures of a professor and his bride, to whom is given an errand for the British Secret Service just as they are departing for a honeymoon on the Continent. Arriving in Paris, they are at once involved in a shadowy search and just as shadowy threats that follow them. The maid in the hotel is a vaguely disturbing creature, a phrase about roses brings them a guide-book with a mysterious message in code, a torn page from a Liszt concerto provides a clue to the assasin of a German bully, a collection of chessmen leads on to the ultimate goal. And after threading through a labyrinth of clues and hints a trap is sprung, and the chase comes into the open with cars roaring down the road toward the Italian frontier.

It is all carried off very deftly, thanks to the cagey direction of Richard Thorpe and to a neatly constructed script. From the very beginning, the director has managed to create and to sustain the suspense of an innocent young couple entering a world where no one is to be trusted and where friend and foe are apt to act alike. Once or twice he makes the audience his confidant a little too quickly, but for the most part he keeps a sure hand on the progress of the plot. All the actors do well. Fred MacMurray carries off his role with the quiet ease of a long-experienced actor, and Joan Crawford, after a couple of pretentious roles, is a very convincing heroine. The late Conrad Veidt must have enjoyed this sabbatical from his portraits of thin-lipped villainy; here he plays a sort of underground Robin Hood who bobs up in various guises just when the professor needs him most. Basil Rathbone, Reginald Owen, Johanna Hofer and others do admirably in lesser roles. Among them, they have made a sound and completely entertaining thriller.


 

Howard Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune (1943):

    There are so many spies in Above Suspicion that it is hard to keep track of them. 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 look quite bright enough to unravel the tangled skeins of this screen melodrama.

 

 


 

Our Reviews:

If you've seen Above Suspicion and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.

 

Michael Lia.Michael Lia  (November 2009)

Rating:   star02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gif of 5

For some reason Miss Crawford’s last outing with MGM is enjoyable to me. The film has a mood that carries it, and us, through and also lets us see Miss Crawford in somewhat of a different role. She is light and comfortable; some may think she is dull, but she plays with an ease that is not always noticeable in other films. This could be attributed to her co-star Fred MacMurray (his last Boy Scout role before Double Indemnity), because it is not the script or the direction.

I have not read the novel by Helen MacInnes; therefore I can only say the screenplay is implausible at times. It has moments where it lags and then sags: The thrills are gone, there is no suspicion (just a bunch of actors giving everyone the eye), and it rises above nothing. The studio had to make it. Still, director Richard Thorpe does attempt to keep the mood consistent. But it is not enough to bring this film to a higher level; with the right treatment, it could have been an "A" war-time thriller.

Miss Crawford and Mr. MacMurray are actually a fun combination and seem well poised with each other; they share a married couple’s wit that keeps some interest going and covers up for some of the weaker/laughable moments the script makes them go through.

Miss Crawford is again lucky with a fantastic supporting cast and technical crew (Irene fills in for Adrian and Joan looks swell). MGM is generous while their supplies last!

Devilishly wonderful Conrad Veidt ( A Woman’sFace, Casablanca), playing a nice guy and, unfortunately, playing his last role in pictures or anywhere, dies of a heart attack soon after filming completed. He lets Basil Rathbone be the nasty guy this time. Mr. Rathbone is sinister throughout, and I wish he had tied Miss Crawford up instead of the old guy.

Reginald Owen is on hand with Miss Crawford for the last time, for old time’s sake. Felix Bressart (Ninotchka) got away from comedy to play a sneaky bookstore owner/spy.

Cecil Cunningham, second runner-up to Edna Mae Oliver’s “horse face,” has a meaningless role as Basil Rathbone’s aunt. Her gravel-voice and remarks about Nazis add a delightfully classic touch to the proceedings. You must see her in The Awful Truth with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant.

The “killer,” played by Bruce Lester, is a little-known actor (he has a nice role in The Letter), and here he is given the chance to portray a man seeking his revenge on the Nazis. (The murder scene was used once before by Alfred Hitchcock; here it seems hijacked and of no use.)

For about eight seconds we get to see Ann Shoemaker and Sara Haden as Joan’s aunts. They should have been pulled back into the story somehow and met everyone for pizza at the ending, but I doubt that would have helped much. And that is how they leave us -- going to eat some pizza?

Good-bye MGM. Hello Warner Brothers!!


 

Ed Guinea  (February 2009)

Rating:   star02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gif of 5

This is an above-average 1943 MGM thriller starring Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone and Reginald Owen. I give this film 4 stars!

This film was made during Joan's last years at Metro and is considered by most critics to be weak, and a minor addition to the Crawford portfolio. Looking at it from a Joan perspective and sixty five years later, I disagree strongly. It is an apt departure for Joan, along with Reunion In France.

Above Suspicion is a spy thriller based on the novel by well known best-selling spy novelist Helen MacInnes. The film is directed by veteran action director Richard Thorpe. The supporting cast is composed of a a well-rounded cadre of character actors from the MGM stable of players. They are all recognizable and wonderful.

The movie was released during WWII as a propaganda piece in Hollywood's means to assist the war effort. Joan and Fred give it their all as newlyweds on their honeymoon in Austria, of all places!. It is delightful to view Crawford well before her "mean" period or "hard" period towards the end of her career. She's happy, carefree and downright comical as she follows every narrow step hubby MacMurray stumbles over in his quest to seek out certain "secret" members of The Resistance, while meeting with other spies along the way (such as Owen) who feed him information and direction. What a place for a honeymoon!. The story is a bit far-fetched, with MacMurray playing a spy for the British foreign office while Joan is clueless about it through the first half of the film. When she finds out, she decides to join in the chase and has a ball!

There is genuine suspense throughout, with the supporting cast delivering a knock-out punch. Worth watching!

 


 

Movie Posters:

 

US style C one-sheet. 27 x 41 inches.                 US.

 

 


 

Lobby Cards:

 

 

 

          

 

     US lobby. (Thanks to Mateja.)     US lobby. (Thanks to Mateja.)

 

         

 

 


 

Misc. Images:

 

 

Above: US trade ad.

 

 

1943 movie tie-in edition.       Paperback. 9th printing, 1945.

 

See the Books page for more info.

 


 

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