Wednesday, January 11, 2006


This enjoyable film belongs to one of my favorite genres, the light-hearted spy thriller, which flourished in the early days of WWII until the more serious documentary style thriller became popular during the 50's. This one is notable for the unusual star combo of Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray, who wind up working very well together. The film, set in 1939, begins with MacMurray, an Rhodes Scholar teaching at Oxford, marrying Crawford and taking off for a honeymoon. They are waylaid by an officer of the Foreign Service who asks them to find out the whereabouts of a British contact in Germany who has the plans to some super-secret magnetic mines; he has vanished and the couple is to try and find him and bring the information back. As they follow the trail, they come into contact with a number of fine character actors in interesting roles: Conrad Veidt, fresh from playing the hissable movie Nazi Major Strasser in CASABLANCA, plays a shadowy German figure who winds up being a good guy (and sadly, this was his last role before his untimely death of a heart attack just 2 months after this movie was finished); Basil Rathbone does the villain honors as a former Rhodes Scholar turned Gestapo officer whom MacMurray and Crawford can't quite shake; Reginald Owen is the kidnapped man with the plans; Felix Bressart has a small role as a bookseller contact; Cecil Cunningham is Rathbone's mother and Bruce Lester is a British spy whose wife was killed at Dachau. There is a nice scene right out of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH involving an assassination at a Liszt concert, and it's fun to see MacMurray and Crawford in old-age makeup near the end as they try to elude Rathbone and get to the border. Though the tone of the film darkens in places, the pace never flags. [TCM]

No comments: