Above Suspicion, the 1943 film, was a nice surprise to me when I watched it a couple years ago. I saw it on my TCM schedule, saw that the cast wasn’t shabby: Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone, Reginald Owen, Felix Bressart. Musing over it, I set the dvr to record it and I was glad that I did.
MacMurray and Crawford are newlyweds Richard and Frances Myles. Richard is an American, a professor at Oxford University in England, and Frances is also an American. As they are about to embark on their honeymoon to southern Germany-the movie is set before WWII has erupted-an old friend of Richard’s finds them at an English country inn where they are staying. Peter, the old friend, works for the Foreign Office, and the British Government has sent him to ask a huge favor of the Myles’s: find a missing scientist who is “friends” with the Foreign Office and has information about how to disable a magnetic ocean mine that the Germans have developed. Peter points out that since the Myles’s are Americans, they’ll be assumed to be regular tourists and hence, “Above Suspicion”.
Arriving first in Paris, Frances is given a hat with a red rose on it and this hat is the signal to their first contact in trying to locate the scientist. From Paris, the newlyweds will also travel to Salzburg, Pertisau,Innsbruck, and finally, Italy. They travel at such a fast-pace to these spots that I don’t think PBS’s travel guru Rick Steves could keep up!
What I noticed in this movie was that MacMurray and Crawford had great chemistry together. Their characters are comfortable and cosy with one another, showing one another mutual respect and genuine care. Joan doesn’t act the diva, Fred treats her as an equal, and both are very calm under pressure on this spy adventure.
The supporting cast is wonderful! There’s Basil Rathbone( Count Sig von Aschenhausen, a Gestapo Chief), an old friend of Richard’s from their undergrad days at Oxford. He is kind and helpful to the couple, but can they trust him? Then there is Conrad Veidt(Count Hassel Seidel, museum curator) also helpful and kind, can they trust him?Thornley, another English tourist(Bruce Lester) gets involved in the mix, and Reginald Owen(Dr. Mespelbrunn), could he be the scientist they are seeking? Can he be trusted??
Besides the red rose on the hat, there’s the song, “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, chess pieces, Franz Liszt music and a concert, a travel book with markings in it-all combined to help this couple on their secret mission as they try to stay several steps ahead of the Nazis. I also found it interesting to note that this film was based upon the book Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnis, which was based upon experiences of MacInnis and her husband, Gilbert Highet. I now want to find that book!
For a chance to see Joan shine in a picture where she’s using her brains, is a loving wife, and she’s outwitting the Nazis, give Above Suspicion a look-see! This post is my contribution to the Joan Crawford Blogathon, hosted by the wonderful Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Be sure to visit her site to read more great blogs’ articles about Joan Crawford.