Posts Tagged ‘Audrey Totter’

1947’s The Unsuspected for the 2nd Annual Claude Rains Blogathon

A couple years ago, a lot of Americans were talking about a Netflix documentary following the life of a Wisconsin prisoner and whether or not he was guilty or innocent of a murder.  History does repeat itself, and back in 1947, a lot of Americans were hooked on their favorite radio shows, several that focused on stories of the macabre, stories about murder.  The film I wanted to focus on for the Claude Rains blogathon, and which starred the talented British actor, is  The Unsuspected.  The film has strong ties to such radio shows and implies that such shows were a popular part of America’s pop culture.   

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the wealthy host of a popular radio show that features him narrating   true crime tales.  With his smooth as silk, melodious and at turns basso voice, Rains was the perfect choice to be cast as Grandison.  His characterization shows us a man who is at the top of his game-the advertisers and the creators of the radio show bow and scrape to him, so do his friends and his only  blood relatives: two nieces, Althea(Audrey Totter) and Matilda(Joan Caulfield.)  Victor is a complex man-he can be warm and charming and ultra polite, yet he can also be demanding and controlling.

The film opens with Victor’s voice heard coming from a radio in a darkened office while a young woman is working late at a typewriter.  A man approaches her with a hangman’s noose in his hand and we see the startled and distressed woman scream.  We soon realize that this  woman is about to be murdered but the death will be made to look like a suicide.  We will learn that the dead woman is Roslyn Wright, secretary to none other than Victor Grandison, the true crimes radio show host! All who know Victor and who also knew Roslyn are very sad that a seemingly good secretary and person, would have been compelled to end her own life.  It’s a sad event and a puzzlement.  Life goes on and niece Althea decides to throw her Uncle Victor a surprise birthday party.  She believes that there needs to be a happy event in her and her uncle’s lives, as shortly after Roslyn’s suicide, the other niece and Althea’s sister, Matilda, has been lost at sea!  Will the terrible events stop befalling this family?

A murderer has entered the office!!!

At the birthday party, as all seem to be enjoying themselves, a stranger arrives.  He is Steven Howard(Ted North) and he has a shocking announcement:  he is Matilda’s secret husband!!!! This news is very bothersome to Victor because if this Howard guy is telling the truth, it will mess up the dispersal of Matilda’s share of the family estate.  Victor secretly asks police lieutenant Donovan(Fred Clark) to dig up all he can on Steven Howard.  Victor also invites Steven to stay at his home while he is in town.

Oliver and Althea

Matilda and Steven

As the weeks go by, Althea takes several chances to flirt with Steven since her husband, Oliver, (Hurd Hatfield) is a lousy drunk.  Then the shocker of all shockers breaks: Matilda is alive!!!  The Grandisons are notified that Matilda didn’t die at sea but survived the ocean liner’s sinking and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where she had been suffering from amnesia.  She recovered enough to recall her name and family and where they live, but she has no memory of Steven or having married him!!

The plot of this film continues to twist and turn and several characters have hidden agendas to achieve.  Steven is out to convince Matilda that they are married, but is he really telling all of them the truth?  Althea and her husband have a failing marriage and her obvious attempts to lure Steven into an affair are part of her agenda.  Why doesn’t she just go ahead and divorce Oliver?  Althea also has begun some investigating of her own as she doesn’t believe that her uncle’s secretary, Roslyn, committed suicide.  Will Althea find the truth and at what cost?  Looming over all is Victor Grandison.  Why is he so controlling over Matilda and her life?  Can she break free from his overly paternalistic ways or will she always answer to him with every decision she makes in her life?  What connection did Victor have with his secretary? Was it merely a working relationship or something that turned more sinister?  I don’t want to give away the film’s plot as I want you, dear reader, to seek it for yourself to view.

Althea pouring it on to entice Steven to have an affair!

Victor detailing to the hit man about a job!

Uncle Victor and niece Matilda

Even though the plot does sound like a soap opera,  I did find that the cast gave a fairly entertaining effort that I liked.  Look for Constance Bennett-early film star from the 1930s-as Victor’s radio show producer, Fred Clark as a “hop right to it” police lieutenant, and Jack Lambert as a creepy hired hit man.  I wasn’t as familiar with Joan Caulfield or Ted North, who played Matilda and Steven; this was the first film I ever saw either of them act in.  They do an ok job.  Production notes I read mentioned that director Michael Curtiz-The Unsuspected was the first movie made by  his own production company- had wanted Dana Andrews to play the part of Steve and Virginia Mayo to play the part of Matilda.  However,  during the pre-production phase,  Andrews kept demanding that his part be made larger and Curtiz  became so irritated that he fired him!  Warner Brothers had an agreement to release the film and as Andrews was one of their stars, and he was a package deal with Virginia, his firing took Mayo off the picture too.  I do think if they had remained in the film, their acting would have enhanced this film.

Where can you see The Unsuspected?  It sometimes is on Turner Classic Movies, so keep an eye on their schedule.  It is available to purchase through TCM and Amazon-on a dvd.  Here is the opening scene in an advertisement for the film, which moviegoers in 1947 would have seen at the theaters.  Incidentally, in the link from Youtube, Ted North-Steven-is credited as Michael North, and I don’t know why because he later went by Ted in the rest of his filmwork.

Be sure to visit the site at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, or PEPS, to read others contributions to the blogathon, honoring the late, always great, British actor Claude Rains, on what would have been his birthday, November 10th, 1889.

A French poster advertising the film

For the Claude Rains Blogathon: 1947’s The Unsuspected

Claude Rains could do no wrong, in my opinion, as an actor.  Whether he was playing the lead or a supporting character, as soon as his presence appeared  on the screen, one could be sure they were going to see a quality performance.  To honor the actor, who began his career on the English stage in 1899 as a child of ten, running on stage to be in a  crowd scene,  The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society decided to honor Rains on his November 10th birthday with a three day blogathon. Be sure to visit their blog’s site and read the other great pieces about Claude Rains.  I am pleased to be a part of this tribute and have chosen to write about Rains’s performance in 1947’s

The Unsuspected.   

The cast, and a solid cast too, working with Rains in this film: Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield, Joan Caulfield, Ted North, Fred Clark, Harry Lewis, Jack Lambert, and Ray Walker.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, screenplay by Curtiz’s wife, Bess Meredyth and Ranald MacDougall.  The film was based on a novel written by Charlotte Armstrong.  Warner Brothers Studios earned a nice sum from the release of the film.  

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the popular radio host of a “true crimes” radio show.  One evening in Victor’s home, his secretary Roslyn’s body is found hanging from a chandelier.  Suicide is what the police suspect and all who knew Roslyn are in shock.  A couple weeks later, Victor’s niece Althea(Audrey Totter) is throwing him a birthday party and a new shock arrives at the party in the form of one Steven Howard(Ted North).  Howard claims to be the husband of niece Matilda, who is presumed dead!  Matilda was involved in a boating accident while on vacation and her body was never found.  The length of time for a possible deceased person to re-appear alive is waning and Matilda’s share of the estate was to go back to her Uncle Victor.  Now that this Howard fellow has appeared claiming to be Matilda’s husband, he could fight for her share of the estate!  What a way to ruin Victor’s birthday party!

Poor Roslyn! The secretary is about to be murdered!

Althea’s drunk husband Oliver, Steven, and Jane, Victor’s manager-good to see Constance Bennett in this film. She was a star in the early 1930s.

Can Matilda trust her Uncle Victor?

Is Matilda starting to remember who Steven is?

Victor asks police detective Donovan(Fred Clark) to investigate Howard, who frustratingly seems to know all about Victor, Althea, and the rest of Matilda’s family.  Huge plot twist when Matilda re-appears!  Unfortunately for Howard, she has no memory of who he is and no memory of marrying him!  Without giving away a lot of the film’s plot, I will say that Howard has a reason to appear when he does into the Grandison Family’s lives, Althea and her husband Oliver(Hurd Hatfield) aren’t the idyllic couple, and Victor Grandison has an evil heart and mind.

Rains is great in this role.  With his rich and distinct voice, he’s perfect as a radio show host.  With his two nieces, he is caring towards them one moment, but then cunning and scheming, an uncle they need to respect and be wary of all the time.  Rain’s Grandison is ultimately only concerned with himself but is so polite and mannerly, it is a character trait that he can use in order to get his way in a lot situations.

The Unsuspected  is available to purchase through TCM’s Shop.

From time to time TCM airs this film so keep your eyes on the lookout via the station’s monthly schedule.  Here is a great trailer that I found on Youtube, that would have been used to advertise it to the filmgoers in 1947.

This has been fun for me to re-enter my hobby of blogging about classic films.  I took a hiatus in order to re-enter my career field of teaching.  I taught school eons ago, 1987-1991, then took a number of years off to be a stay-at-home mom to a lot of kids, 7 specifically.  When the youngest turned 12, hubby gently suggested I go back to my career and I agreed, it was time to return to the classroom.  So, while substitute teaching and working one year as a para, I had to take a few college classes, a teacher’s exam, and apply for a Missouri state teaching certificate.  With my certificate in hand, in early August I was offered a teaching spot at an elementary school and it is wonderful to be teaching full-time once again.   Hopefully I will be able to balance work and blogging with ease!