Posts Tagged ‘Felix Bressart’

Above Suspicion-For the Joan Crawford Blogathon

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.   Poster - Above Suspicion (1943)_01

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”.

Annex - MacMurray, Fred (Above Suspicion)_01

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??

Can the Myles's trust Basil??

Can the Myles’s trust Basil??

Can the Myles's trust Conrad??

Can the Myles’s trust Conrad??

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!

One can find Above Suspicion at TCM as they air it from time to time and it’s available to buy at TCM’s shop.   It’s available to buy or watch on instant rent via Amazon.

Above Suspicion

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.



My Classic Movie Pick: To Be or Not To Be

Ernest Lubitch was a brilliant movie director, immigrant from Germany, who had a way with telling a comedic film.  To Be or Not To Be, which debuted in 1942, is a fine example of his work,  a movie that finds comedy gold in the errors made by the main characters.    The cast includes Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Lionel Atwill, and character actors Felix Bressart, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, and Stanley Ridges.First To Be poster Jack Benny plays Joseph Tura, the head of a Polish Acting Troupe.  He is a hammy actor, and  with his huge ego, he thinks he is as good an actor as Laurence Olivier.  Carole Lombard is his wife, Maria, also a member of the troupe.  She tolerates her husband and unbeknownst to him has recently begun seeing a dashing Polish pilot, Lieutenant Stanislov Sobinski, played by Robert Stack.   Whenever the troupe rehearses Hamlet and Joseph is about to begin the famous soliloquy, “To Be or Not to Be”, that is the signal when the Lt. Sobinski leaves the audience to visit Maria in her dressing room.  The troupe has been working on a play they wrote themselves, called “Gestapo” in order to not get on Hitler’s bad list( it’s 1939 when the movie begins).  The troupe member, Bronski, assigned the part of Hitler, decides to test his make-up and costume and goes out into the public square during a rehearsal and all is well until a child in the crowd recognizes him as Bronski and asks for his autograph!

Lt. Sobinski trying to impress Maria.

Lt. Sobinski trying to impress Maria.

Joseph's Hamlet talking with Maria's Ophelia.

Joseph’s Hamlet talking with Maria’s Ophelia.

Bronski trying out his Hitler costume on the public.

Bronski trying out his Hitler costume

Time jumps forward a year and Poland is under the control of the Nazi regime.  Lt. Sobinski, along with a group of Polish pilots, have joined the RAF(Britain’s Royal Air Force).  An official of the Polish government tells the troupe that they can’t perform their play “Gestapo” so they begin to rehearse Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, for the umpteenth time and of course, only Joseph can play Hamlet.  Maria is his Ophelia.   We meet the dashing Lt. Sobinski again, but this time he is in England with his fellow Polish pilots.  They are delighted that Professor Siletsky, a staunch Polish National,  is in England  and he visits the pilots.  He informs them that he’s about to return to Poland and they give him a list of their families’ names and addresses so he can contact them and let them know that their sons are safe in England.  Lt. Sobinski gives him a special message to send Maria, “To Be or Not to Be” .  The Professor says’s he’ll deliver it but doesn’t know who Maria Tura is.  This surprises Sobinski, because Maria is a famous Polish actress.  After the Professor leaves, Sobinski contacts British military intelligence and shares his concerns that the Professor might not be who he seems to be.  After some digging, they find out he is a Nazi spy!  The Brits send Lt. Sobinski secretly into Poland to find the Professor and stop him from giving his information to the Nazis.   From here on out, it’s a case of stopping the Professor, Joseph posing as the Professor, and as a Col. Erhardt who is to receive the Professor’s information, Maria trying to fool the Nazis into thinking she’ll be a spy for them, Bronski reprising his Hitler role, and the other actors in the troupe posing as Gestapo members.  It is all done with a lot of humor, wit, and of course, has a happy ending.

Bronski saves Maria by making Col. Erhardt think she is Hitler's girl!

Bronski saves Maria by making Col. Erhardt think she is Hitler’s girl!

The real Col. Erhardt.

The real Col. Erhardt.

Joseph disguised as Col. Erhardt.

Joseph disguised as Col. Erhardt.

Maria trying to convince the Professor that she'd be a good spy.

Maria trying to convince the Professor that she’d be a good spy.

Professor Siletsky greeting the Polish pilots.

Professor Siletsky greeting the Polish pilots.

Ernst Lubitsch produced and directed this movie, based upon a story by Melchior Lengyel, who also wrote the screenplay along with Edwin Justus Mayer.  Miriam Hopkins, who’s career was starting a downward slide in the early 1940s, was originally cast as Maria but didn’t like working with Jack Benny and she quit early in the production.  Carole Lombard got wind of this and requested the role and got it.  Sadly, this would be Lombard’s last film as she would die in a plane crash, traveling on a War Bonds Tour.  This film allowed Carole Lombard to shine and her comedic talents are evident throughout this movie.

To Be or Not to Be made the American Film Institute’s 100 Years of Laughs list.  It is available to buy through Amazon and is available to rent on Netflix.  This Sunday, June 23rd, at 4:15 a.m. it will air on Turner Classic Movies, so set that dvr machine.  You don’t want to miss this  gem!

English and German movie posters.

English and German movie posters.

Alls well that ends well!

Alls well that ends well!