I love the spy thrillers that Helen MacInnes wrote, and Above Suspicion ranks right up there with her best ones. I could hardly put the book down because I had to find out what would happen next. The film is every bit as suspenseful and nail-biting as the
novel. A few of the characters and details in the film are different, but otherwise it is a faithful adaptation.
Fred MacMurray and Joan Crawford play Richard and
Frances Myles, young newlyweds who plan to spend their honeymoon in Europe in the summer of 1939. England is not yet at war with Germany, but Germany abounds with Nazis and British spies. One of the
spies for the British has vital information, and has disappeared, so one of Richard's friends, who works for the
British Foreign Office, asks if Richard and Frances could find the missing agent. He explains that, as a honeymooning couple, they are above suspicion.
Finding the agent proves to be complicated because they don't know his
name, what he looks like, or where to find him. But there is a network of
spies, and starting at one end will lead to the other end, where they hope
to find the missing agent.
Starting in Paris, Richard and Frances treat their mission as an exciting adventure,
a game almost. But it soon becomes dangerous. (Of course they are asking for trouble when Richard calls one of the Nazi officers "Dope.")
The trail leads Richard and Frances to Salzburg, where they meet an
Englishman named Thornley. The three of them attend a Liszt concert one
evening. During the concert someone shoots a German officer and the
Gestapo are questioning everyone present. Earlier, during the
intermission, Richard and Frances had run into Sigurd von Aschenhausen (Rathbone)
and his mother. Von Aschenhausen and Richard were fellow Rhodes scholars at Oxford.
Since they were friends at one time, von Achenhausen uses his influence to
allow Richard, Frances and Thornley to leave. Afterwards they all have dinner together and reminisce about Oxford. Von Aschenhausen is very cordial and does not let on that he is in fact a Nazi officer and not at all nice.
As von Achenhausen talks about the murder committed during the concert, it
becomes clear to Richard that Thornley is the murderer. Thornley later
admits to Richard that he was avenging the death of his sister at the
hands of that German officer.
The Myles meet Sig von Aschenhausen and his mother.
Richard and Sig reminisce about old times at
The next piece of the puzzle leads Richard and Frances into the
mountains to find a Dr. Mespelbrunn, the missing agent. At Mespelbrunn's
house they find von Aschenhausen. They know something is wrong because he
doesn't give the correct hand signal. Dr. Mespelbrunn, tied up upstairs,
makes a noise and von Aschenhausen says it's the dog. He goes upstairs to
check and Mespelbrunn manages to whisper a warning through the vent to the
Myles. They leave the house moments before von Aschenhausen returns with
They hear a noise upstairs. "It's the
"They've escaped with Mespelbrunn!"
The Gestapo all leave the house to try to find Richard and Frances
in the woods. Richard and Frances manage to lose them and circle back to
the house to rescue Dr. Mespelbrunn. He gives Richard the complete details
of a Nazi secret weapon and parts company with them.
Now that Richard and Frances are no longer "above
suspicion," their lives are in danger. They disguise themselves and
obtain fake passports. While meeting an ally to get money to cross the
border, Frances is arrested by the Gestapo. Fortunately, Thornley
witnesses the incident and is able to tell Richard that she has been taken
to Dreikirchen. Richard, Thornley and a German ally mount a rescue
operation. They take out the guards at Dreikirchen and burst into the room
in which von Aschenhausen is interrogating Frances. In the ensuing fight,
Richard tries to strangle von Aschenhausen, and then shoots him. The other
Nazis are also shot, but so is Thornley. Richard, Frances and their ally
borrow some uniforms and a Gestapo car and flee across the border into
Von Aschenhausen interrogates Frances Myles
Richard attacks von Aschenhausen
Sigurd von Aschenhausen is a typical "villain" role for
Rathbone, which he performs very well and convincingly. He doesn't overdo it, either. He's a perfect gentleman in one scene, and utterly ruthless and cruel in the next.
I found this film immensely enjoyable and highly recommend it. The cast is
first-rate. Above Suspicion was Crawford's final film for MGM after 18 years.