Above Suspicion
(1943), 90 min. b&w

Rathbone as the charming Sigurd von Aschenhausen

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.

at the concert
The Myles meet Sig von Aschenhausen and his mother.
Having a good time
Richard and Sig reminisce about old times at Oxford.

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 the Gestapo.

at Dr. Mespelbrunn's house
They hear a noise upstairs. "It's the dog."
Von Aschenhausen sounds the alarm!
"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.

Von Aschenhausen in Nazi uniform 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 Italy.
at Dreikirchen
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.

Click here to see more pictures from "Above Suspicion."

Watch the trailer for the film:


 

 

       

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............ Sig von Aschenhausen Production Co. .............. MGM
Joan Crawford ............... Frances Myles   Producers .................... Victor Saville, Leon Gordon
Fred MacMurray ......... Richard Myles   Director ......................... Richard Thorpe
Conrad Veidt ................... Hassert Seidel   Writers ........................ Keith Winter, Melville Baker, Patricia Coleman (based on the novel by Helen MacInnes)
Reginald Owen ............... Dr. Mespelbrunn    
Richard Ainley .............. Peter Galt    
Cecil Cunningham....... Countess   Cinematographer ....... Robert Planck
Ann Shoemaker..... Aunt Ellen   Editor .......................... George Hively
Sara Haden............... Aunt Hattie   Music Composer ......... Bronislau Kaper
Felix Bressart................ Mr. A. Werner   Art Director ................ Randall Duell
Bruce Lester ........... Thronley   Costume Designer ..... Irene Gile Steele
Johanna Hofer ................. Frau Kleist      
Lotte Palfi................. Ottilie      
Alex Papana ........... Man in Paris      
Rex Williams................. Gestapo Leader
Hans von Morhart ....... Schmidt      
William Yetter ............... Hauptman      
Steven Geray ................. Anton      
Wee Willie Davis ......... Hans      
Lisa Golm .............. Frau Schultz      
Ludwig Stossel ....... Herr Schultz      
Ivan Simpson ................ Porter      
Arthur Shields .............. Porter      
Henry Glynn .................. Chauffeur      
Eily Malyon ............. Manageress      
Marcelle Corday ............ Maid      
Frank Lackteen .............. Arab Vendor      
Charles de Ravenne ..... Chasseur      
Andre Charlot ............... Cafe Manager      
Matthew Boulton ......... Constable      
         

Images on this page and page two are from the film "Above Suspicion," copyright MGM.

 

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2011