The Conrad Veidt Society

By Barbara Peterson

Above Suspicion


Richard Myles, American expatriot and Oxford Professor

Frances Myles, nee Blake, American student at Oxford

Count Hassert Seidel, a most persistent guide

Thornely. An Englishman once considered 'above suspicion.'

Sig von Aschenhausen. He pretends not to be a Nazi.

Peter Galt, Richard's friend from the foreign office.

Professor Messpelbrunn, the end of the trail.

Countess von Aschenhausen, Sig's mother.

Frances' Aunt Ellen.

Frances' Aunt Hattie.

Mr. A. Werner, eponymous owner of the Salzburg bookstore.

Frau Kleist, owner of the Salzburg guest house.

NOTE: For a complete list of actors and the production crew of this film, go to the Internet Movie Database here.


Oxford, England. 1939. After the Austrian anschluss but before the Nazis march into Poland.

Professor Richard Myles of Oxford University has just married Francis (an American student, probably a Rhodes Scholar). Before they can leave the country for a continental honeymoon, Peter Gault, a friend of Richard's from the Foreign Office, tracks them down and requests their help in contacting a missing British agent in Germany. This agent knows names of other agents; it's important to learn if the Gestapo has him. He also has the electrical formula for a German secret weapon. Since they are American tourists, Gault is sure they will be 'above suspicion.'

In Paris, Richard and Francis go to the L'Opera Cafe at 10:00, as instructed, and spill a glass of wine. Their contact at the cafe walks by their table and signals where they are to go next. At the next cafe, a certain book is slipped into Richard's coat pocket. Once back at the hotel, they decipher the code in the book, which tells them to go to an antique bookstore in Salzburg, in southern Germany.

Salzburg. Walking along the streets choked with gangs of Nazis marching this way and that. At the bookstore, Francis accidentally steps on the foot of a man who had been loitering in the doorway, munching on a bag of sweets. Count Hasselt Seidel raises his hat, smiles, and walks away. They enter the store to find an uncooperative, Nazi clerk. Her employer comes down from his work room and indicates to Richard where they are to go next, before he flees from a detachment of Nazis.

Their next point of call is the Burg Museum. Here, Seidel is waiting for them. He is a professional guide to the city of Salzburg. He points out a few of the torture instruments in the Museum, but Richard and Francis are unamused. He then advises them to change their lodgings to the Kleist Gasthof, and they do so.

Four days pass (mere seconds in screen time), before the agent at the Gasthof is sure of them. She approaches them with a book, a commentary of the concertos of Franz Liszt. They decipher the code, their end stop is Pertesol. While Francis is trying to take a nap before the concert, Richard goes to the room next door to request it's occupant not to play the piano so loudly. This occupant is Mr Thornley, an Englishman. He advises Richard not to go to the concert.

Richard and Francis go to the concert anyway. During the intermission, they are in the packed hallway, sipping wine. Sig and his mother walk past them. Richard greets Sig as a fellow ex-Rhodes Scholar, but Sig is cold and walks away. During the second half of the concert, a party of Nazis arrive and take their place in a balcony box - among them the commandant from the Dachau Concentration Camp. In a few minutes, during a particularly loud portion of the music, someone shoots him. It takes a few seconds before Colonel Gerrold's companions realize that he hasn't just fallen asleep, and in that time the murderer disposes of the gun.

The concert goers are lined up to be interrogated by the Germans. Thornley is standing with the Myles' (though he wasn't with them during the concert itself). Sig vouches for Richard, Francis, and Thornley (whom Francis claims is one of Richard's prize pupils at Oxford) and the three tourists are allowed to leave immediately. They dine at Frau von Aschenhausen's schloss and Sig describes the method the assassin used to commit his murder. At the hotel later that night, Richard goes into Thornley's room. He is burning his white gloves. Richard burns the book Frau Gleisst had given him. He removes his invitation for Thornley to go climbing with them the next day (which he had made at the Concert Hall while they were standing in line to be interrogated). He is displeased that Thornley wasn't 'sporting', that he shot 'a sitting duck'. As he is leaving the room Thornley bursts out, ''I'd do it again. He killed my fiance, because she wouldn't implicate me. We came here to contact someone. Like you, they thought we'd be above suspicion. But they watch everything you do, hear everything you say.''

The next day, in the Tyrol, Richard and Francis go to a woodcarver's shop in search of chess pieces (part of the clue they had received from the book). There, they get directions to their final contact, a professor who collects chessmen. The woodcarver gives them another way to know that the professor is the genuine article - a certain trick with a cigarette lighter. When they arrive at the professor's house, it is Sig who comes whistling cheerfully down the staircase to greet them. He invites Francis to play music for them, but when he doesn't know the cigarette lighter signal, Francis quickly switches a different song for the 'My Love is like a red red rose' that is the agent's signal. Sig's face falls, nevertheless he's going to let the Gestapo take them anyway, and disappears upstairs for a few minutes. The professor, bound and gag in the room above, nevertheless manages to get to the ventilator shaft in one wall and warn them to leave. They do so.

Hours later (only seconds in screen time) they attempt to return to the house in order to free the Professor. Richard kills a dog that was going to attack them, then leaves Francis in the bushes while he attempts to find a way into the house. Seidel is there before him, and the two men find and release the Professor. They change costume in the back seat while Seidel drives them towards Innsbruck. The Professor is dropped off and apparently has his own way of getting out of the country. He gives Richard names of agents who can be trusted, and finally a screwed up piece of paper which pressumably has the electrical formula on it. A few miles along, Veidt drops off Richard and Francis at a point where they can find a couple who forge passports, promising them that he'll have the money for their train fare to Italy the next day, arranging to meet them at a Franciscan church.

The next day, the Schulz's have made passports for Richard and Francis, who are dressed up as elderly people. Richard goes to the train station while Francis goes to the church where Seidel is giving a tour. After the tour group heads in one direction, Francis leaves in the opposite direction. But the Nazis have found the Schulz's, who didn't destroy the negatives of the Myles' new disguise, and so Francis is picked up. Fortunately Thornley is there, doubtless on his way to Italy, and recognizes Francis because of her habit of slipping off one of her shoes while she walks. He goes to the train station (where Richard is on board the train without having the money for a ticket - one pays on the train perhaps?) and tells Richard that his wife has been brought to Dreikirchen - a huge house and grounds that is a training ground for elite guards.

Richard searches for Seidel, finally finding him in Der Schwartze Katzen, a club with dancing. Seidel is doing the tango with an elderly woman. The scene in which Richard, still in his elderly disguise, identifies himself to Seidel as Myles and indicates he needs assistance, is absolutely hilarious. Seidel, Richard and Thornley go to the practically deserted Dreikirchen. Fortunately there's a big Party rally in the town that night, and practically all the Nazis are there.

The three men successfully enter Dreikirchen, and hear Francis scream. Richard goes for Sig, Thornley goes for the torturer Kurt, and Seidel goes to untie Mrs. Myles. Kurt shoots Thornley, but Seidel shoots and kills Kurt. Infuriated, Richard has been slowly strangling Sig to death, but Sig manages to throw him off. Before Sig can draw his gun, Richard shoots him. Thornley, dying, manages to fix up a Gestapo pass before he dies. Richard and Seidel take one of the cars, while Francis hides under a blanket in the back seat. They drive to the German/Italian border and cross. Conrad has apparently given up thought of returning to Salzburg, because they push the car over the edge of a cliff, and then go off to get some spaghetti.


Richard: ''The less you know, or seem to know, the better.''

Francis: ''That's what my mother said the night I came out in Boston.''

In the Cafe L'Opera, waiting for 10 pm, and Aunt Hattie and Aunt Ellen coming towards them.

Francis: ''Richard, what do we do?''

Richard: ''Drug them heavily and ship them to Rio.''

While Conrad is driving Richard, Francis, and the rescued professor:

Conrad: ''Under the seat you will find a small junk shop. I advise a change of costume. You first, Mrs. Myles. Mr. Myles will watch the road behind and I...well, I'll watch only the road ahead.'' and he adjusts the mirror and touches his hat and concentrates on the road ahead as Francis starts to get undressed. Veidt's expression is hilarious.


Above Suspicion (1943), was based upon the novel by Helen MacInnes, but like most novel adaptations, the screenwriters used the title and little else.


It was difficult to watch this movie the first time. Though I knew Fred MacMurray had played a despicable character in Double Indemnity, I had a hard time seeing him as anything other than the middle-aged, stooped, loveable dad from My Three Sons and from the various Disney movies I had seen in my childhood. Every time I looked at Joan Crawford I could only see the blind old woman from the Night Gallery episode (and the Mommy Dearest trailer). I was happy when Conrad Veidt finally arrived on the scene. Some of his scenes were hilarious, and his facial expressions and the 'business' he would do while delivering his lines were classic. Scene stealer! Unfortunately cometimes the dialogue given him was a bit inane. Basil Rathbone made an excellent villain as usual. (Switch Basil's role with Conrad's - would either role have been improved, you think?) Upon subsequent viewings, I grew to like the movie. You just had to think back to 1943, to what the Nazis were doing to 'undesirables' in Germany, to feel the suspense and the sorrow for the victims who dropped, one by one, through the screenplay. The two leads had a good chemistry, and you cared about what happens to them. The ending is a very abrupt one. Richard, Francis and Hasselt cross into Italy, push their car over a cliff, and go off to get some spaghetti. End of film.


Veidt's film countdown

This was Conrad Veidt's 109th film.

Echoes of WWII

Francis looks over her shoulder. ''I can't get used to looking over my shoulder.'' It could be just because she's acting as a spy and is nervous about it, but I assume it is a reference to 'the German look' - after the rise of Hitler and his informers people started to look around to make sure someone wasn't listening to their conversation. So many people did it that 'the German look' became famous.

Slipped Past the Censors

''Mind you draw the blinds,'' calls the prune-faced hotel clerk up to the two honeymooners. Two guilty faces look down from the stair landing. ''There's a practice black-out tonight,'' the prune-faced one continues. Two relieved faces smile and disappear.

I've Seen That Face Before

When Richard and Francis drive up to the hotel in Dover, a man comes out to pick up their bags. He looked incredibly like Barry Fitzgerald to me, but there was just something slightly 'wrong' about it. He was too tall and his face lacked the 'impishness' of Fitzgerald. I knew I'd seen this actor in another old movie and had assumed at the time it was Fitzgerald - before or after a car crash. Finally I got smart, looked Barry Fitzgerald up in the Internet Movie Database and found he had a brother named Arthur Shields. I then checked the credits for this movie and true enough, there was an Arthur Shields listed.

According to the IMDB, Peter Lawford has an uncredited part in this movie. I can swear I can hear his voice in the opening scene, when the Oxford students are gathered to wish the newlyweds a happy honeymoon. Am I wrong or it it John Sutton's voice saying, ''Make way there.'' in the same scene?

German Statue of Liberty

I'd never heard the torture instrument the iron maiden called that before, and I didn't think the Germans used the iron maiden as a torture instrument anyway - I thought it was used in Italy.

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