The Conrad Veidt Society
By Barbara Peterson
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-
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 -
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 -
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-
NOTES OF INTEREST
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' -
Slipped Past the Censors
''Mind you draw the blinds,'' calls the prune-
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 -
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 -
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