Hollywood, England Expects



Two headlines, two movies. The top one is from MGM’s ABOVE SUSPICION, directed by scowling killjoy Richard Thorpe (at least, Esther Williams found him so, and I feel Esther can be believed), in which Fred MacMurray takes Joan Crawford spying on their honeymoon. The second comes out of CONFIRM OR DENY, a Fox wartime newspaper story originally authored by Sam Fuller, who knew war and newspapers. The big-budget recreations of the Blitz are pretty staggering ~


But I mainly liked it for the thousand faces of Roddy McDowell. Here are some ~

Fritz Lang shot for two weeks on CONFIRM OR DENY before walking off, to be replaced by Archie Mayo. Lang might have enjoyed ABOVE SUSPICION more if he’d had a shot at it: it’s a mash-up of spy movie tropes including business nicked from the original MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (assassination timed to timpani).

The most arresting moment is when Conrad Veidt demonstrates the smooth hinges of an iron maiden — and it’s the very one he was pressed into at the start of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, fifteen years before in his Hollywood starring role. This is his last film.

Picture Play Magazine had a piece about this prop in 1928, stating that it was now on display in a Hollywood museum: it evidently remained available to filmmakers at least into the forties.


ABOVE SUSPICION stars Walter Neff; Blanche Hudson; Gwynplaine/Lord Clancharlie; Sherlock Holmes; Ebenezer Scrooge; Aunt Patsy; Miss Margaret Phillibrown; Aunt Milly; Comrade Buljanoff; Mistress Hibbins; Timmons; Adolf Hitler / Franz Huber; Henri Cassin; Evan Adams III; Mrs. Cruncher; and Young Lieutenant – Firing Squad.

CONFIRM OR DENY stars Alexander Graham Bell; Madame Blanc; Cornelius; Ianto; E.J. Waggleberry; Reverend Cyril Playfair; Sir Alfred MacGlennon-Keith; Velma Wall; Mrs. Troll; Uncle Arn; Inspector Lestrade; Sir Mortimer Fortescue; and Knuckles.


12 Responses to “Hollywood, England Expects”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    A Roddy-Biography is seriously needed. Unfortunately it would be very hard to do as so many people are gone, and I’m not just speaking of the goddess who played “Grace” to his “Will” — Elizabeth Taylor. He was reportedly de-virginized by Walter Pigeon ( no not during “How Green Was My Valley,” during a film they made a few years later) Well-liked by all but “hard to cast” (being the screamer that he was) he nonetheless scored post=”Lassie” in a variety of projects, my fave being “Lord Love a Duck” and a lavish Maurice Evans-starred version of “The Tempest” in which he played “Ariel” in an incredibly gorgeous costume. He’s also excellent in Randal Kleiser’s AIDS drama “It’s My Party.” Roddy reportedly died of AIDS himself. The silent 8mm films he made of his weekend parties at his place in Malibu are a wonder to behold. They’re on You Tube and feature the likes of Lauren Bacall, Tuesday Weld, George Axelrod, George Cukor, Cecil Beaton and Judy Garland.

  2. Those could certainly form the centrpiece of a great documentary… I’m always delighted when he turns up in anything.

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, Davids, a biography is definitely needed. He always lighted up the film and TV screen whenever he appeared and he was great in THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY (1977) TV series when the producers decided to eliminate the boring juvenile leads from the pilot and bring him in as a regular character. Yet others are still around such as Ian McShane and Madeline Smith who both appeared in his only film as director TAM LIN.

  4. Fiona Watson Says:

    We also need a proper Conrad Veidt biography. The few that exist are very poor. He was far more than ‘that creepy guy from The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.’

  5. And Bruce Robinson and Joanna Lumley and most of the rest, actually.

  6. Re Veidt, Fiona and I are immersed, or half-immersed, in a Connie project. More on this later.

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    I hope it will give much needed coverage to his British films as well as the one above and NAZI AGENT. Whatever, the focus, it will be very thoroughly researched. I saw his Metternich in CONGRESS DANCES years ago at the NFT that starred Wili and Lilly. Flicker Alley will release his DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS, directed by Richard Oswald,. at the end of the year.

  8. Great catch on the MWL/AS connection! She was really typecast as an Iron Maiden, wasn’t she?

  9. Yes, but if you’re typecast, you’re always busy. Especially if you’re typecast as an instrument of torture.

    Our Veidt piece is largely about one film, but yes, his British films are crucial.

  10. Jeff Gee Says:

    The strangest of all Roddy McDowell projects might be the 1958 Playhouse 90 adaptation of “Heart of Darkness” with Roddy as Marlowe, Boris Karloff as Kurtz, and Eartha Kitt as “The Queen.” Also on hand: Richard Haydn, Catherine Nesbitt (“The Crone”), Oscar Homolka. A heavily medicated Sterling Hayden is the host. The whole thing, including commercials, is on YouTube Here. Screenwriter Stewart Stern (“Rebel without a Cause,” “The Last Movie”) felt it needed some BACKSTORY and provided plenty. Also some musical numbers with Eartha. Follow Sterling’s example and drain a couple bottles of Codeine before embarking.

  11. Fiona Watson Says:

    Conrad Veidt doing the tango in Above Suspicion. Isn’t it delightful ?!

    (Hope this GIF/link works and that I’m not in trouble for nabbing it)

    In this film, Connie is just your average dancing, torture instrument expert, lederhosen wearing, resistance fighter who enjoys being stood on in high heels. Also, his idea of rescuing someone is grabbing them by the throat.

  12. Mörder on the dance floor!

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