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The Unsuspected (1947)


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Has anyone seen this movie? It turned up yesterday on TCM and I just happened to be recording *I Thank a Fool* (the title alone won me) and left the tape running. I have to watch it again tonight because I only got bits and pieces but I was cracking up at Constance Bennett in a *terrifically* colorful role, Audrey Totter throwing out all kinds of snotty lines and Claude Raines being just a little bit too kind and considerate to his niece, Joan Caufield.

 

A note: all the ladies seemed to sport the same blonde hairdo and I kind of had trouble telling them apart. It added to the strange, twisty-turny flavor.

 

I suspect The Unexpected is underrated.

 

Any comments?

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Miss G., I saw it the other day. A not entirely satisfying melange of several genres: the Victorian woman's "had I but known" Gothic, where a virginal, white nightgown clad young heroine is menaced by her guardian in a spooky old mansion -- and a chic murder mystery a la LAURA (which it resembles) This part is top heavy with overly clever dialogue and brittle characters, most notably Audrey Totter and the always fashionable and ready-with-a-quip Connie Bennett. Joan Caulfield is lovely but just adequate. Hurd Hatfield has an interestling line about how Joan's portrait never ages. I guess he would know.

 

It also plays like a psychological horror thriller, with suspenseful, scary moments, and semi-Expressionistic direction by Curtiz.

 

And also like a traditional hard-boiled late 40's noir, muscular and cynical.

 

I was somewhat disoriented by this stylistic jumble.

 

Claude Rains is always the reason to see a film, and I was wondering how he'd play the role.

He's suitably unctuous and ambiguous, but just a little TOO subtle. The final revelations do little to disturb his placid exterior, and that's just not any fun!

 

I was hoping I'd enjoy it far more than I actually did, so I guess I'm in the minority.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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I'll be interested in your impressions, Arkadin.

 

Bronxie: I'm sorry you didn't like it better. I watched it three times over because I kept getting interrupted (and like I said, my tape runneth over toward the ending, which is kind of frustrating after the third viewing) and I liked it more each time. I think Curtiz (with a "Z" not an "X" as in my earlier dumb bunny post) showed what a sure hand he had with the language of cinema. It may be that it translates into a mish-mosh for some, but I personally revelled in it. And I am normally not one to get into stylistic touches and visual effects over character. Maybe the caustic script kept me interested along with the visuals. Maybe Curtiz sensed that the movie needed as many distracting effects as possible to camouflage its weaknesses? Anyway, I think it's way, way better than Mildred Pierce, Deception, Possessed or several other similar styled movies, though inferior to Laura.

 

I thought Raines was great and much more controlled than in Deception, where we all knew from the beginning where he was going with that character. His behavior toward niece Caulfield was so oily-sweet, which was suspicious but I wasn't really clued into his real motives until they revealed she was the sole heiress and he was basically living off of her. Of course, she had to be rather stupid to be so easily fooled not just by him, which is understandable (he is always kind to her) but by everyone else who lied to her!

 

Hurd Hatfield for the first time interested me (his looks have always left me cold). He seemed forever to be carrying Portrait on his back. I have yet to see him in a part that didn't allude to that movie. However, here he at least has some great lines delivered to naughty-wife Audrey Totter. This was her year, Lady in the Lake was released also in '47.

 

The lack of big names seemed to intrigue me this time, I kept waiting for Joan Crawford to come along tell Claude to go take a powder. But then, there would be no movie.

 

I loved it! I just want TCM to air it again (Please!) so I can record the whole thing and show it to my friends.

 

Why didn't Connie Bennett get to do more work in this period? I don't know much about her life/career path, but I thought she was terrific and still very sexy looking. Her every line was a hoot! I don't remember any good exchanges between her and Audrey Totter's character, though...that would have been interesting.

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Why didn't Connie Bennett get to do more work in this period? ~Miss G.

 

In part because Miss Bennett had married Theron John Coulter, an Air Force colonel, in 1946 and he was stationed in occupied Germany during the late '40s and in Washington, D.C. during the '50s. The actress was involved in assisting the soldiers stationed in Germany and became a military wife, assisting her fifth (and last) husband while promoting his career. She did appear in some stage and cabaret work during this time as well.

 

In Hollywood, Constance Bennett had, according to several sources, burned alot of bridges during the heyday of her stardom in the '30s through her alleged imperious behavior toward her co-workers, (though Vecchiolarry has some very nice things to say about her personal acts of kindness away from the public eye). For a comprehensive look at her career, as well as that of her siblings and parents, you might enjoy reading "The Bennetts: An Acting Family" by Brian Kellow. The sections on Joan Bennett's very interesting career are most appealing to me, but Constance, her marriages, her somewhat casual attitude toward her acting gifts and her worldwide peregrinations make for a pretty amusing read as well.

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To come back on topic and bring my rambling thoughts on the Bennett family to a close, I might add that this film was one that I'd never heard of until a few years ago. I was delighted with Claude Rains' obvious but amusing portrayal, though found Joan Caulfield pretty unimpressive as the object of desire as the heiress. I still can't draw any final conclusion about Michael North, who allegedly made his "debut" in this movie, even though he'd appeared in 20 movies as Ted North prior to this, (and zero movies after The Unsuspected). Sometimes North seems to be an actor who subscribes to the somnambulist school of drama, with his affectless delivery and nearly unchanging expression. If he could suggest a bit more of an inner struggle, he might've had a chance to be a second tier Alan Ladd, I suppose, with the choir boy appearance masking some inner turmoil.

 

Aside from the leading actors already mentioned in this thread, my interest was heightened by the presence of a couple of actors who impressed me in this slickly produced film. Both actors play characters who are outsiders & who seem a bit dim next to the smooth, socially adept parasites & victims who seem to populate the Rains household.

 

The first was Fred Clark (making his film debut), as the sarcastic & impatient detective whose observational skills are quite a bit sharper than they initially appear to be.

fredclark.jpg

Clark would go on to play a variety of authoritative weasels in several memorable, (and not so memorable) movies, such as White Heat (1949), Auntie Mame (1958) & Bells Are Ringing (1960). Fred's carefully deadpan yet skeptical expressions as he listens to the descriptions of the events in the Rains' house would set the mold for his entertaining characterizations from then on.

 

Seemingly on the other end of the legal and evolutionary spectrum, is Jack Lambert.

jacklambert.JPG

Lonely, duplicitous and suddenly violent, he is a slit-eyed bundle of resentment whose rampage through the final moments of the film gives it a cathartic burst of real energy. Not a particularly well-known actor, Lambert's brooding presence in this movie compelled me to finally identify him, after which I realized that I'd overlooked him numerous times in similar roles, often in terrific movies, such as The Killers (1946), Force of Evil (1948) & Stars in My Crown (1950)[/b].

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Thank you Moira! Trust you to know the scoop. That's really interesting about her marriage to the soldier boy---I like that about her. I have heard about the book you mentioned and it sounds like a very enjoyable read. I will have to add it to my list. I can imagine Connie being "imperious" and I can also imagine her being very kind.

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Moira has said everything I tried to say about this movie---perfectly as usual! ;)

 

Moira---I also took notice of Fred Clark and Jack Lambert in this one. Clark I was familiar with, though seldom had I seen him looking so young (he always seemed old, though!) and Lambert was a face who until now remained nameless but memorable.

 

One thing that I may have misinterpreted about Clark's character, is that I got the decided impression in his first scenes that he was an employee or flunky of Claude Raines??? And so I figured that was the reason they made a point of showing his name and title (in Homicide Bureau) on his office door, afterward. But what was the point---to deliberately mislead or were they trying to suggest maybe he really was friendly enough with Raines to cover up for him? Another reason to see it again.

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One thing that I may have misinterpreted about Clark's character, is that I got the decided impression in his first scenes that he was an employee or flunky of Claude Raines??? And so I figured that was the reason they made a point of showing his name and title (in Homicide Bureau) on his office door, afterward. But what was the point---to deliberately mislead or were they trying to suggest maybe he really was friendly enough with Raines to cover up for him? Another reason to see it again.~Miss Goddess

 

I think that the confusion about Fred Clark's position vis-?-vis Claude Rains is understandable, given the sometimes illogical shifts in tone throughout this movie. Clark seems quite subservient to Rains initially, I think in deference to his fame and his social status. Rich guys do get treated a bit differently by the cops, as a glance at the news will attest. As I recall, though, once Clark is aware of some of the inconsistencies in the household and Rains' version of events, things don't seem entirely right to him from then on. I think the detective character is contradictory: seen as quite dull at times, and almost omnipotent toward the end of the movie.

 

This unevenness of tone is one of several problems that are not solved by the script in this movie, though it's hard to blame Clark or Rains, who play their roles with some dash and more conviction than is provided in the script--as do Bennett, Totter & Lambert, among the supporting actors.

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>>>I think that the confusion about Fred Clark's position vis-?-vis Claude Rains is understandable, given the sometimes illogical shifts in tone throughout this movie. Clark seems quite subservient to Rains initially, I think in deference to his fame and his social status. Rich guys do get treated a bit differently by the cops, as a glance at the news will attest.<<<

 

That's what threw me off, and until I saw the rather long camera hold on the door telling us he's with the cops I thought he worked for Raines. Maybe the censors stepped in late in the day and said you can't show the police being so crooked, hence Clark's about-face when he learns the truth. Double-dealing police officers appear in many noirs, but usually they make sure there is at least one who is honest so it doesn't look like they are all portrayed as being on the take.

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  • 1 year later...

*The Unsuspected* (also shown at this year's Film Noir 7 festival) is scheduled to play again on _March 10._

 

*The Unsuspected* (1947)

The producer of a radio crime series commits the perfect crime, then has to put the case on the air. Cast: Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett. Dir: Michael Curtiz. BW-103 mins, TV-PG, CC

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  • 4 weeks later...

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