Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Recommended Posts

Saboteur (1942) is Hitchcock's first truly American film, thematically and spiritually.

 

Robert Cummings is the Norman Rockwell good-hearted, uncomplicated guy you want your daughter to marry.  Priscilla Lane might not have been the most sophisticated of the cool Hitchcock blondes, but she has a girl next door accessibility and an effortless sex-appeal. There are other decent slices of Americana: A blind man, a regular-Joe truck driver (the Code prevented his language from being saltier, but your imagination can fill in the taboo words), and the head of a circus all shield and protect the protagonists. They are contrasted with the genteel malevolence of Otto Kruger's well-to-do businessman, and a circus midget with a Hitler mustache.

 

The confrontation when Cummings asks Kruger why a successful person such as himself, who has gained so much from the land of the free, would embrace fascism and turn against America, and Kruger responds because totalitarian regimes get things done, takes on a potent relevancy today, as democracy in some circles is dismissed as outdated and weak. 

 

Ben Mankiewicz described Saboteur as an American version of the 39 Steps.  I agree with that.

 

Two more observations: The cloud-like smoke that enters the frame at the airplane factory, just before the fire that sets things in motion, moving slowly across the screen, reminded me of the scene in The Shining, when the blood seeps from the elevators in the same slow ominous fashion.  I wouldn't be surprised if Kubrick got the idea from Hitchcock. Secondly, the pervy face Norman Lloyd's Nazi agent makes as he's leering at Priscilla Lane on the boat taking them to the Statute of Liberty (where Mr. Lloyd has his iconic fall) was so nicely over the top that it was funny.

 

Saboteur usually shows up in a compilation of Hitchcock's 20 to 25 best films, as well it should.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

I'm not a huge Robert Cummings fan, but I love him in this. It makes sense that this could be considered a remake of ​The 39 Steps ​since both films are notable for the romantic comic byplay between the two leads. Both men have to prove to the woman that they're more than charming rascals (or something even more sinister) and for sections of the movie their relationship is front and center while the plot is sort of on the back burner. It kind of prefigures North By Northwest ​in that way, except Eva Marie Saint's character is a double agent so that muddies the waters. Pricilla Lane makes a great acting partner for Cummings. I think she was generally the kind of "serviceable" (and I don't mean that as a negative) actress you could plug in anywhere and she's do a good job, but in Saboteur​ she's even better than that. Despite Hitchcock's notorious claim that actors were "cattle", he had a very astute eye for casting and could put together couples with great chemistry. It didn't fail him in ​Saboteur and I'm looking forward to seeing it again this month.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

In one of Robert Osborne's introductions for SABOTEUR, he claimed that Hitch's original choices for the leads were Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper but supposedly scheduling conflicts prevented it. Stanwyck & Cooper had done MEET JOHN DOE and had just scored a huge follow-up hit with BALL OF FIRE. Cooper was under contract with Sam Goldwyn, and Stanwyck was a freelancer. Neither ended up working with the director.

 

Instead Hitch used Universal's contract player Bob Cummings (who later had a supporting role in DIAL M FOR MURDER); and Priscilla Lane was borrowed from Warners. Stanwyck & Cooper would pair up again in BLOWING WILD for Warners in 1953.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

That shows what a high standard Hitchcock set for himself, doesn't it? I'm very satisfied with what Cummings and Lane did with the parts but I have to admit to getting a kind of heady thrill thinking about Cooper and Stanwyck, especially since we know what Hitchcock was able to do with James Stewart (and, of course, what Stewart was able to do for Hitchcock).

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

That shows what a high standard Hitchcock set for himself, doesn't it? I'm very satisfied with what Cummings and Lane did with the parts but I have to admit to getting a kind of heady thrill thinking about Cooper and Stanwyck, especially since we know what Hitchcock was able to do with James Stewart (and, of course, what Stewart was able to do for Hitchcock).

I think Cummings and Lane were able to channel the naïveté of Americans waking up to and confronting the Nazi threat on the home front.  I read Hitchcock said he didn't think Lane was a good fit for a Hitchcock picture.  But as you said, she was damn good in Saboteur.  I would have liked to have seen Lane in a femme fatale role - she did Bodyguard in 1948, so I guess that counts.  Yes, we can only wonder how Cooper and Stanwyck would have fared.   

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Cummings and Lane were able to channel the naïveté of Americans waking up to and confronting the Nazi threat on the home front.  I read Hitchcock said he didn't think Lane was a good fit for a Hitchcock picture.  But as you said, she was damn good in Saboteur.  I would have liked to have seen Lane in a femme fatale role - she did Bodyguard in 1948, so I guess that counts.  Yes, we can only wonder how Cooper and Stanwyck would have fared.   

 

I think the one who fared best was Otto Kruger. Surprised Hitch didn't use him again in another film.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I think the one who fared best was Otto Kruger. Surprised Hitch didn't use him again in another film.

 

I also really like the performance of Otto Kruger in this film.   The perfect balance of sophistication and evil.    He had a similar role in Murder, My Sweet a few years later. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I also really like the performance of Otto Kruger in this film.   The perfect balance of sophistication and evil.    He had a similar role in Murder, My Sweet a few years later. 

 

And in the Monogram film ALLOTMENT WIVES with Kay Francis. He made a great villain.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I thought this movie was very suspenseful and like the comedic touches in it. Cummings and Lane were  believable as a young naive couple confronting Nazi spies. I would have like to see how Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck interpret the roles.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...