“Only the heartless succeed in crime — as in love.”
After escaping from prison, a career criminal (George Sanders) and his accomplice (Akim Tamiroff) pose for a painting of Saint George and his dragon, then begin new lives with help from Tamiroff’s uncle (Vladimir Sokoloff). Sanders steals a ruby garter from a beautiful singer (Carole Landis), then later meets a wealthy marquise (Alma Kruger) who invites them to her chateau, where her granddaughter (Signe Hasso) recognizes him as the man in the Saint George painting and falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Landis — who has married an ineffectual police chief (Gene Lockhart) — meets up with Sanders (now the new police chief) once again, and is determined to get payback for her stolen garter.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Akim Tamiroff Films
- Black Comedy
- Douglas Sirk Films
- George Sanders Films
- Historical Drama
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Signe Hasso Films
- Thieves and Criminals
Before beginning his string of lush Technicolor “women’s pictures” for Universal Pictures, Douglas Sirk made this dark comedy based on the real-life adventures of French criminal-turned-memoirist Eugène François Vidocq. Sanders is perfectly cast as (what else?) a droll cad who coolly woos women while carrying out well-executed crimes and working his way up in the world (below he’s seen by the gravestone of the man whose identity he steals):
Flirtatious Landis (just a couple of years before her untimely death) is his perfect counterpart:
… and steals the movie in later scenes, as both her vengeance and her obsession with hats take full form.
Less effective is Hasso as a reverent young woman who falls in love with the saintly painting of Sanders, then goes silent each time she sees him in real life:
For some reason her silence is appealing to Sanders, and a love triangle of sorts is thus set in motion, all while Tamiroff and his extended criminal family are busily plotting (with Sanders) to carry out the ultimate heist:
The storyline is mostly light-hearted, with plenty of mistaken identity kerfuffle (and a pet monkey!), but it turns fairly dark by the end:
Fans of Sirk’s work will likely be curious to check this film out, but it’s not must-see viewing.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Carole Landis as Loretta
- Fine cinematography (by Eugene Shuftan)
- Ellis St. Joseph’s often witty script: “Sometimes the chains of matrimony are so heavy that they have to be carried by three.”
No, though Sirk fans will probably want to check it out. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.