Saturday 31 May 2008

The Saint's Vacation (1941)

It always seemed a little unfair to me that George Sanders, the definitive screen Saint, would get lesser pictures to appear in as that character than the various others who took it on. He played Simon Templar four times and every single one of them was average, Sanders being by far the best thing about them. However he wasn't the first Saint and he wasn't the last. Louis Hayward played Templar before and after him, but Sanders's immediate successor was Hugh Sinclair. This one fills in a gap because this is the first Sinclair Saint and I'd only previously seen the second, The Saint Meets the Tiger. That one was pretty good, though I missed Sanders, and this one fits that bill too.

We open as the Saint and his friend Monty Hayward head out to the continent, apparently on holiday, avoiding newspaper reporters as they go. One of them, the highly persevering Mary Langdon follows them, and catches up just in time for the mystery to start. This wasn't a mystery they were looking for but they naturally found one anyway. Templar recognises a woman, who refuses to acknowledge she recognises him in return. He rescues someone from being attacked, but after taking him, still unconscious, back to his hotel room, the man gets murdered. It all seems to be about a mysterious music box.

Hugh Sinclair sounds great as the Saint and he moves pretty well too, though he's notably more energetic than we'd even been used to in the laid back Sanders era. The suave and debonair George Sanders would never have let his hair flounce around in action scenes like Sinclair's! Mary Langdon is played by Sally Gray, who was previously memorable as Templar's love interest in The Saint in London and who was a regular in British films of the thirties and forties. I've only seen one other, the fascinating Green for Danger, a Launder/Gilliat murder mystery that saw her credited above Trevor Howard and Alistair Sim.

Monty Hayward is very definitely a character there for comic relief in a very respectable English manner, and Arthur Macrae does a solid job on that front. It's the only time that Hayward, a recurring character in the Saint books, would appear in a Saint film, probably because author Leslie Charteris co-wrote the adaptation from his novel, Getaway. It's surprising that Arthur Macrae did not make more films as an actor but he seems to have been primarily a writer. Similarly, Leueen MacGrath had surprisingly few acting credits and was a writer too, having co-written the play Silk Stockings, a remake of Ninotchka, which was turned into a Fred Astaire musical by Rouben Mamoulian. The Ninotchka connection may or may not be why she reminds me of a very English Greta Garbo. She's the woman who accidentally on purpose fails to recognise the Saint, and of course is yet another seeker of the box.

The chief seeker is Cecil Parker, who had a long career in the movies, almost always playing characters who looked down their nose at people. He was usually some sort of authority figure, whether a headteacher or a military leader or just an establishment name. The earliest I've seen him was in one of my favourite Hitchcocks, The Lady Vanishes, in 1938, but he'd been in films for six years and continue on through films like this one to memorable comedy roles in films like The Ladykillers, The Admirable Crichton and The Pure Hell of St Trinian's.

No comments: