Notorious

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Ben Hecht
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate a group of Germans who have relocated to Brazil after World War II.

While awaiting the details of her assignment in Rio de Janeiro, Alicia falls in love with Devlin. His feelings for her are complicated by his knowledge of her wild past. When Devlin is ordered to convince her to seduce Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), one of her father’s friends and a member of the group, Devlin tries to convince his superiors that Alicia is not fit for the job. But upon seeing Alicia again, he puts up a stoic front, choosing duty over love. Alicia concludes that he does not love her, and she soon marries Alex to better spy on him and his associates.

Alicia and Devlin discover the key element of the plot by accident, but in the process leave a clue that her husband traces back to her. Now Alex has a problem: he must silence Alicia, but cannot expose her without being discredited by his fellow Nazis. Alex discusses the situation with his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), who suggests that Alicia “die slowly” by poisoning. The poison is initially mixed into Alicia’s coffee, and she quickly falls ill. Devlin becomes alarmed when she fails to appear at their next rendezvous. After driving to Sebastian’s house, he sneaks into Alicia’s quarters, where she tells him that Alex and his mother are poisoning her. After confessing his love for her, Devlin carries her out of the mansion in full view of the conspirators. Alex privately begs to go with them, but they abandon him to the non-existent mercy of the Nazis, who had previously disposed of another co-conspirator for a far lesser indiscretion.

The Invisible Man

  • Directors: James Whale
  • Producers: Carl Laemmle Jr
  • Writers: Novel, H G Wells, Screenplay, R C Sherriff, Uncredited, Philip Wylie, Preston Sturges
  • Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart

The film opens with a mysterious stranger, his face swathed in bandages and his eyes obscured by dark spectacles, taking a room at an inn at the English village of Iping (in Sussex). Never leaving his quarters, the stranger demands that the staff leave him completely alone. However, his dark secret is slowly revealed to his suspicious landlady and the villagers: he is an invisible man. When the innkeeper (Forrester Harvey) and his semi-hysterical wife (Una O’Connor) tell him to leave after he makes a huge mess in the parlor and drives away the other patrons, he tears off the bandages, laughing maniacally, and throws the innkeeper down the stairs. He takes off the rest of his clothes, rendering himself completely invisible, and tries to strangle a police officer.

The invisible stranger is revealed as Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a scientist who has discovered the secret of invisibility while conducting a series of tests with a strange new drug called “monocane”. He returns to the laboratory of his mentor, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), where he reveals his secret to his fiancee Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart), Dr. Cranley’s daughter, and to his one-time partner Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan). Monocane has rendered Griffin’s entire body undetectable to the human eye; alas, it also has the side-effect of driving Griffin insane. Cranley has investigated and discovered a single note about monocane (Griffin has burnt all his other papers to cover his tracks) in a now empty cupboard in Griffin’s empty laboratory, and realizes that Griffin has recently used it. On the evening of his escape from the inn, Griffin turns up in Kemp’s living room and imprisons him in his own house. He forces Kemp to be his partner again, and together they go back to the inn where Griffin stayed and retrieve his notebooks on the invisibility process. While there, he picks up a wooden stool and cracks the police officer over the head, killing him.

Although the film is sometimes hailed for its fidelity to H.G. Wells’ novel, it changes many aspects. The story is updated to 1933, rather than taking place in the 1890s. Griffin does not have a fiancee in the novel, there is no Dr. Cranley, and Griffin does not kill Kemp. (In fact, in the book, it is Kemp who pronounces Griffin dead at the end.) Kemp is neither an old friend nor an old partner of Griffin’s in the novel, just an acquaintance. Most important, Griffin does not use monocane to make himself invisible in the book, but instead another unnamed formula, and it is strongly hinted in the novel that Griffin was already mad long before he ever made himself invisible. The film portrays Griffin much more sympathetically than the novel, in which Kemp describes Griffin as “inhuman” to the police. In the film, he is shown regretting what he has done to Flora; Griffin shows no such regrets in the novel.

The Adventures of Robin Hood

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I Miller
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Romance
  • Actors: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale

When Richard the Lionheart, the King of England, is taken captive by Leopold of Austria while returning from the Crusades, his brother John (Claude Rains) takes power and proceeds to oppress the Saxon commoners. Prince John raises their taxes, supposedly to raise Richard’s ransom, but in reality to secure his own position on the throne.

One man stands in his way, the Saxon Robin, Earl of Locksley (Errol Flynn). He acquires a loyal follower when he saves Much (Herbert Mundin) from being arrested by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) for poaching one of the king’s deer. Robin goes alone to see Prince John at Gisbourne’s castle and announces to John’s assembled supporters and a contemptuous Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to his rightful place. He then escapes, in spite of the efforts of John’s men.

His lands and title now forfeit, Robin takes refuge in Sherwood Forest with his friend Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles). There they meet and recruit Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.). Other men join their growing band. Later, Robin provokes Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) into a swordfight, but then persuades the friar into joining him to provide spiritual guidance to the outlaws. Soon, Prince John and his Norman cronies find themselves harassed beyond all bearing.

Richard is restored to the throne; he exiles his brother, pardons the outlaws, returns Robin’s earldom and orders him to marry Lady Marian. Robin declares, “May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, sire!”

Lawrence of Arabia

  • Directors: David Lean
  • Producers: Sam Spiegel
  • Writers: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, War
  • Actors: Peter O Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains

The film opens with Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) as a civilian, riding his motorcycle down a narrow English country road, only to be killed when he tries to avoid a collision with two boys who are bicycling on the wrong side of the road. At his memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, reporters try to gain insights into this remarkable, but enigmatic, man from people who knew him, with little success.

The film then flashes back to Cairo during World War I, where Lawrence is a misfit army lieutenant, notable only for his insolence and knowledge of the Bedouin. Over the objections of a sceptical General Murray (Donald Wolfit), he is sent by Mr Dryden (Claude Rains) of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks.

On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from a well without permission. Near Feisal’s camp, he encounters his superior officer, Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment, and then leave. He promptly ignores these commands when he meets Feisal. His fine intellect and outspokenness pique the prince’s interest.

The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are tribesmen, not a nation. Unable to maintain the electricity, telephones, and waterworks, and clashing constantly with each other, they soon abandon most of Damascus to the British. Lawrence is promoted to colonel and then immediately relieved of his command and sent home, his usefulness at an end. The negotiations are left to Feisal and the British and French diplomats. A dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.