The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)

From the Play that shocked Hollywood!

George Sanders stars in this engrossing melodrama about a very domineering sister who holds a tight grip on her brother -- especially when he shows signs of falling in love.

The last of the Quincey's.
Robert Siodmak directs this psychological film noir that is based on the Broadway play Uncle Harry by Thomas Job. It stars George Sanders, Ella Raines, Geraldine Fitzgerald & Moyna MacGill. The story follows Harry Quincey (Sanders) a shy clothes designer in small town New England. He lives with his two sisters, the pretty but manipulative Lettie (Fitzgerald) and the more scatty and care free Hester (MacGill). Into his life comes the gorgeous Deborah Brown (Raines) who quickly brings colour to his otherwise dull existence. But Lettie is far from impressed and sets about doing all she can to stop the couple getting married and living together. Her actions will have dire consequences for all of the Quincey family.
Though falling some way short of the noir standards of Siodmak's best genre efforts ("The Killers"/"Criss Cross"), this none the less is a dandy piece dealing in various forms of obsession. Finding that it's produced by Joan Harrison gives weight to the notion that this is more a "Hitchcockian" small town thriller than an overtly film noir piece. Harrison of course wrote a number of screenplays for "Hitchcock", and sure enough as the film unfolds one feels like we are involved in something the big director would have revelled in. Quite what "Hitch" would have made of the palaver surrounding the ending of the film, one can only imagine, but yet again a nifty 40s thriller is saddled with an ending that has caused division across the decades.
Because of the Hays Code, five different endings were tested for the film, with the one chosen vastly different to the one in the play. So while I personally find the existing ending quirky, and certainly not film destroying, it's sad that the incestuous elements of the source have been jettisoned and therefore taking away a crucial dark edge to the turn of events in the last quarter of the film. Harrison was incensed and promptly quit Universal Pictures in protest. With hindsight now, they could have ended the film about ten minutes earlier and it would have worked better. But cest la vie and all that.
Sanders is superb, very touching as the shy, naive designer pushed to his limit by sibling suffocation. Fitzgerald is glamorous and nails the devious side of her character with much conviction. While Raines, a touch underused due to the story, has a hard quality that puts one in mind of a certain Lauren Bacall, and that to my mind is very much a good thing. Some food for thought though, I couldn't help wonder about if the roles had been reversed. Raines playing manipulative bitch and Fitzgerald the love interest definitely cries out as a winner me thinks.
It's a conventional story, but one that has depth and boasts a director capable of crafting the right sort of itchy mood. There's no technical trickery exactly, but attention to detail exists and between them the makers have produced an intelligent and gripping film, that, in spite of some foregoing of dark emotional undercurrents, is very recommended to noir and "Hitchcockian" supporters. 7.5/10

Universal Pictures by Robert Siodmak, Stephen Longstreet, Keith Winter, Thomas Job.
Stars: George Sanders, Ella Raines, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sara Allgood.

Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Romance

Keywords: noir b movie

08/17/1945

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