Friday, January 02, 2009

1/2/09: Death of a Scoundrel (1956)

Two years (and about 10 movies) after starring in Witness to Murder, my selection from yesterday, George Sanders headlined this quite different crime drama. Far better acted and directed than that earlier two-dimensional story, Death of a Scoundrel recounts the life of Clementi Suborin, a Czech refugee who becomes a super-suave womanizer, stock manipulator and professional con man by unscrupulously plotting and bilking his way to astonishing wealth. (How Suborin acquires his money isn't a mystery; where he got his perfect British accent is the real puzzler.) It does the Citizen Kane trick of starting with the main character's death, and the rest of the story unfolds in flashbacks.

A variety of actors familiar to me from their later TV appearances come along for the ride, including Lily Munster, Col. Klink and George Sanders' ex-wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor, looking and sounding much more lovely than that shrew who would go on to slap a Beverly Hills cop 33 years hence. The film is a fictionalized account of real-life Wall Street wizard Serge Rubenstein, whose bribes, schemes and other illegal activities led to his own unsolved murder a year before Death of a Scoundrel came out. With George Sanders, Yvonne De Carlo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Nancy Gates, Victor Jory, Werner Klemperer and Tom Conway (Sanders' real-life brother). Rating: 4/5.

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