Movie Review: Raffles (1939)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1939 crime drama starring David Niven and Olivia de Havilland.

Synopsis: Well-known cricketer A. J. Raffles moonlights as a daring art and jewelry thief. But, when he is re-introduced to a friend's sister, he falls in love and, because of that, decides to give up his life of crime. However, when his friend threatens to kill himself over money issues, Raffles decides to pull off one last jewelry theft. Unfortunately, a Scotland Yard detective has grown suspicious of him and is determined to catch him in the act.

Review

My wife had to work last night and, as is usually the case, I put the kids to bed and looked for a movie to watch while waiting up for her. I came across this particular film and, thinking it sounded somewhat interesting, decided to watch it. As it turns out, it was a pretty good movie.

One of the things I found I really liked about this movie was the cat-and-mouse drama between Raffles (Niven) and the Scotland Yard inspector (Digges) that was hot on his trail. When I started watching this movie, I figured it would be like some similar films I've seen and the inspector would be a bumbling idiot who was easily duped. Instead, the inspector proved to be Raffles' equal, quickly picking up on subtle clues, zeroing in on his suspect and staying focused even as Raffles tried to get him to pursue other suspects.

I also found I liked Raffles himself, mostly because, even though he was breaking the law, his motives for doing so seemed somewhat pure. Even before trying to steal an expensive necklace to help his friend, Bunny (Douglas Walton), he was quick to use his gift to help others, usually by allowing them to "find" the stolen item and return it for the reward money.

I think the most intriguing character in this, however, had to be Raffles' love interest, Gwen (de Havilland). She was the reason he was going to give up his life of crime and her brother, Bunny, was the reason he was trying to pull off the last caper. But, as she also grew suspicious, I found I was curious about how she would react to the truth. I didn't know if she would understand his reasons for committing the crime or if she would end up outing him to the authorities. And, that uncertainty did keep the movie from becoming anywhere near as predictable as I thought it would be.

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Final Opinion

I wasn't overly impressed with how the movie ended. But, overall, thought it was a good cat-and-mouse crime drama and I did enjoy watching it. If you haven't seen this classic film, it's worth watching on a rainy day.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 07/02/2016, StevenHelmer
 
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