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The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
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Index 29 reviews in total 

19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Sardonic, "controversial" melodrama takes easy way out

Author: bmacv from Western New York
4 September 2001

A pitch-dark comedy in whose ironies and perversities Alfred Hitchcock might have wallowed, [The Strange Affair of] Uncle Harry fell instead to Robert Siodmak, who did a professional if not inspired job. George Sanders plays a fabric-designing bachelor living with his two sisters in a New England textile-mill town. Into his ordered, dull life comes Ella Raines, a sophisticate from the New York head office. They fall in love, plan to marry. But possessive younger sister Geraldine Fitzgerald takes exception to the plans; dawdling, malingering and needling, she pries the pair apart. When the truth dawns on Sanders, he extracts his revenge by means of poison purchased to euthanize an old dog. Alas, the fatal dose goes astray, as happens with such nasty chemicals.... With its hints of unhealthy vibes between brother and sister, the movie offered fare daring for its day. And so, among several endings reportedly filmed, Uncle Harry opts for one thought to ruffle the fewest feathers. Like Fritz Lang's Woman in the Window, it takes a too easy way out, rather than trying to resolve the complexities it cooked up.

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The last of the Quincey's.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
11 March 2010

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 tho, 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

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

1940s Censorship Required A Different Ending...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
12 May 2001

I strongly disagree with Norm Vogel's comments regarding Leonard Maltin's remark about "censorship" and the ending. Without giving the ending away, I can only say that because of the strict censorship code that existed in 1945, the ending HAD TO BE CHANGED to conform with the rules involving crime and punishment. Thus, the film is weakened in straying from the original ending that was used in the stage play on which this is based--and which had more impact.

George Sanders gives a quietly effective performance as the harried man torn between two sisters, one of whom has a neurotic stranglehold on his affections (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Interesting melodrama given taut direction by Robert Siodmak. Ella Raines is effective in a sympathetic role and Geraldine Fitzgerald is fascinating as a hypochondriac, whining sister who makes Harry's life miserable.

Again, Leonard Maltin was right--censorship had everything to do with the ending.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

"An Actor With More to Him then a Sneer"

Author: theowinthrop from United States
2 May 2004

I think that when we think of George Sanders we tend to see him doing some dirty business. He's cheating his nephew Tyrone Power out of a noble title and estate (SON OF FURY), or he's leading a pack of Nazi agents in London to track down Walter Pidgeon and Joan Bennett (MANHUNT), or he kills poor Nelson Eddy in a hopeless sword duel (BITTERSWEET). But there was always something more in his characters (even his villains). Take his Oscar performance (Addison De Witt in ALL ABOUT EVE). Yes, he puts his powers to the benefit of Eve Harrington, with an eye to her being his permanent partner (I don't think marriage is necessary - he doesn't look like he'd like a family, or domestic arrangement). But if you follow Joseph Mankiewicz's dialogue carefully, Addison is more complex and acceptable than Eve. He is in her corner because as a theatre critic he realizes that she is talented, and can bring back a youthful vigor to the parts that Margo Channing is constantly playing. Look at the scene where he tells Margo and Karen what a wonder Eve's performance is when she reads for the understudy position. It's not just sexual allure, but he really likes her talent. Moreover, Addison is a realist about himself and theatre people in general. He admits he has limitations (he's not a people person), but he does love good art. Actually, in some respects he is a better person than he admits. Karen goes to speak to him (we are told by Addison in his famous scene with Eve in the Hartford hotel) to find out what he knows about her husband and Eve. While he makes a snide comment about Karen telling more than learning, it's obvious Karen does consider Addison a friend - even an ally. And actually, by putting Eve into her place finally (Addison appears to be the only one with brains who could) he does save Karen's marriage as well.

It comes as a pleasant surprise to movie goers that Sanders could (given his talent and a good script) appear as a nice guy. He does so in this film. Uncle Harry is a decent man who lives with two sisters, and who keeps the family household going. The younger of the sisters, played by Geraldine Fitzgerald, is too attached to him - and for a 1940s film the clutching of Ms Fitzgerald spells out incest more than was usual (interesting to think that this 1945 film comes only two years after Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT, where "Uncle" and "Niece" Charlie are very close - until Theresa Wright begins to wonder how Joseph Cotton makes his living). The arrival of Ella Raines as a love rival sparks all out warfare from Fitzgerald, with Sanders befuddled about which way to turn. Raines seems to leave town, and Fitzgerald seems victorious and Sanders is morose when he finds a bottle of poison in the house, and begins to reconsider his options.

It is hard to see now what ending could have been tacked on to the film to make it satisfactory to everyone in the audience. The moral code of the 1940s made it imperative that if a villain kills someone, no matter how lively, likeable, or sympathetic the villain was he or she had to pay. Fitzgerald could only pay if she were defeated by Raines. If Sanders died that would not have defeated Fitzgerald. If Sanders lived in despair after Fitzgerald's death that would not help either. I think the film's "trick" ending here is as good as it could be. But that is only my opinion.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A good film driven by the character development and strong performances from Saunders and Fitzgerald

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
27 March 2005

Harry Quincey is a bachelor who lives with his two sisters and is head designer in a small town cloth factory. When a New York colleague comes into town to design new fashions early in the production process Harry falls for her and soon it is evident that his relationship with Deborah is going somewhere in the longer term. This is seen as a threat by Harry's sisters, specifically the glamorous hypochondriac Lettie who selfishly guards her brother as her own and has no intention on ever losing him to another woman.

The title of this film and the early tone suggests an enjoyable if standard romantic comedy with some light wit, however it becomes much more dramatic and interesting with some good character development and themes. Harry's romance is indeed quite light and enjoyable but it gives way (well, produces) tension between the women in his life – specifically Deborah and Lettie, who is a wonderfully acerbic and possessive character that leads the film into darker territory towards the end. The film is driven by the characters and I was taken by Harry while enthralled by his relationship with Lettie. The ending is a bit of a cop out as it was selected to be the least controversial and meet the requirements of the moral code of the time; the fantasy ending suggests a dark conclusion but really it is a nonsensical cop out that didn't do the film justice.

With this the case it was important that the cast be able to produce the goods or else it may not have worked, fortunately the cast are roundly good. Saunders is best known to me as the Falcon and the Saint, perhaps roles that aren't the most demanding for an actor, but here he shows good touch and a subtly that works well with his character. He is more than matched by a wonderful Fitzgerald, who is convincing and complex with a performance that could so easily have hammy and OTT but one that she gets spot on. Support is good from Raines, MacGill and others but really the film belongs to the lead two and it is there strong performances that drives the film.

Overall this is a fine piece of drama that moves from a standard romance into a much more interesting character piece that draws out great performances from Saunders and Fitzgerald. The direction is good and the story drew me in well to produce a film that is well worth seeing if you can track it down.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A small, sweet, unusual film dominated by George Sanders

Author: secondtake from United States
15 August 2011

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)

George Sanders is a wonder of subtlety, and he rules this movie almost from secrecy he's so quiet and nondescript to a T. He lives in a small town with all the usual small town ways, including insularity. There are three women around him: a plain sister who is simple and sweet and loves him, a beautiful sister who is obsessed with keeping him a bachelor, and a newcomer, a New Yorker who is in town because of the fabric factory that dominates the town.

This is pretty much the set up, and it's plenty because it is the subtle and not so subtle interactions and cross purposes of these three women and the somewhat hapless Mr. Sanders that makes the movie. It's really funny and sad and romantic in its own quirky way. It never loses its way, and the types that each women represent get developed with clarity enough to make you really want what Sanders wants. And doesn't get.

The director Robert Siodmak would be famous soon for a series of great film noirs, but it was his next film that seems to mark a transition, "Spiral Staircase." In that, the photography soars and the sinister aspects surrounding ordinary people add a level of intrigue and fear that this movie simply doesn't want to have. And so you might in some ways find it a little plain, a little sweet without the hard edge that the nasty sister is meant to alone supply. Still, she convinces me just fine, and I rather like the confident New York woman (a little like Bacall in this way).

It does come around to Sanders, the man who committed suicide with a note saying he was just a little bored with life. You can feel that in him here, remarkably. He's so perfectly weary, and yet rather content still. In fact, one treat in the middle of things is him playing piano (he does play) and singing. A remarkable man and unusual actor, worth seeing here.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Viewed the movie with an audience last night - audience and cast comments

Author: AustinKatAnne from Texas
1 July 2003

I saw this movie last night at an Austin Film Society screening, with a very receptive audience. I'm sure someone else will write the in-depth, perceptive review, but I happen to like the shallow stuff:

Whether intended by the makers or not, this audience found some hilarious double entendres (e.g. George Sanders showing off his 9-inch telescope).

A scene with inappropriate dubbing of Mr. Sanders' singing voice brought groans. I would have liked to hear him sing. (Audrey Hepburn's real voice should have been used in 'My Fair Lady', too!)

The older sister of the main character looked so much like Jessica Fletcher that my husband suspected a relationship and we looked her up. The actress was Moyna MacGill, the mother of Angela Lansbury... it was fascinating to see the similarity in motions and gestures.

The family's cook was played by Sara Algood. One of her other roles was as the matron Morton in 'Roxie Hart', the forerunner to 'Chicago'.

There was something very charming about seeing George Sanders without the cynicism.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

what a shrew

Author: blanche-2 from United States
28 April 2012

Geraldine Fitzgerald is the sister from hell in "The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry," a 1945 film directed by Robert Siodmak, who knows a thing or two about suspense. The film stars George Sanders, Ella Raines, Moyna Macgill (Angela Lansbury's mother), and Sara Algood.

The Quincy family, a brother (Sanders) and two sisters (Macgill and Fitzgerald) live in an big, old house - all that was left to them by their parents. Harry is the head designer of patterns in a cloth family; his sister Lettie (Fitzgerald) is a professional invalid; and his other sister, Hester (Macgill), is a rather silly, complaining woman who feels unappreciated.

When a New York firm comes to town to look at the cloth factory, Harry meets and falls in love with Deborah (Raines) and announces they are going to be married. Hester is thrilled beyond belief for him; Lettie, on the other hand, is very upset. Deborah has her number immediately and is determined not to allow Lettie to break up her relationship with Harry.

Lettie and Hester are supposed to move into another house, but that doesn't happen. On the day Harry and Deborah are to leave for Boston to be married, Lettie has one of her "attacks" and Harry refuses to leave town. Deborah realizes that he will never leave his sisters and walks out of his life. When Harry finds out that Lettie's inability to find a suitable house after six months and her illness were just manipulations to drive Deborah away, something in him snaps.

Based on a play, this film proved somewhat controversial. Censorship would not allow the original ending, so five different endings were filmed and shown in preview. The ending that was chosen is derivative, drawing on a device used successfully in the past.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I really loved the way it ended, in spite of some people seeing it as a cop-out. I liked it because of my sympathy for Harry, so well portrayed by George Sanders, who was cast against type here.

Geraldine Fitzgerald gives a fantastic performance as the awful Lettie, an unbelievable shrew. Fitzgerald was perfect. Macgill is excellent as well, likable because she sincerely wants the best for Harry, and annoying because she's a whiner. Ella Raines made a lovely Deborah.

Very entertaining - I loved it!

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The trouble with Harry

Author: jotix100 from New York
22 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Try to imagine Harry, an aging bachelor who lives in Corinth, New Hampshire, with his two sisters. It's enough to send anyone to commit a crime just so he can get away from these two vultures that totally dominate his life. Harry Quincy, and his siblings, are local aristocracy who are confined to share the big family mansion. The two sisters, Letty and Hester are constantly quarreling about the most menial things.

When sophisticated Deborah Brown appears in the picture, Harry sees a way out to escape his poor existence in the provincial town. Little does he realize that Lettie, his domineering sister, wants for him. This turns Harry into a hatred for the sister that evidently feels another kind of love for his brother. After a bitter quarrel between Lettie and Hester, he decides he must take corrective action to get rid of his problems. In turn, he will destroy the cozy family life he, and his siblings, enjoyed.

"The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry" is a film that was ahead of its times in the subtle way it dealt with sibling incest, which is behind the action. Based on a stage play, this feature, directed by Robert Siodmak, was greatly distorted by the Hays Commission in an ending that frankly, doesn't make much sense and doesn't add anything to our enjoyment of it. As a matter of fact, the warning at the end, doesn't quite make sense. We have all been led to believe one thing, yet the arrival of Deborah, out of nowhere, and the dream sequence, doesn't add up. Yet, in spite of the flaws, out attention is held because of the story and what has come before this let down of a finale.

George Sanders does wonders with his Harry Quincy, the man who might be involved with his own sister. This was one of his best movies and he contributes to the enjoyment of this melodrama. Lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald plays the strident sister Letty. She is also quite effective in the way she plays the part of the sister who might be involved in more ways than one with her own brother. Moyna Macgill, (Angela Lansbury's mother) has also great fun as Hester, the other sister. Sara Allwood appears as the family cook. Ella Raines makes a sophisticated Deborah Brown.

Who knows what the film would have turned out like if Robert Siodmak, the director, would have been able to do the story as he probably conceived it.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Great movie with a surprise ending

Author: William from Austin, TX
1 July 2003

From Malton and earlier comments it seems that the ending was changed. I read that there were 5 separate endings filmed and shown to test audiences over at 10 day period. Being unfamiliar with the stage play ending I can only say that this ending is excellent and highly effective.

The performances are excellent. The minute facial expressions are superb. There is also quite a bit of black humor in the performances. It is truly a work of art. Initially I was not expecting such a fine movie. It had been selected by the Austin Film Society. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

The story centers around Harry Quincy, played by George Sanders. His younger sister, Lettie, is deeply in love with Harry and feels she knows what is best for him. The whole situation changes when a beautiful young lady from New York enters the small New England town where they live, and she and Harry fall in love and decide to marry. Lettie must act to maintain the status quo. Harry is torn between his family obligations and his new found love.

The ending lead down one path only to discover that all is not as it seems. It is an excellent film.

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