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When Clementi Suborin is found murdered, his secretary recounts to the police the story of his rise from Czech refugee to ultra-rich New Yorker. The tale of betrayal, womanising and fraud confirms that almost everyone who knew him wanted him dead. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hollywood tries to be topical when it can get away with it. This little film of 1956 is typical of the movies that George Sanders was frequently cast in the lead of (THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL-AMI is a better example of this). Suave and smooth, with that baritone purr that was so full of secret threat, Sanders road it to screen stardom in a way that only Greenstreet, Rathbone, Rains, Price, Webb, Lee, and Cushing could match. And unlike the others, Sanders ended up with an Oscar for his work (as Addison DeWitt in ALL ABOUT EVE).
What is frequently forgotten about Sanders Oscar-role is that the caddish theatre critic is not the worst person in the plot. While his interest in Eve Harrington is partly due to a physical attraction (in the famous scene in the Hartford hotel room he does try to explain how he reasoned this, only to be laughed at for his pains), Addison also is a realist: Eve is a great talent - he's spotted that - and fits the roles Lloyd Richards has been writing for Margo Channing better than Margo does, because she is closer in age to those roles than Margo. In fact, Margo herself realizes that. Moreover, although his snide comments hurt Margo and her friends, he is close to them. If you remember what causes Addison to go to Hartford in the first place is the visit (off screen) by Karen Richards (Celeste Holms) to discuss their mutual problem (keeping Lloyd and Eve apart). The villain of the movie remains Eve, not Addison, and when Addison rips her apart in the hotel room the audience is not hissing Addison but cheering him along. The only one of the major figures in the film with brains and guts, he is the only one capable in tearing down Eve. In fact, as the film ends Addison even realizes that his infatuation with her was misplaced - and he sets the stage for Eve to find herself with an "Eve" of her own.
At his best roles Sanders was in total control of the film for most of the action. DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL finds him in central control as a foreign born scuzzball who claws his way to wealth at everyone else's expense, but who ends up dead from revolver bullets. As such it sounds like some other films (one or two with Zachary Scott come to mind). But this one is actually topical. There was a murder in 1955 that spurred on this Hollywood flick. I refer to the "timely" demise of Serge Rubinstein.
Like Sanders' character (who is from Czechoslovakia), Rubinstein was from Eastern Europe - from Russia. He fled that country in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution, wearing clothing that contained jewelry and money that he used to settle in France and then England. He went to Cambridge (paid for by his brother), and studied (supposedly) with the great John Maynard Keynes. Keynes (if the story is true) was so amazed by Rubinstein's grasp of economics as to predict an amazing future for him. I somehow find that hard to believe. Rubinstein was not the sort to get stuck, a la Milton Friedman, Hayek, or Paul Samuelson with charts and graphs explaining how currency fluctuations might relate to declining revenues in imports ....Rather he was a greedy bastard. He bankrupted his father (who committed suicide). He never repaid his brother (who later tried suing him to recover his money). He would go about playing with national currencies (he hurt Japan's for a couple of years), and various corporations that he plundered. He also used phony papers to avoid the draft in the U.S. (he served some times in prison). His reaction to the hisses of the wives and families of war veterans was to call them suckers.
Rubinstein loved to flaunt it, and to rub it in. He eventually made tens of thousands of enemies by his lifestyle and business methods. Then, in 1955, he was found by his valet tied up on the floor of his bedroom and strangled (not shot like Sanders is found in the movie). The New York City Police Department looked as thoroughly as possible regarding all possible suspects, but none was ever found. The case is still unsolved. The problem was summed up by one police detective who said they had narrowed it down to ten thousand suspects. Too many people had motives for the murder. Moreover most of the public would probably have been willing to award the criminal a medal.
The only thing done in the film to change Rubinstein's character is that Sanders discovers he did love one of his female victims. Before his death he telephones her to ask her forgiveness. But that is an invention of the script writers. It is doubtful that Rubinstein would ever have begged forgiveness from anyone.
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