Up until its last few minutes, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry is an engrossing and highly entertaining crime melodrama. But the dramatically offensive ending demanded by the strictures of the Hays office is so galling that some viewers may want to throw something at the screen. The ending cannot ruin Harry, but it's so unwelcome that it does cast a slight pall over the fine movie that precedes it. Harry has some other flaws, no doubt, especially the decision to sacrifice the interesting flashback structure that had been a hallmark of its stage play source and replace it with a fairly linear one. But fortunately the basic plot and characters are strong enough to withstand its flaws. Chief among its assets is a superb change-of-pace performance by George Sanders in the title role. The supercilious air of disdain is banished, replaced with a shyness and a self-effacement that are both surprising and appealing. Yet there's still a fire within Sanders, and the ways in which he lets it erupt in Harry are fun to witness. He's matched by a wickedly enjoyable Geraldine Fitzgerald, whose selfishness and determination to win at any cost shouldn't be as much fun as they are. There's also fine support from Moyna MacGill and Sara Allgood, which helps to cover up the rather bland turn from Ella Raines. Robert Siodmak's direction is slightly uneven, but he certainly knows how to pull out the appropriate stops for the big scenes. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry's ending is a crime, but going into knowing this fact will make it easier for viewers to enjoy all that leads up to it.
Robert Siodmak's ("Phantom Lady"/"The Killers") psychological film noir is based on the Broadway play Uncle Harry by Thomas Job; writers Stephen Longstreet and Keith Winter wrote the script. The film is saddled with a ridiculous dream gimmick ending, drastically changed from the play's version, that undid the incest theme (Geraldine Fitzgerald left no doubt as to the nature of her obsession) wonderfully setup to make this suspense thriller so darkly poignant while remaining on message. The terrible ending can be attributed to pressure from the 1940s censors. Joan Harrison, noted for her longtime working arrangement with Alfred Hitchcock, was the film's producer who got so irked that she quit Universal Pictures for cowering before the censors. The nervous studio previewed with five different endings before deciding on the safest crowd favorite to please the Hays Office.
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