Closely following the groundwork set in the 1930 version of Hornung's novel, director Wood turned in an admirable product that substitutes Niven (in his 22nd picture, but his first with top billing) for Ronald Colman and de Havilland for Kay Francis. The now-familiar story (it had also
made it to the screen in 1914 with John Barrymore and in 1925 with House Peters) concerns a fun-loving, adventurous rogue with a penchant for burglary. Niven, in the lead, is a dashing cricket player with a loyal following in England. He is also the mysterious "Amateur Cracksman," an infamous cat
burglar who eludes capture. Stealing more for fun than profit, Niven continually succeeds in frustrating Scotland Yard, with Digges, its inspector, is always one step behind. The cracksman's favorite trick is to steal something and then, to thoroughly confuse Digges, send it back. Niven's first
mistake is to fall in love with the very proper de Havilland, the sister of friend Walton. To win de Havilland's affection, Niven decides to give up his life of crime. This time, when the thief sends back a recent acquisition, Digges gains a valuable clue, and Niven is tracked to a social
gathering at the home of Whitty and Pape. Since Whitty is the owner of a famed emerald necklace, Digges is especially alert. Niven's plan is to steal the necklace and send it to Walton, who is financially strapped. Walton can then return the necklace and collect the reward. Niven's plan is foiled,
however, by a second-rate crook who fingers the necklace for his own profit. By the finale, Niven has reformed, Walton has gotten himself out of trouble, and de Havilland has fallen in love with her gentleman crook. Essentially the same film as the 1930 version, this one just recasts the roles and
then duplicates many of the previous film's scenes and shots. Wood, whom producer Goldwyn had assigned to this film, reportedly had little energy left after a grueling stint on GONE WITH THE WIND. De Havilland, also just off of GONE WITH THE WIND, showed little enthusiasm for the project.
Referring to the British atmosphere of RAFFLES, de Havilland said, "I had little to do with that English scene, I had nothing to do with that style of film, and I was nothing to the part the way it was written." Hoping to bring the 1930 version up to date, Goldwyn hired author Van Druten to adapt
the original script, and then brought Fitzgerald in to add some finishing touches. More than anything, RAFFLES made it clear that Niven's name held water at the box office. Having a strong desire to star in RAFFLES, Niven used the film as a bargaining tool in his contract renewal talks with
Goldwyn. Although Goldwyn made an idle threat to cast the then-unknown Dana Andrews in the lead, he gladly signed Niven. In a true show of patriotism, Niven, whose career was beginning to shoot forward, chose to return to England, where he re-enlisted in the army and took up arms with the Allies
in WW II.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Closely following the groundwork set in the 1930 version of Hornung's novel, director Wood turned in an admirable product that substitutes Niven (in his 22nd picture, but his first with top billing) for Ronald Colman and de Havilland for Kay Francis. The n… (more)