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  • George Sanders is the scoundrel in "Death of a Scoundrel," a 1956 film that, though it appears to be a low-budget, boasts a fine cast: Yvonne DeCarlo, Colleen Gray, Nancy Gates, Victor Jory, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Supposedly the story is based on the antics and ultimate murder of Serge Rubinstein that hit the news around the time the film was made. The lead role was originally given to George Brent, but the actor became ill and couldn't do the role. Because the party scene had already been filmed, he can be spotted there.

    In the beginning of the movie, Sanders, who plays Clementi Sabourni, is lying dead. One of his business associates tells his story to the police. It begins in Czechoslovakia when Sabourni, believed to have died in a concentration camp, appears at the shop of his brother (played by Sanders' real-life brother, Tom Conway). He wants money and his girl - except there's no money and his brother has married his girl. Furious, Sabourni turns his brother over to the Communist police for being involved in black marketeering and selling stolen goods. In return, he gains his passage to America. His brother is killed resisting arrest. When Sabourni arrives in New York, he spots a woman (DeCarlo) stealing a wallet. Clementi picks her up and steals the wallet from her. But her husband chases him in an effort to retrieve it, and Clementi is shot. The husband is hit by a truck when Clementi pushes him into the street. While Clementi is being treated for his bullet wound, he learns of the marvels of a new drug, penicillin. Using a check that was in the wallet, he buys stock in the company. Thus his career begins.

    The film is fascinating, in part because of the deals in which Clementi masterminds, and all of the women he juggles as a result. He becomes involved with a wealthy widow (Gabor) while flirting with her aspiring actress secretary (Gates), and trying to convince the wife (Gray) of a successful businessman to divorce her husband so that he can get her stock and take over her husband's company. His schemes grow more outrageous until his brother's widow - who is also his ex-girlfriend - appears.

    Zsa Zsa Gabor (a recent ex-Mrs. Sanders at the time of filming) is stunningly beautiful and delightful in her role. Lovely Colleen Gray doesn't have a large part, but she shines when on screen. The exotic DeCarlo brings an earthiness and sarcasm as Bridget Kelly, who, though rough around the edges, is in love with Clementi and loyal to him.

    Sanders is a marvel - always likable no matter how heinous his character, always smooth, and always watchable. If he's a little too old for Clementi, it doesn't matter. He still makes it work. I don't think this would have been as good a movie with Brent in the lead. A year before his suicide, Sanders appeared in an episode of "Mission: Impossible" and played an elderly con man - magnificently dressed, proud, and elegant. When he is defeated, the character turns into a tired old man in a matter of seconds. That is true acting, and there aren't many that can do it. Sanders could.

    Don't let the black and white and the low budget fool you. "Death of a Scoundrel" is well worth viewing.
  • I seem, no matter what the film, to always be drawn to a George Sanders film. He usually plays the most offensive, morally bankrupt, devious, underhanded roles. If there is someone out to swindle a woman from her possessions through flattery - George Sanders is there. If a young ingénue is promised fame for the price of her physical love - George Sanders is there. If a brother is turned in for stealing rare objects d'art to the police - George Sanders is there. These are just a portion of the terrible things George Sanders does in Death of a Scoundrel, but, amazingly, Sanders remains almost likable throughout because of his innate affability and charm. No one turns a phrase better than Sanders, and it is his easy wit, dry delivery, wry sense of humor, predisposition to sarcasm, and excellent timing that make him stand out in what would otherwise be pretty routine stuff. Death of a Scoundrel opens with Sanders already dead. We then get to, through the character of lovely Yvonne De Carlo, trace the roots of how Sanders first became a scoundrel and how he eventually died. The story, though full of overstated melodrama, is an interesting one with the Sander's character actually given some depth of characterization. The supporting cast is top-notch with Zsa Zsa Gabor giving what I think is one of her all around best performances. She and Sanders appear to have strong chemistry between them(little wonder as they had previously been married/divorced). Nancy Gates does a very credible job as an aspiring actress. John Hoyt is always good and Coleen Gray gives a good turn as well. Tom Conway, the real life half-brother of Sanders, plays Sander's brother in the film. But supporting cast aside, this movie is all Sanders. I really liked Death of a Scoundrel. It is not a great film, but it was much better than I had thought it would be. It goes to show that quality acting, a coherent script, thoughtful direction from Charles Martin, and a sense of style, not just in how the film appears but in the way the film is made, all go a long way in making the mundane pretty good.
  • I caught this on Turner Classic Movies this morning and found it completely mesmerizing. I'm not quite sure what the other reviewer meant when he/she wrote that real people in the 50's didn't talk this way. Real people don't talk like the folks in Gilmore Girls, but I love that show. Complex, witty dialogue attracts me and this movie has it in spades. George Sander's character is an unapologetic liar, seducer, perpetrator of financial fraud, yet he remains charming and watchable at all times. I compare this to his scoundrel role in All About Eve; that character gave me the creeps when he revealed the corruption under the charm and cynicism. In Death of a Scoundrel, the character instead inspires a whole range of emotions including, finally, pity.

    I laughed out loud throughout this movie, as Sanders' rogue juggles multiple women. In one scene, his servant announces a rich woman (Zsa Zsa Gabor) has come to his house unexpectedly. He quickly ushers out the woman with whom he's been having tea and romancing. Zsa Zsa comes in and while exchanging pleasantries with him picks up one of the teacups, examines it for lipstick, and says "Beautiful cup" as she sets it down.

    In another scene, he is romancing a married woman and invites her to lunch the next day. She comments that he is very bold, seeing as how she is married. He replies that he finds her too fascinating not to pursue. She says, "But I am attached!", and he replies, "I don't want to attach you, I only want to borrow you for a while." Very funny, melodramatic, and eminently watchable film.
  • Except for a few "establishing" shots here and there and a heavy dose of rear projection magic in a taxi, this film is anchored to the studio. But James Wong Howe's camera work and Max Steiner's lush and diverse (some characters have their own themes) film score, the director refuses to allow the proceedings to take on a cramped and cold feel. George Sanders as "Clementi" is a piece of work. He germinates schemes with the speed of a jack hammer, and every enterprise he embarks on is cloaked in dishonesty and unethical business practices. Stay away from him like the German measles. He tosses away women like used paper tissues. He has no problem using Yvonne DeCarlo (the narrator of the film) to seduce his clients. She is his one true friend and she loves him. Clementi is nearsighted on such matters of the heart. No matter. Zsa Zsa Gabor is around the corner. She keeps him on a short leash and scores a few minor victories. But even she can't control the evil genius for long. I think the scene at the theater was screen writing genius. Clementi, attempting another play for a woman, bankrolls a young, gifted actress in a stage play she is perfect for. After the performance, she goes back to his room and they play out that very same scene in real life, blurring reality that much more. Marvelous. I love the final speech and walk down a long flight of stairs by DeCarlo. As a former dancer, she always had a great physical presence and grace. The music is soft but builds to a crescendo. She looks one way and then another. The camera pulls back as she turns and exits the house, a policeman's silhouette in the glass door. I'm a sucker for these types of dramatic endings. Think (and watch) Michael J. Fox at the end of Casualties of War, and you'll see what I mean.
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Note. What follows is an edit of a review I originally did in March 2006 (over a year ago). And while my appreciation of this classic film remains the same, it appears I got some of my plot parts in error. I apologize. I initially wrote the review from my memories of seeing the film. And now, having acquired the film (and am watching it now), I've learned that memories sometimes play tricks with us (grin).

    Few people know this but George Sanders' character, Clementi Sabourin, is loosely based on the life of notorious stock manipulator, Serge Rubenstein. Source, the New York Times:

    http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=12957

    A one-hour documentary titled "The Case of Serge Rubenstein" aired on NBC radio a year before the film was released. This likely provided the idea that induced screenwriter, Charles Martin, to do the script - though the names were changed to protect the innocent (and possibly the guilty).

    The key moment in the film is when Sabourin acquires a stolen cashier's check for $20,000. He signs it over to himself and uses it to buy stock in a company he's heard inside information about. And fortunately, the inside information pans out and he's able to get the check back before it can bounce ... paid for by money he's acquired from the stock purchase.

    As a result of the shady arrangement, Sabourin becomes a wealthy man literally overnight. And, his rise to financial power is equally swift as he uses personal charm and outright lies to gain the confidence of those who could make him even wealthier.

    This rise to power finally reaches its peak and the worm begins to turn when Federal authorities begin to investigate Sabourin's dealings. And faced with possible deportation back to Czechoslovakia (a communist country that would confiscate his wealth), Sabourin calls in his ace-in-the-hole (or so he thinks). He sends for his mother to join him in America. And once here, he asks his mother to lie for him ... to tell authorities that he's the illegitimate son of a Swiss father. If she tells this lie convincingly, authorities will have no option but to deport him to capitalist-friendly Switzerland ... where he can continue to live his life of luxury.

    Instead, his mother rebuffs him and tells him she's going back to Czechoslovakia. The stage is set for an inevitable climax.

    While dated, the film is of exceptional interest nowadays with corporate corruption being exposed seemingly on a daily basis ... from the Enron scandal to Martha Stewart's inside information scenario. While the outcome of the film is unlikely to be the outcome of the lives of real-life scoundrels, many of the same motivations are at play even today. This alone makes the film worth seeing.

    FWIW, Rubenstein was deported from France back to Britain for his own financial shenanigans. Later, he was found strangled in his mansion ... and his murder has never been solved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's a George Sanders showcase, a role the tall, aristocratic smoothie was born to play. But then like Serge Rubinstein on whom the screenplay is based, Sanders was born in pre- Bolshevik Russia, though you'd never know it from that cultivated British accent he always used to such grand effect. No need to recount the movie's plot here. Still and all, Rubinstein's murder in 1955 created a tabloid sensation since his social circles extended into the upper reaches of finance, politics, and show business. I'm sure the whispering among insiders of the time was ferocious. The murder itself was never solved. But then, as one wag put it, "They've narrowed the list of suspects down to 10,000"! (Time magazine)

    Actually, the movie only implies a list of about 5,000. Had it gone on another hour, the total might have easily doubled— Sanders' Clementi Sabourin is a really slick slimeball. The kind of guy who looks you in the eye, picks your pocket, then gives you back a dollar and calls it charity. It's a rather curious production with the cheap sets and black&white look of 1946 instead of '56. Still, the casting does give a number of second-line actresses a chance to show their high-fashion stuff. However, I'm still wondering how DeCarlo managed to lose her brassy accent in such a miraculously short span. And I'm sure Sanders and that other expatriate from Europe's gilded past, Zsa Zsa Gabor, shared more than a few memories and laughs off camera. Also, Gray and Gates are two of the better unsung actresses of the period, wholesomely pretty rather than glamorous. It really is a well-cast film. Also, director Martin wisely doesn't let all the gab slow down the pacing.

    In passing—note that the movie shows Sabourin mixing with financial and show biz moguls, but oddly he's not shown mixing with the political elite. I wonder if that was intentional, given rumors of the time. Anyway, the film is still a lot of fun, though you'd think that shooting the guy would be punishment enough. However, this is the Production Code era, so apparently more is needed. The trouble is the trickster's blubbering contrition for all his transgressions undercuts what's gone before and is about as plausible as Paris Hilton suddenly taking a poverty pledge. Nonetheless, the movie teaches more about the stock market than maybe it should have. Then too, judging by today's headlines, 1955 may not be so long ago, after all.
  • I first became aware of this movie when I bought the soundtrack composed by Max Steiner back in the 80's. With its Eastern European flavour, the score for "Death of a Scoundrel" was Steiner in top form, and as I later discovered, was one of the best things about the movie.

    The film begins with Clementi Subourin (George Sanders) lying shot dead across a bed. His assistant, Bridget Kelly (Yvonne De Carlo), tells his story, which is revealed in a long flashback.

    In Czechoslovakia just after WW2, Subourin returns from a concentration camp to visit his brother, played in the film by George Sanders' real-life brother, Tom Conway. After discovering that his brother has virtually forgotten him and even married the girlfriend he had asked him to protect, Subourin turns his brother over to the police for dealing on the black market.

    He travels to America where he makes a fortune speculating on the stock market - mostly by questionable means. Along the way he encounters people who either become allies or more likely, enemies. Subourin is ruthless and vengeful, and has affairs with many women, often at the same time. He is a forerunner of the Wolf of Wall Street but seen through the heavy filter of 1950's censorship.

    Ultimately, it all unravels and we finally learn who pumped the bullets into him.

    The movie covers a lot of ground, and has a good script - for the most part. However it falls down visually. Almost totally studio bound, where a filmmaker like Val Lewton and his team could transform a cheap set into a work of art using the shadows from a shuttered window, the guys who made "Death of a Scoundrel" were masters of over-lighting.

    The scenes set in Europe are the worst. It's almost as though someone found an unused storeroom at RKO and thought, "Great, this can be Czechoslovakia".

    Apart from his trademark arrogance and disdain; George Sanders' character also shows nervousness, petulance and even a little contrition. It almost seems like too much acting from George. I prefer his Addison DeWitt from "All About Eve" where, although he only displays one mood, absolute superiority, it is undiluted Sanders. His back-story is also poorly thought out. After he has just been released from a concentration camp, he looks amazingly healthy - in the pink in fact. At no point does he seem to carry the baggage from the experience that Rod Steiger does in "The Pawnbroker".

    The cast is full of beautiful women. Yvonne De Carlo and Zsa Zsa Gabor are foremost among them, and are numbered in the quartet of women looking down on George Sander's body in the striking poster for the film, which along with Sanders and Steiner, was another element in the sum of the parts that turned out to be greater than the whole.
  • George Sanders was a fine actor that just isn't that well-known to Americans today. In this movie, he is completely in his element playing a charming but morally bankrupt jerk. He uses EVERYONE around him and is the complete sociopath until eventually he gets his due. His character was created as a WARNING against being conned by the likes of him and he is NOT glorified in any way, nor does he ultimately get away with this behavior. I loved the picture and it sure gave me a lot more than I was expecting.

    By the way, if you would like to see a couple more of Sanders' best movies, try "All About Eve" or "Village of the Damned". Also, for a similar film to "Death of a Scoundrel", try "The Great Man" or "A Face the Crowd".

    Finally, it was interesting to see Sanders in the same movie as his wife, Zsa Zsa Gobor (though whether or not they were married to each other at the time, I don't know) as well as his brother, Tom Conway.
  • (There Are Spoilers) Arriving at the Sabourin Mansion in New York City the homicide squad headed by police Capt. LaFarge, Morris Ankrum, finds multi-millionaire financier Clementi Sabourin dead, shot to death, in his study. Capt. LaFarge has Sabourin personal secretary Bridget Kelly (Yvonne De Carlo), the only person in the film who had anything good to say about him, called in for questioning about who could have possibly murdered her boss. It's then the movie "Death of a Scoundrel" fades into a flashback that takes up almost the entire film.

    Surviving a Nazi concentration camp in WWII Clementi comes back home to Czechoslovakia only to find that all the money that he gave his younger brother Gerry Monte, Tom Conway, was gone and his childhood sweetheart Zina, Lisa Ferrady,married to him. Told by both Gerry and Zina that they were informed that he died in the camps doesn't make Clementi feel any better. Later Clementi goes to he Communist Czech police and rats on his brother about him having illegal and black-market contraband. This leads to Gerry getting shot and killed by the police for "resisting arrest".

    For his service to the government Clementi gets a French passport that he uses to immigrate to the United States and find his fortune. In America Clementi waste no time getting to the top of the heap of the stock bond commodity and real-estate markets. With his sharp mind and unscrupulous principles Clementi becomes one of the richest and most feared men on Wall Street.

    Clementi also scores big with the ladies charming them into investing in his schemes and make big bucks because of them. Like the Wall Street moguls of the 1920's, and later 1980's, Clementi specializes in corporate take-overs that ends up destroying the value of the companies that he takes over and throws thousands of stock owner out in the cold flat broke with their stocks totally worthless.

    It's doesn't take long before Clementi becomes the most hated and despised man in the world of finance and his biggest fraud the selling of a stock to the public called Sobourinuranium was the last straw when it collapsed with Clementi ending up with all the money as the stock owners went broke; this brought the SEC, the Securites & Exchange Commission, in to investigate him and cause his fall from power and eventual murder.

    There wasn't anyone in the movie that Clementi didn't screw to get what he wanted; his brother Gerry and later Gerry's widow Zina who ended up committing suicide when she found that he was cheating on her in a Chicago hotel with one of his many rich women friends Mrs. Edith Van Renassel ,Coleen Gray. Zina ended her life blaming Clementi in a suicide note for her death.

    Clementi also used very rich and connected women like the beautiful widowed Mrs. Ryan, Zsa Zsa Gabor who he left high and dry and the mega rich Mrs.Van Renassalear who's marriage he destroyed to get cash, that he was alway desperately in need of, for his financial adventures. The only woman that Clementi fell in love with Mrs. Ryan's secretary Stephanie North,Nancy Gates, rejected his crude advances and thus gets even with Stephanie by destroying her career as an actress that he himself helped financed.

    The last straw to Clementi's rottenness was when faced with being deported back to Communist Czechoslovakia as an undesirable alien he tries to get his old and sick mother( Celia Lousky), whom he ignored for years, come to America in order to declare him, in court papers, as being her legitimate son! Clementi wants his mother to tell the court that he was actually born in Switzerland with his father being a Swiss citizen! In order to prevent him from being shipped back behind the Iron Curtain and into a Soviet Gulag.

    It's at this point that Clementi finally realizes what a heel and scoundrel he really is and in a show of contrition plans to give all his money away to those he stole and cheated it out off but. By that time it was already too late for him since not all of his partners in crime, who profited from his sleazy ventures, weren't that "saintly" and one of them Mr. O'Hara (John Hoyt), who was involved with Clementi's dealing right from the start, wasn't at all that willing to go along with him and depart from his ill-gotten gains.

    In the end all Clementi wanted was forgiveness for what he did from those that he hurt over the years and in a strange and mystifying way, after his death, he did in the end get it.
  • Dimitri4418 November 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    Here comes the spoiler, right at the beginning. Tell Mrs. Ryan? No. Tell Mrs. van Rensselaer? No. Tell Kelly? Yes; and at the start of this movie, after a police investigator, a Captain LaFarge, asks, who is Kelly, then all of the rest of us viewers find out as well. Kelly is Bridget Kelly, who goes by the nickname of Kelly, and is played by Yvonne De Carlo.

    Before going any further, Amazon.com now makes copies of this DVD, on demand, at a typical price, and it otherwise belongs to Warner Bros., which somehow took it over from RKO Radio Pictures. So far, Warner Bros. is not blocking this sales effort.

    Now, this movie is all about a Clementi Sabourin, a notorious swindler, who lives in New York City, and is played by George Sanders, who once said that of all the dozens of films that he made, this one was his favorite. Throughout the movie, there is swindle after swindle, but does this come to an abrupt end? The time comes when Clementi Sabourin is confronted by a devastating emotional crisis when he must face deportation back to his native Czechoslovakia, then run by the Communists. He then goes through a significant transformation, and he then experiences a complete repentance. Then, he goes to his office, and he signs all of the necessary stock certificates in order to give his financial victims all of the money back. He then tells his lawyer over the telephone, and then he says to him, "Tell Kelly".

    During the final scene, as Yvonne De Carlo prepares to leave the room, by then, the extent of her dramatic performance is such that the police investigator even offers to help her with her coat. Yes, it was Yvonne De Carlo who truly held this entire film together, but somehow, NO Oscar NOMINATION!
  • A pretty interesting little movie. George Sanders, who plays the scoundrel of the title, is the pivotal piece of the jigsaw and the one who makes it work. Initially it appears Sanders is miscast: he's certainly not the playboy type, and also too old, but as the film progresses you realise that he's absolutely nailing the performance. His anti-hero is never less than engaging, much more so than many clean-cut heroic types.

    The film begins with a death before the real story is told in detail. We learn how Sanders' character flees from post-war Europe to hit the big time in America, while his scandalous behaviour leads to death, destruction and destitution along the way. The supporting cast is fleshed out with attractive starlets, including Zsa Zsa Gabor and the ever-appreciated Yvonne De Carlo, and there's lots of drama and one or two well-filmed fights to keep things moving despite the lengthy running time. DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL is no classic but fans of the era will find much to enjoy here.
  • This movie was on TCM the other nite and it was great to watch, even tho I had never heard of it before. For the longest amount of time Sanders & Co. were shot in front of a bunch of static sets supposedly city streets, including one that I guess in France, all pretty cheap, but really got the job done. Sanders did not have to stretch very much to be a bastard and he is responsible for ruining a bunch of people's lives as well as causing a number of deaths . . . but hey, this is why we watch Mr. Addison DeWitt! The movie is rife with coincidence and a good melodrama, and you will find yourself hoping that more suckers will fall for George's con games.
  • The rags to riches script is ludicrous but this film's saving grace is the talented actors. Sanders, DeCarlo and even Gabor play their type to the hilt. I have never seen such perfect casting, especially in a B film such as this.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    George Sanders manages to manipulate almost the entire cast; especially the women in his life: Yvonne De Carlo,, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lisa Ferraday, and Nancy Gates. He can't do enough to exploit them as so many pawns, twisting them in an intricate web of deceit, betrayal, and jealousy. His character Sabourin is fascinating; that he's based on an actual criminal doesn't diminish the depth of this dramatic achievement. It's almost painful to watch him mess with so many unsuspecting people. He even has a scene created for the play he finances so that Stephanie (Nancy Gates) foreshadows his attempt to seduce her, then has to face his actual come-on.

    He outdoes himself by attempting to manipulate his mother. We're introduced to his unscrupulousness by watching him frame his brother in order to get a U.S. passport. Definitely a great example of a narcissist. What makes the film work so well is that his victims are so very different. Some have money and stature like him; others are ordinary office workers. Some are compromised themselves. In short, they're a cross-section of society, sophisticated and naive, none of them evil. And some of them end up as dead bodies

    The ending has a lot noir-ish touches. O'Hara's ambush making them both victims, Sabourin's repudiated by everyone, wandering the dark streets, alone. Also reeking of noir are Sabourin's first escapades with De Carlo in New York. The frame story sets the stage well; strangely, though, the first European scenes look like Italy, not Czechoslovakia. Reviewer dougdoepke noted that Death of a Scoundrel looks more like 1946 than 1956. I agree; in fact, the street scene at the very beginning has a lot of prewar cars, and nothing newer than a '48 model (the taxi starts out as a '41 DeSoto and becomes a '46-'48 when it pulls up to the hotel). Well, no big deal.

    The fact that Sabourin was a Holocaust survivor (I assume that his real-life counterpart was also) certainly makes a difference. That would explain his cynical behavior, but not of course excuse it. The movie isn't psychologically driven, however, and except for the scenes mentioned, atmosphere isn't important either. It's more of a crime drama; unique and enjoyable.
  • edwagreen6 April 2017
    10/10
    ****
    Warning: Spoilers
    One of the best films I've seen in a long time.

    George Sanders gave a new meaning to the term cad and turns in a riveting performance as a man who sold out his own brother, leading to the latter's death, and this allows Sanders to come to America and make a fortune in stocks.

    The misery that he caused to the women around his orbit was not to be believed. A wonderful performance by Yvonne De Carlo as the woman he meets when she steals a wallet should be remembered. The change that DeCarlo undergoes while working for Sanders, her elocution and attitude about life is wonderfully displayed. Zsa Zsa Gabor does a fine job as well as the wealthy widow who falls for him when he makes her even richer and then he takes her money to squander on a fraudulent stock.Nancy Gates is appealing as Gabor's secretary who gets a Broadway part through Sanders and then is pulled from the part despite excellent notices off-Broadway.

    While redemption comes too late for Sanders, this film is well worth watching for his antics, selfishness and ultimate realization that what he has done is wrong.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It seems that writer-director Charles Martin said to the Casting Director get me four lookers and one actress and taking him at his word the CD hired Coleen Gray, Nancy Gates, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Yvonne de Carlo and Colleen Townsend, who used her little screen time to lay a touch of class on what is essentially a pot-boiler 'inspired' by the life of Serge Rubinstein, which was all too real, and Sacha Guitry's Roman d'un tricheur which was pure fiction but of the highest class. George Sanders is, of course, always watchable and worth the price of a ticket especially when, as here, he has little to do but suave his way from rags to riches before winding up with a tag on his toe. Here, surrounded by a motley crew (including his own real-life brother, Tom Conway, John Hoyt, and the five name-checked women, he walks through an entertaining romp which is largely painless.
  • This is the kind of picture that was made again and again in the 30s, to better effect. By the 50s, when it was made, it seems overdone and utterly impossible. The cheap sets look that way, the static "external" overacting, where none of the actors seem actually to be looking at or listening to each other, but "act" all over the place, is straight out of Warners "B" pictures from two decades before. In the 30s pictures looked like this, sounded like this, and studio contract players were taught to act this way for the camera. The writing is the same way: people don't talk like this, not even in the 50s, when even average people spoke better English than now, in public or private speaking. Listen to the latest political speech and you'll see what I mean!

    And speaking of Warners...while watching it I kept thinking "Is this a Warners picture?" There was something about it...and then I realized what: the score is by Max Steiner, who wrote music for countless Warners "B" pictures just like this one! This score is not the most inspired of his many works for this genre, as by the 50s he was basically repeating himself. But even without any of his more memorable themes (and he could write great melodies!) it has his unmistakable Strauss/Mahler late Romantic touch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    George Sanders is ideally cast as the "scoundrel" of the title - although I would use that term to describe only his juggling of multiple women at the same time. For his business activities, i.e. getting rich without producing anything but just by using other people's money and work, I believe the word is simply "capitalist". The film is absorbing, kind of novelistic in its storytelling (with random events from the first "pages" having a big impact later), fascinating in its financial details, and quite unpredictable. However, it is also slightly too long at 119 minutes, and gets a little too heavy with the "money can't buy you happiness" moralizing at the end (most of it coming from Yvonne De Carlo's character - she's better at her more humorous scenes, like the one at the theater). Zsa Zsa Gabor gives a witty performance as a woman who also specializes in the stock market, and Nancy Gates is appealing as an aspiring actress waiting for her big break. Sweeping score by Max Steiner. **1/2 out of 4.
  • 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, womanizing and fraud confirms that almost everyone who knew him wanted him dead.

    "Death of a Scoundrel" is a fictionalized adaptation of the life and mysterious death of Serge Rubinstein. He was a stock and currency manipulator, a playboy, Café society denizen, convicted draft-evader and murder victim. I had never heard of hi, but now i want to know more.

    The film is quite good, but somewhat misleading. It is presented as a film noir, but really is more of a biopic. Within the first minute or two we get a heinous murder, but the remainder never gets gritty like you would expect from the opening.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is obviously a low-budget RKO film as this is the last year before Lucy and Desi would buy the cash strapped studio. The production quality other than the music is really spartan. It is certainly one of the better of the later films by the studio because of George Martin's script, and an A-List Cast.

    George Sanders is perfect as the Scoundrel. After being found dead at the beginning of the movie, the flashback of his life is dominated by his rascal of a character. Yvonne De Carlo is really quite fabulous as the woman who is the main love interest, yet can not quite land Sanders despite getting closer to him than any other woman.

    There are plenty of other women. Zsa Zsa Gabor is good as a rich woman that gets approached by Sanders, and even though she seems really taken with him, she really cannot score much of any real time with him. He is just too busy.

    Sanders has several other women and as he becomes rich in a bit of a dishonest way, he has interests in several women. One of them he has the most interest in spurns him but plenty. De Carlo is a little younger than the 40 year old Zsa Zsa but both women look great ant could pass for younger in this one.

    The ending of the film while not a mystery, is quite a film flame. Overall, this is a rare film with a lot of decent character actors in q large cast keeping the screen busy and the action moving. Sanders breaks a sweat quite often in the breezy moving plot after the wooden opening scene.
  • That quote from James Cagney in The Oklahoma Kid seems to be the life motto of George Sanders in Death Of A Scoundrel. I can't believe that George Brent was originally cast in the role because this was a part George Sanders was born to play. Especially with one of his wives Zsa Zsa Gabor in the cast as well albeit too briefly.

    Yvonne DeCarlo opens the door to some homicide cops who discover the body of Sanders who is lying there shot to death. DeCarlo herself got a career role as one tough girl from the streets. She and Sanders seem fated with each other, but Sanders is never happy with just one.

    Zsa Zsa, Nancy Gates, Coleen Gray are some of the many who encounter Sanders and leave quite the worst for wear.

    Sanders is a post war Czech immigrant who with some stolen loot from the rich Victor Jory starts a financial empire that would be the envy of our current president. He's also got the morals of him as well. A little more than 30 years later Michael Douglas got an Oscar for playing Gordon Gekko who seems to have learned from Sanders.

    The film is based loosely on the homicide, the still unsolved homicide of Serge Rubinstein who was also found shot to death in a a still unsolved case. He too made a lot of enemies who number in the thousands with reason to do him in.

    In Death Of A Scoundrel, Sanders is at his caddish best. An absolute must for his legion of fans.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Here he is the center of attention as blackguard, but one with some depth and some explanation as to his evolution. Sure, he is basically playing Addison DeWitt as far as being the silver tongued devil that is completely selfish and also urbane and witty, but the point is, he doesn't start out that way.

    We first see Clementi Suborin (George Sanders) as he is returning home to Czechoslovakia after spending years in a Nazi concentration camp. What does he find? His home is still a police state, it's just the Communists instead of the Nazis, and his brother (played by his actual brother Tom) has used the money entrusted to him to open a shoppe and married the girl Clementi planned to marry. Their justification is that they had heard he died in the camp, but Clementi is wounded to the core. He feels utterly betrayed by those closest to him. This is the reward he gets for standing up to the Nazis - how is never made clear.

    So he marches right down to the police station to turn in his brother as having hidden large sums of money in return for papers and passage to the United States. His brother is killed while being arrested, and Clementi gets his passage.

    On the deck of the ship as it approaches the U.S., while talking to another passenger, we get some more insight. Clementi says that the devil is his partner from now on, that the devil seems to take care of those in league with him.

    Once in New York, Clementi takes a series of lucky breaks and along with some very dirty tricks that could have easily gotten him jailed and some bravado very quickly amasses a fortune in the stock market. When it comes to women Clementi uses them like stairsteps, claiming romance. Sometimes he has two or three that he is working at the same time, barely out of sight of one another. It is like watching a vaudevillian spinning plates on poles.

    But Clementi's evil is sprinkled with some remainder of humanity just every now and then. And as you go through the film you learn more about his background. He studied at Oxford - that's why he doesn't seem like one of the Beverly Hillbilies when he gets some real money, because he has been exposed to taste, wealth, and tradition before. His mother always said that he was the dreamer and his brother the smart one.

    At any rate, things do not end well for him, since the title itself is the spoiler. This is a good story, supposedly loosely based on the life and death of a real financier, and with a great supporting cast including Yvonne DeCarlo as the woman he lifts out of the gutter and always loves him even though she sees quite clearly his Lethario ways. I'd highly recommend this one.
  • vincentlynch-moonoi3 December 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    I've never seen a movie where I didn't enjoy the performance of George Sanders...until now. In the first quarter of the film Sanders acting...and the script...are deplorable. Things get better for Sanders and the script through quite a bit of the rest of the film, but every once in a while the actor and script begin sinking again into melodrama (and I mean that in the worst sense).

    The rest of the cast is at least interesting...if not particularly good. Yvonne DeCarlo was beautiful and sometimes had some excellent roles; she did not put in a good performance here...better as the film progressed...but her early scenes as a lowlife were awfully exaggerated and stereotypical. Surprisingly, Zsa Zsa Gabor's acting here was quite gokod, and it's interesting that she and Sanders had just divorced a couple of years earlier. Victor Jory certainly showed his limitations here. John Hoyt put in a good performance here, and it reminded of what a good character actor he was. Nancy Gates...undecided; perhaps. Interestingly, Tom Conway, who here plays Sanders' brother...really was his brother. Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) has a part here, too.

    As mentioned earlier, every once in a while, and particularly early on, the movie descends into cheap melodrama with too many plot twists that seemed clever (but weren't). Under a better director this could have been a great film, but under Charles Martin...who??? Production values here were quite limited, and it shows.

    Sorry, but this is somewhat of a klunker. Maybe fun to watch to see just how bad it is.
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