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Uncle Silas (GFD 1947, Jean Simmons, Derek Bond)

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With Uncle Silas Ben Travers, usually associated with farce, made a skilful and atmospheric screen adaptation of the chilling novel by Sheridan Le Fanu and, said To-Day’s Cinema , it ’emerges as a piece of sombre, wholehearted melodrama’.

An ideally-cast Jean Simmons plays 17-year-old Caroline Ruthyn who, on the death of her father in 1890, goes to live with her eponymous Uncle Silas (Derrick De Marney) whom her father always believed was innocent of the murder of which he was accused but later acquitted. Doctor Bryerly (Esmond Knight), however, knows that Silas is steeped in vice but Caroline finds him to be a kindly old man.

She falls in love with aristocrat Lord Richard Illbury (Derek Bond) and soon comes to realise that Silas, who is in debt, plans to do away with her in order to gain possession of her considerable inheritance. Housekeeper Madame de la Rougierre (Katina Paxinou) and his sinister son Dudley (Manning Whiley) help Silas in his despicable enterprise. Silas tries to kill Caroline but mistakenly kills Madame de la Rougierre.

The storyline may lack credibility but the zest and enthusiasm of Frank’s direction and the gusto with which the players enter into the increasingly lurid spirit of the proceedings add up to an entertaining period chiller. Halliwell stated ‘…slow starting but superbly made period suspenser’.

Cast: Jean Simmons as Caroline Ruthyn; Katina Paxinou as Madame de la Rougierre; Derrick De Marney as Uncle Silas; Derek Bond as Lord Richard Ilbury; Sophie Stewart as Lady Monica Waring; Esmond Knight as Dr. Bryerly; Marjorie Rhodes as Mrs. Rusk; Guy Rolfe as Sepulchre Hawkes; Reginald Tate as Austin Ruthyn; Manning Whiley as Dudley Ruthyn; John Laurie as Giles; Frederick Burtwell as Branston; George Curzon as Sleigh; Patricia Glyn as Mary Quince; O.B. Clarence as Vicar; Frederick Ranalow as Rigg

Script: Ben Travers, based on the novel by J Sheridan Le Fanu / Director: Charles Frank

UK | GFD – Two Cities | 98 minutes | 1947