Raffles (1930)

The Amateur Cracksman is a pro at breaking into safes and making off with jewelery, but he always manages to stay out of reach of Scotland Yard. The real identity of the Amateur Cracksman is none other than A.J. Raffles (Ronald Colman).  Raffles has recently fallen in love with Gwen (Kay Francis) and is about to give up the safecracking racket and go straight so that he and Gwen can be married.  Just after he thinks he’s pulled his last heist, his friend Bunny (Bramwell Fletcher) attempts suicide over a gambling debt. So to help his friend out, Raffles decides to go for one more heist.

Raffles sets his sights on stealing a very valuable necklace belonging to Lady Kitty Melrose (Alison Skipworth), so he and Bunny attend a party at the Melrose estate and Raffles goes to work trying to get in good with Kitty.  But Raffles isn’t the only one after the Melrose necklace. A burglar named Crawshaw (John Rogers) also has plans to steal it, but Scotland Yard found out about his plan and Inspector McKenzie (David Torrence) comes to the house to let everyone know about it.  Later that night, Crawshaw breaks in and gets the necklace, but Raffles manages to take the necklace from Crawshaw.

The police nab Crawshaw on the spot, but he vows to come after Raffles someday. The next morning, Raffles heads off to London, feeling like he isn’t good enough for Gwen. Gwen doesn’t know that Raffles is the Amateur Cracksman, but she soon begins to put the pieces together and she still loves him.  Meanwhile, Inspector McKenzie is also beginning to figure out who Raffles really is and decides to let Crawshaw go free, hoping that he will go to London looking for Raffles.

Sure enough, Crawshaw does go to London, but Gwen gets there before him and warns him about McKenzie’s plan.  McKenzie is also in town, just waiting for Crawshaw to get Raffles to confess. When Crawshaw finally shows up, ready to kill, Raffles is so smooth that he manages to talk him down, return the necklace to the Melrose family, collect the reward money, confess to being the Amateur Cracksman, and escape to run off to Paris with Gwen.

If you’re a fan of either Ronald Colman or Kay Francis, you will absolutely want to see Raffles. They made an excellent team and both of them were perfect for their respective roles. I would have liked to have seen more of Kay in it, though. Raffles also features some very beautiful cinematography thanks to Gregg Toland, who was a co-cinematographer on it.  Even though this was fairly early in Toland’s career, it’s very clear that he had a bright future ahead of him.  If you’re in the mood for a short but clever heist film, Raffles comes very highly recommended. It’s slick, stylish, fast-paced, and sophisticated.

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5 comments

    1. You definitely should! I’m sure you’d interested in seeing things like Dr. Monica or Mary Stevens, M.D. In both of those, she plays successful doctors which was, of course, very progressive for movies made in the early 1930s.

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