Uncle Silas (GFD 1947 with Jean Simmons, Derrick De Marney and Derek Bond)

UK / GFD – Two Cities / 103 minutes / 1947

Writer: Ben Travers, based on the novel by J Sheridan Le Fanu / Cinematography: Robert Krasker / Music: Alan Rawsthorne / Producers: Josef Somlo, Laurence Irving / Director: Charles Frank

Cast: Jean Simmons, Katina Paxinou, Derrick De Marney, Derek Bond, Sophie Stewart, Manning Whiley, Esmond Knight, Reginald Tate, Marjorie Rhodes, John Laurie, Frederick Burtwell, George Curzon

Alternate US Title: The Inheritance

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 a 17-year-old Caroline who, on the death of her father in 1890, goes to live with her eponymous uncle (Derrick De Marney), whom her father always believed was innocent of the murder of which he was accused but later acquitted. Doctor 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 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.

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”.


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