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Simon Templar, aka The Saint, has been one of the more enduring characters in literary, film, and television history. Created by British writer Leslie Charteris, The Saint first appeared in the book Meet - The Tiger! in 1928 and has been chronicled in more than 100 books, stories, collections, and film novelizations up through 1997 to date. Although Charteris lived to 85 years old in 1993, he gave up writing the books in 1963. The character was then taken up by several other writers.
The Saint's Double Trouble (1940), despite some erroneous references to the contrary, was not based on a Charteris book, although some sources claim the author contributed to developing the basic story. The fourth film in the series begun by RKO in 1938, it was the first not taken from a novel and the third to star George Sanders. Reportedly Charteris didn't like the movie very much, but that might be partially due to his belief that Sandersand the first film Saint, Louis Haywardwere "hopelessly miscast." He would have preferred Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Ronald Colman, or Cary Grant. Nevertheless, Sanders was the most famous portrayer (until Roger Moore brought the character back for British TV), playing the part for two more of the remaining five installments of the series. Hugh Sinclair took over for a further two pictures, and Louis Hayward came back for the final one, aptly named The Saint's Return (1953). Jean Marais played Templar in a 1966 French version, several actors took the part on various TV series based on the stories, and American Val Kilmer played the part on the big screen in a 1997 version that altered much of Charteris's original conception.
The Saint's Double Trouble plays on the notion that Templar was once a criminal, a background that allowed him a certain edge in solving crimes by means usually off limits to law enforcement. Here, Sanders gets to be both good and bad guy, playing a double role as Templar and a doppelgnger crime boss. The device allows Sanders to perform a scene as Templar pretending to be the crime boss confronting the crime boss pretending to be Templar. It also allowed for some amusing quips by reviewers, such as New York Times critic Frank Nugent's claim to have overheard a boy in the movie theater remark, "Ain't he the spittin' image of himself, though."
Screen Dracula Bela Lugosi made one of his occasional attempts to break free of his horror movie typecasting with a role as the crime boss's partner in this picture. The effort was fruitless; Lugosi's next assignment was a small part in Black Friday (1940), a mad scientist story starring Boris Karloff.
The screenplay was written by Ben Holmes, a writer and director of mostly B pictures from the late silent period until his early death in 1943. Holmes previously directed the first movie to feature Simon Templar, The Saint in New York (1938).The Saint's Double Trouble was shot on RKO's back lot in just 19 days by director Jack Hively, who started his film career as an editor. His last credited work in that field was on The Saint Strikes Back (1939). He directed two more in the series after this: The Saint Takes Over (1940) and The Saint in Palm Springs (1941).
Director: Jack Hively
Producer: Cliff Reid
Screenplay: Ben Holmes, based on a character created by Leslie Charteris
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Editing: Theron Warth
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Original Music: Roy Webb (uncredited)
Cast: George Sanders (Simon Templar/The Boss), Helene Whitney (Anne Bitts), Jonathan Hale (Inspector Henry Fernack), Bela Lugosi (The Partner).
BW-67m. Closed Captioning.
by Rob Nixon