The House of the Seven Hawks
Cast & Crew
At the port of Baymouth, American John Nordley, who operates the charter boat the Aloha , takes on a passenger named Mr. Anselm, who wishes to go to Holland. As they approach their destination, John enters Anselm's cabin and finds him dead. He is soon approached by a young woman in a motorboat, who identifies herself as Anselm's daughter and asks to see the body. The woman immediately takes Anselm's money, then flees when John enters the cabin. Suspicious, John, who had earlier noticed an envelope taped to the dead man's chest, removes the document and locks it in his safe. At the port, John is met by a police officer, who takes one look at Anselm and tells John his passenger was actually Inspector Sluiter of The Hague police. John is taken in for questioning by Hoff Commissar Van Der Stoor, who reveals that Sluiter was in London on an official police investigation and should have returned with an important letter. Van Der Stoor then brings in Sluiter's daughter Constanta, who is not the woman who boarded John's boat. Van Der Stoor says that Sluiter, who was diabetic, was murdered when, prior to his boarding, someone replaced his medication with insulin capsules containing ten times the proper dosage. The police hold John as a material witness, but he is released when an anonymous party posts his bail and reserves a hotel room for him. At the hotel, John arranges a meeting with his friend Charlie Ponz, then enters his room and finds a man named Wilhelm Dekker waiting for him. Dekker takes John to see the mysterious Capt. Rohner, who asks him about Sluiter's belongings. John evades Rohner's questions, and as he is walking out, Elsa, the woman who boarded his ship earlier, comes into the room. John goes to a waterfront bar and meets the disreputable but charming Charlie, and asks for his help getting past the police guarding his boat. Back at his hotel, John gets a call from Elsa and goes to her apartment. Elsa tells him Rohner ordered her to go aboard his ship and look for an envelope, adding fearfully that Rohner believes she is withholding the envelope from him. John notices Dekker outside and accompanies him to see Rohner, who says Elsa was the one who switched Sluiter's insulin capsules. Rohner then explains that he was in charge of the garrison during the Nazi occupation, and made a pact with a banker named Maserling to smuggle funds into Berlin. The launch carrying the funds was sunk by Dutch partisans and Maserling, who was disguised as a German officer, was taken into custody by the English. Rohner says that before his capture, Maserling had prepared an overlay showing the location of the sunken treasure. He adds that Maserling died the previous week and Sluiter, who had been working on the case for years, made a deal with Rohner to deliver the overlay to him. Rohner offers John a large sum of money for the overlay, but John demands Sluiter's cut. John then returns to Elsa's apartment and finds her murdered. He immediately has Charlie accompany him to the Aloha , and while Charlie distracts the police, John sneaks aboard and opens his safe, only to find the envelope containing the overlay missing. John calls on Constanta and discovers that she has the envelope in her purse. Constanta explains the information on the overlay for him, identifying the chief landmark as an island known as the House of the Seven Hawks. John and Constanta arrange with Charlie to sail at dawn in search of the sunken ship, but after Charlie watches the couple kiss outside the bar, he calls Van Der Stoor and informs him that John plans to leave Holland. Charlie than places a call to Rohner. The following morning, John, Charlie and Constanta take a boat and locate the launch, but before John can remove the strongbox from the cabin, Rohner arrives with Dekker and his henchman Pieter. Rohner decides to wait for low tide to have Pieter dive, so Charlie takes John and Constanta to the island and holds them hostage in a farmhouse inhabited by a kindly elderly couple. John notices a clock in the house bearing the name of the launch and asks the farmer, Beukleman, where he got it. The old man replies that near the end of the war he took in a wounded German captain, who told him about the launch. Beukleman admits he removed valuable objects from the launch, feeling entitled to reparations for the damage the Germans inflicted on his farm. John relates Beukleman's story to Charlie, pointing out that the "German captain" was Maserling, and offers to split the fortune with Charlie if he will shift allegiances again. The pragmatic Charlie agrees and knocks Dekker out. Buckerman shows John and Charlie where he has buried the treasure, and they are surprised to find bags of diamonds. Rohner and Pieter return empty-handed from the launch and engage in a gunfight with John until the police arrive. John, Charlie and Constanta escape the island and go to Van Der Stoor. John hands over the diamonds, admitting to the astonished Charlie that he had been cooperating with the police all along. Van Der Stoor releases John's ship and offers him a large reward. When John declines the reward, Van Der Stoor says the money will go to Constanta. At the port, John asks Constanta to return with him to Baymouth, and she happily agrees.
Andre Van Gyseghem
R. L. M. Davidson
David E. Rose
J. B. Smith
A. W. Watkins
The House of the Seven Hawks
Metro had bought the rights to Victor Canning's The House of the Seven Flies in 1952, the year the novel was published in Great Britain and serialized in The Saturday Evening Post as House of Fear. Trade publications had announced that Canning would sail to America to write the screenplay but credit went instead to Jo Eisinger, a newspaperman turned Hollywood scribe who had adapted Gilda (1946) for Columbia and wrote the London-set noir Night and the City (1950) for Jules Dassin.
With Richard Thorpe at the helm, production shifted overseas to the Netherlands, to the canal towns of Maassluis and Hook of Holland, and The Hague. Interiors for The House of the Seven Hawks were filmed in London, at MGM British Studios in Borehamwood, where Thorpe and Taylor made Ivanhoe (1952) and Knights of the Round Table (1953). Few of Taylor's European costars will look familiar to American audiences but Donald Wolfit (cast as the dogged Inspector Van Der Stoor) was a revered Shakespearian actor whose career inspired Ronald Harwood's acclaimed stage play The Dresser and the Academy Award® nominated 1983 film adaptation directed by Peter Yates.
Robert Taylor holds the record for the longest-lasting studio contract for any actor in Hollywood: 24 years with Metro Goldwyn Mayer. At the start of his seven-year contract, Taylor's take-home salary was just $35 a week. Born Spangler Arlington Brugh on August 5, 1911, in Nebraska, Taylor's father was a grain merchant who took up the study of medicine to cure his chronically ill wife, Ruth Adaline Stanhope (a distant relative of 2004 Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson). As a high school student in Beatrice, Nebraska, "Arly" Brugh was popular with the fairer sex due to his matinee idol looks and his artistic and athletic prowess. He was a gifted orator, a cellist in the school orchestra, and a track star. He headed to California to study medicine and psychology at Pomona College, graduating in 1933. Intrigued by a dalliance in campus theatrics, he enrolled in the Neely Dixon Dramatic School, where he was spotted by Metro talent scout Ben Piazza. Joel McCrea, a Pomona alumnus, helped set up a screen test and the handsome, blue-eyed hopeful was soon on the studio payroll as Robert Taylor. In 1935, he was loaned out to Universal for Magnificent Obsession opposite Irene Dunne. The film was a hit and Taylor was quickly paired with Greta Garbo for Camille (1936) at Metro. Despite his popularity with moviegoers, Louis B. Mayer kept Taylor's salary the lowest of any Hollywood star.
In 1936, Taylor was set up on a blind date with a recently divorced Barbara Stanwyck at the Trocadero nightclub. The pair hit it off instantly but had to keep their relationship private due to Taylor's studio image as a good-looking, unattached bachelor. All that changed when Taylor's pretty boy looks prompted some gossip columnists to infer he was secretly gay. The pair were married in 1939 and divorced twelve years later; in the interim, Robert Taylor became a name in Hollywood. Although he had attracted attention as "The Man with the Perfect Profile," Taylor shifted to man of action roles in Billy the Kid, Johnny Eager (both 1941) and Bataan (1943). For the conservative right-winger, loyalty meant everything and Taylor rarely refused an assignment, even when it conflicted with his beliefs (as did Gregory Ratoff's semi pro-Communist Song of Russia in 1944). The parts offered Taylor grew fewer during the 1950s but he brought a persuasive gravitas to prominent roles in Quo Vadis (1951), Ivanhoe and Rogue Cop (1954). In The Last Hunt (1956), Taylor was a merciless buffalo hunter who engages in a prairie face-off with hero Stewart Granger and freezes to death while waiting to make the kill shot. During this time, Taylor was a conflicted but cooperative witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee and his testimony helped derail the career of character actor Howard da Silva.
Producer: David Rose (uncredited)
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Jo Eisinger; Victor Canning (novel, "The House of the Seven Flies")
Cinematography: Ted Scaife
Art Direction: Bill Andrews
Music: Clifton Parker
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Cast: Robert Taylor (John Nordley), Nicole Maurey (Constanta Sluiter), Linda Christian (Elsa), Donald Wolfit (Inspector Van Der Stoor), David Kossoff (Wilhelm Dekker), Eric Pohlmann (Captain Rohner), Philo Hauser (Charlie Ponz), Gerard Heinz (Inspector Sluiter), Paul Hardtmuth (Beukleman), Lily Kann (Gerta), Richard Shaw (Police Sgt. Straatman), Andre Van Gyseghem (hotel clerk), Leslie Weston (Tulper), Guy Deghy (desk lieutenant), Peter Welch (Gannett).
by Richard Harland Smith
The Films of Robert Taylor by Lawrence J. Quirk
Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood & Communism by Linda J. Alexander
The Life and Loves of Barbara Stanwyck by Jane Ellen Wayne
The House of the Seven Hawks
The working title of the film was The House of the Seven Flies. Portions of the story also were based on another Victor Canning short story, House of Fear, which was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (2 August-6 September 1952). According to news items in New York Times and the trade publications, M-G-M acquired the rights to Canning's novel in March 1952. The news items add that the author was coming from Britain to the United States to work on the screenplay, but Canning's contribution to the final film is doubtful. The film was shot at M-G-M's Borehamwood Studios near London, and on location in Holland at The Hague, Massaluis and the Hook of Holland. The House of the Seven Hawks was the last film made by Robert Taylor under his twenty-five year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, although he returned for one picture, the 1963 film Cattle King (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).