How to Murder a Rich Uncle
Cast & Crew
In the face of rising taxes and escalating expenses, Sir Henry Clitterbern, the master of Clitterbern Manor, finds himself in debt. Henry thinks that his salvation lies in an inheritance from his seventy-five-year-old uncle George, who left England years earlier to seek his fortune in America. When George notifies the family that he is coming home for a visit, Henry envisions a doddering old man and plans a premature death for his ailing uncle. Upon learning of Henry's intentions, his sister Marjorie suggests that the family's financial difficulties could be overcome if Henry's son Albert would just get a job, but Henry, a confirmed member of the landed gentry, sputters that "he will not prostitute his son to trade." On the day of George's arrival, Henry instructs Albert to make sure that the car breaks down in the woods after picking his uncle up in town. Once Albert gets out of the car and walks a safe distance from George, he is to signal by waving his scarf, after which Henry, hidden in the brush, will shoot George and earn a tidy inheritance. Henry's plan goes awry, however, when Albert's car is sideswiped by another vehicle that then crashes through the guard railing. Edward, the driver, was on his way to visit his sweetheart, Henry's daughter Constance, and now finds himself pinned himself inside the wrecked vehicle. George sends Albert for help, and as he trudges along the road, Albert absentmindedly removes his scarf just as Marjorie peddles by on her bicycle. Spotting the waving scarf, Henry fires his rifle, killing Marjorie. That night, as Henry and his wife Edith discuss their anticipated millions, Alice, Henry's eccentric second cousin, overhears their conversation. The next morning, while watching Albert spray his plants with poison, Grannie conceives of slipping some into George's tea, but Henry vetoes the idea. At tea time, after Grannie criticizes George's "newfangled" tea bags, George challenges her to taste his tea. As the family intently listens to the bespectacled criminologist Edward deliver his treatise about the psychology of crime, Grannie, unaware that Edith has infused George's tea with a dose of poison, takes a sip and keels over dead. When the family goes on a fishing trip and picnic, Henry decides to use the occasion to drown George and instructs Albert to row George down river in a boat, then capsize the craft, making sure that George hits his head on a rock and sinks to a watery grave. The plan goes amiss, however, when Albert falls overboard instead and George accidentally cracks him over the head with an oar. Although William Gilrony, a virile young man standing on the shore, spots the floundering Albert and pulls him from the icy waters, soon after, Albert succumbs to pneumonia and dies. One day, when George insists on "toughening up" the bookish Edward by taking him hunting, Henry gleefully rigs a booby-trapped rifle in the storeroom, aiming the muzzle at the door and tying a string to the trigger, assuring that George will meet his maker when he opens the door to return his weapons. Upon returning from the hunt, George goes to the storeroom while Henry smugly waits, listening for a gunshot. As he is about to open the door, George is distracted by a crashing sound coming from his room. There he finds Alice, who offers to show him a secret passage to the storeroom. When George appears in the living room after safely stowing the guns, Henry, incredulous, climbs a ladder to the roof to peer through the storeroom window. While Henry gazes at the still-rigged rifle, George removes the ladder to examine a bird's nest in a tree. Without looking, Henry begins to climb down the now-missing ladder, topples from the roof and breaks his arm. Still determined to exterminate George, Henry pries loose a step in the stairway that George descends on the way to his nightly raid of the refrigerator. That night, instead of visiting the kitchen, George goes with Alice in search of an owl, leaving an unsuspecting Edith to tumble to her death on the faulty step. Later, when Constance informs Henry that Edward suspects foul play may be involved in the epidemic of family deaths, Henry becomes alarmed. Soon after, Edward arrives with the police, prompting Henry to make an abrupt departure. Hurrying to the storeroom to fetch his suitcase, Henry opens the door and is greeted by a blast from the rifle. At the inquest into Henry's death, Edward asserts that George killed Henry. Alice then innocently states that all the deaths occurred as a result of Henry's attempts to kill George. Some time later, a now-married George and Alice sail aboard a luxury liner, smiling and toasting each other.
Albert R. Broccoli
Kenneth V. Jones
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
Wendy Hiller was born on August 15, 1912, in Bramhall, and raised in Manchester, where her father was a cotton-cloth manufacturer. Educated at Winceby House, a girl's school in Sussex, Hiller found herself drawn to the theater, and after completing secondary school, Wendy joined the Manchester Repertory Theater, where she was a bit player and later an assistant stage manager. In 1934, she earned critical acclaim and stardom when Manchester Rep cast her as the lead in the popular drama, Love on the Dole, written by her future husband, Ronald Gow. The play was such a hit, that Hiller would repeat her role in London and triumphed on Broadway.
Back on the London stage, she was playing the lead in George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, when she caught the eye of the playwright himself. He cast her as the beloved cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (contemporary audiences will no doubt be aware of the musical version - My Fair Lady) on stage in 1936 and in Anthony Asquith's screen adaptation two years later co-starring Leslie Howard. The film was a smash, and Hiller earned an Academy Award nomination for her striking and original Eliza. Shaw would cast her again as an heiress turned Salvation Army worker in the classic Major Barbara for both stage and the 1941 film version.
The ensuing years could very well have been Hiller's time for screen stardom, yet despite her blazing acting ability, regal presence and distinctive voice, her film forays were too few, as she concentrated on the stage and spending time with her husband Gow and two children. Still, when she did make a film appearance, it was often memorable: a materialist turned romantic in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's glorious, I Know Where I'm Going! (1945); a lonely hotelkeeper in Delbert Mann's Separate Tables (1958), which earned her an Academy Award as best supporting actress; an obsessive mother in Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers (1960); a unfaltering wife to Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinneman's brilliant A Man for All Seasons (1966); and as a compassionate nurse who cares for the deformed David Merrick in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980).
Ill health became an issue for Hiller in her later years, but she made one elegant return to the camera when she was cast as a former society beauty who is interviewed 50 years after her fame in Moira Armstrong's The Countess Alice (1992). In a performance that was touching, but never maudlin, Wendy Hiller proved that few could match her for presence, integrity and dignity. Her contribution to her craft did not go unnoticed, as she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975. She is survived by her son, Anthony, and daughter, Ann.
by Michael T. Toole
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
The working titles of this film were Uncle George and The Death of Uncle George. The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. Before the opening credits roll, the following sign appears: "Clitterbern-Peckett Post Office. Owing to pressure of business this post office will be closed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday." After the trial at the end of the film, the ghost of "Henry" (Nigel Patrick) appears and summons the rest of the cast by name. They then all exit the building, one by one, until Henry calls the name of Charles Coburn. When Coburn fails to materialize, the scene cuts to him and "Alice" (Katie Johnson) seated on the boat. How to Murder a Rich Uncle marked Patrick's motion picture directorial debut. The film also marked the last screen appearance of Johnson who died on May 4, 1957.
Released in United States Winter February 1958
Released in United States Winter February 1958