Happy Thieves? (1961): Crime Dramedy Starring Rex Harrison, Rita Hayworth, and Alida Valli

Star Rex Harrison describes Happy Thieves, a B-level crime movie with strenuous effort to be funny, as “rubbish,” claiming he did it only for the money and his friendship with Rita Hayworth.

I am grateful to TCM for showing this modest black-and-white film on January 1, 2018.

Produced by Hayworth’s production company Hillworth Productions A.G., the movie was executive produced by Hayworth’s then-husband James Hill, and distributed by UA. 

One of vet director George Marshall’s weakest films, Happy Thieves is based on the novel “The Oldest Confession” by Richard Condon.

A painting belonging to Duchess Blanca (Alida Valli) is stolen from a castle in Spain by the Jimmy Bourne (Harrison) and his partner in crime, Eve Lewis (Hayworth). It is then stolen from the thieves by Dr. Victor Muñoz (Gregoire Aslan), the Dutchess’ cousin.

Eve wants to go straight, but Muñoz blackmails her and Jim, demanding they steal a Goya from the Prado museum. A duplicate is created by Jean Marie Calbert (Joseph Wiseman) and a switch is planned during the farewell bullfight of a matador (Virgilio Teixeira) whom the duchess intends to wed.

During the chaos, Jim and Eve switch the paintings, and find Munoz dead, killed in vengeance by the duchess. Jim is sentenced to five years in prison and Eve vows to wait for him.

All three stars seem bored by the experience.

 

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