Conspirator (1949): Victor Saville’s Espionage Thriller Noir, Starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor

Victor Saville directed Conspirator, British espionage film noir, based on the 1948 novel Conspirator by Humphrey Slater, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

Grade: C+

Conspirator film poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

While visiting England, Melinda Greyton (Elizabeth Taylor), a girl of 18, attends Regimental Ball where she meets handsome Major Michael Curragh (Robert Taylor). The attraction is mutual, and a whirlwind courtship follows.

After the honeymoon is over, the young bride finds out that her husband is actually a Soviet spy, which she fails to comprehend.

In the end, after much discussion Michael decides to give up that life, but it might be too late as the party orders him to kill his wife, forcing him to face the ultimate dilemma.

The producers were careful to delete mentions of the British traitors during the Second World War, such as John Amery and Norman Baillie-Stewart,  fearing litigation by their families.

An indirect mention of Baillie-Stewart remained, however. He is referred to not by name but as “that fellow in the Tower.”

The plot bore some similarities to the later case of the Cambridge Spies, including Donald MacLean.

The age difference between Robert Taylor, in his late 30s, and Elizabeth Taylor, who was only 16 was notable.

The film earned $859,000 domestically and $732,000 overseas, resulting in a loss to the studio of $804,000.

Robert Taylor as Major Michael Curragh
Elizabeth Taylor as Melinda Greyton
Robert Flemyng as Captain Hugh Ladholme
Harold Warrender as Colonel Hammerbrook
Honor Blackman as Joyce
Marjorie Fielding as Aunt Jessica
Thora Hird as Broaders
Wilfrid Hyde-White as Lord Pennistone
Marie Ney as Lady Pennistone
Jack Allen as Raglan
Helen Haye as Lady Witheringham
Cicely Paget-Bowman as Mrs. Hammerbrook
Karel Stepanek as Radek
Nicholas Bruce as Alek
Cyril Smith as Detective Inspector
Janette Scott as Coupie, Aunt Jessica’s grandchild (uncredited)


Directed by Victor Saville
Written by Sally Benson, Gerard Fairlie, based on Conspirator, the 1948 novel by Humphrey Slater
Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Cinematography Freddie Young
Edited by Frank Clarke
Music by John Wooldridge

Production and distribution: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release dates: December 9, 1949 (UK); March 24, 1950 (USA)

Running time: 87 minutes
Language English
Budget $1,832,000
Box office $1,591,000