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DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL (director/writer: Charles Martin; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Conrad A. Nervig; music: Max Steiner; cast: George Sanders (Clementi Sabourin), Yvonne De Carlo (Bridget Kelly), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Mrs. Ryan), Victor Jory (Leonard Wilson), John Hoyt (O’Hara, Stockbroker), Bob Morgan (Bridget’s husband), Tom Conway (Gerry, brother of Clementi), Celia Lovsky (Clementi’s Mother),Nancy Gates (Stephanie North), Lisa Ferraday (Zina, wife of Clementi’s brother ), Gabriel Curtiz (Max), Werner Klemperer(Herbert, Clementi’s Lawyer), Justice Watson (Clementi’s Butler); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles Martin; RKO; 1956)
It’s unconvincing, moralizing and over melodramatic, but has some entertainment value.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fictionalized adaptation of the life and mysterious death in 1955 of the ruthless scoundrel Russian refugee Serge Rubenstein. Charles Martin (“The One Man Jury”/”My Dear Secretary”/”How To Seduce A Womam”) directs and writes this average B-film, a poor man’s Citizen Kane. It’s unconvincing, moralizing and over melodramatic, but has some entertainment value.

The film is told in flashback. It opens with wealthy refugee businessman Clementi Sabourin (George Sanders) found shot to death in his luxury Park Avenue townhouse by his secretary Bridget Kelly (Yvonne De Carlo). Bridget says she loves the evil genius and recounts to the police the story of the fast rise to the top of the recent Czech refugee who became one of the wealthiest and most hated New Yorkers.

Released from a Nazi prison camp in Czechoslovakia, Clementi visits his antique store owner brother, Gerry Monte, in Italy. Gerry has opened the shop with Clementi’s money and married his girl friend Zina, after telling her his brother died in the camp. A vengeful Clementi turns Gerry in as an illegal immigrant in exchange for a U.S. visa, and during the arrest his brother is killed.

On the boat to America, Clementi meets oilman Wilson (Victor Jory) and tells him to become rich one must be dishonest. Clementi says his business motto is: Business is the art of getting something for nothing.Later when ashore, Wilson drops his wallet while exchanging money. Clementi follows the petty thief Bridget Kelly to a bar after she picks it up and after wooing her and returning to her apartment, he steals the wallet but is shot by her ex-husband as he flees. At the doctor’s office where he’s treated for his shoulder wound, Clementi overhears the doctor on the phone buying a drug stock with a new miracle drug it just developed. Clementi uses Wilson’s $20,000 check to buy the stock and instantly becomes rich.

Bridget chronicles how she met Clementi again and went to work for him, and how the scam artist conned wealthy women out of their money, was an embezzler, was charged with manslaughter, and issued phony stocks. She also described him asking for forgiveness for his sins before he was killed by a business partner who didn’t want the repentant Clementi to return the money he swindled.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”