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The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry

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The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Siodmak
Produced byJoan Harrison
Screenplay byStephen Longstreet
Keith Winter (adaptation)
Based onUncle Harry
1942 play
by Thomas Job
StarringGeorge Sanders
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Ella Raines
CinematographyPaul Ivano
Edited byArthur Hilton
Color processBlack and white
Charles K. Feldman Group
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 17, 1945 (1945-08-17) (United States)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry is a 1945 American film noir drama film directed by Robert Siodmak and starring George Sanders as an aging bachelor who looks after his two sisters, one of whom tries to sabotage his romance with his co-worker. It is based on the play Uncle Harry by Thomas Job.


Harry Quincy (Sanders) is an amiable middle-aged man working as a designer in a fabric mill in the small New England town of Corinth. Younger people in the factory call him "Uncle Harry". He lives as a bachelor in a large house with his two sisters; Lettie (Fitzgerald) and Hester (MacGill). Lettie is pretty but spoiled, and idles days away in bed, feigning numerous ailments. Hester is a widow and is harder working. It is made clear that although the family was rich, the money was lost in the Depression.

Everything is disrupted by the arrival of a new young female designer at the mill. Deborah (Raines) comes from New York City and is slim, elegant, and very well-dressed. She clearly likes Harry and they fall in love. Planning to get married, they aim to both live in the big family house, but this involves the sisters finding a new home. Whilst this is not an issue for Hester, Lettie is very resistant. After several months of having their marriage plans sabotaged, one Sunday, Harry and Deborah plan to run off to New York and just get married that evening. However, their plan is thwarted when Lettie collapses and is taken to hospital. Deborah makes Harry choose: Lettie or her. He chooses his sister and they part, seemingly forever.

To make things worse, Harry hears that Deborah is getting married in New York. Harry feels betrayed and recalls that Lettie bought some poison for the possible euthanization of their dog.

One night, he slips some of the same poison, discovered in a bottle in Lettie's desk, into her late night hot chocolate. Unfortunately, due to some confusion, Hester drinks from it instead and drops dead. When the housekeeper sees it, she says that she did not think Lettie had it in her, but was aware that the sisters were always arguing. Harry sees his chance and conspires to blame the death on Lettie, as the more obviously motivated perpetrator. The local townsfolk are all sure of Lettie's guilt. The jury agrees; Lettie is sentenced to hang.

Harry has a change of heart and brings a written confession to the prison governor. However, he thinks Harry is just a nice man trying to save his wicked sister. He says it does not make sense: Harry wanted her dead, but now wants to save her. Lettie sees him and seems happy to hang and leave him with the guilt on his shoulders.

However, to satisfy the Motion Picture Production Code, everything from Harry's discovery of the poison bottle on, turns out to be imaginary. Instead, Harry pours the poison in the bin. Deborah bursts in saying she decided not to marry the other man and has come back for him.



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The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
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