Cast & Crew
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Late one Friday afternoon, London hairdresser Milo Tindle is invited to visit famous author Andrew Wyke, who specializes in old-fashioned detective fiction, at his country estate in Wiltshire. Upon his arrival, Milo searches through a hedgerow maze to find Andrew, who is dictating his latest novel. Andrew, who revels in games and toys of all kinds, shows Milo a secret panel that opens to the center of the maze and welcomes him. The aristocratic, wealthy Andrew then takes Milo inside, where the much younger man is amazed by Andrew's vast collection of board games, wind-up toys, automatons, mannequins and other amusements. Andrew is particularly fond of a life-size sailor, Jolly Jack Tar, which he has wired to a remote to make it laugh at his jokes. As they enjoy a drink, Andrew casually remarks that he knows Milo is having an affair with his estranged wife, Marguerite, and the nonplussed Milo states that he wants to marry her. Andrew assents, although he asks Milo about his background. Milo relates that his father, an Italian immigrant, married a poor Englishwoman and, because he wanted his children "to become English," worked tirelessly at his watch repair business to provide them with a good education. Milo admits that his now bankrupt father, whose single-minded ambition to assimilate embarrassed him, is a burden, but asserts that his two hair salons are doing well. The snobbish, bigoted Andrew makes Milo self-conscious about his lower-class accent and grammar, and further insults him by speaking disparagingly about Marguerite. Andrew stops Milo from storming out, however, by asking if he can provide Marguerite with her accustomed luxurious lifestyle. Milo asserts that in a year, his businesses will afford them a comfortable living, but Andrew scoffs, pointing out that he does not want Marguerite returning after he is "rid of her." Andrew admits that he has a mistress, Teya, with whom he would like to live, and in turn, Milo confesses that he and Marguerite hired a private detective to shadow Teya and Andrew in case Andrew changed his mind about granting Marguerite an uncontested divorce. Andrew presses Milo about his finances, then states that he has a proposal to solve their problems. As Andrew leads Milo to his study, he explains that he has invested £250,000 in jewelry, all of which is insured under his name. Andrew proposes that Milo steal it, and using Andrew's contact, fence it for £170,000 in cash, after which Andrew will be reimbursed in full by the insurance company. When Milo expresses both concern and interest, Andrew reveals more details of the plan, which will require Milo, dressed in a disguise, to enter through a second-story window and blow open the safe in which the jewelry is kept. Andrew insists that a disguise is essential on the off chance that a wandering passerby sees him, and so that his footprints will be disguised, thereby leading the police astray. Milo finally agrees and after deliberation, dons a clown outfit from a basket of costumes in the cellar. Despite the discomfort of the baggy pants, oversized shoes and full mask, Milo manages to drag over a ladder, ascend it, cut a pane of glass and enter through a window, while in the study, Andrew prepares a dynamite charge. Although Milo is disconcerted by Andrew's condescending attitude toward the police, who are always portrayed as dullards in his books, he is impressed by the older man's knowledge of explosives and the quality of the gems. Andrew then goes with Milo back to the drawing room and there insists that they ransack the area, as if Andrew had struggled with a real burglar. Milo succumbs to the revelry, throwing Andrew's manuscript in the air, but is surprised when Andrew suddenly punches him in anticipation of the fight that the "householder" must have with the "burglar." Although he angrily shouts about Milo stealing Marguerite, Andrew changes tone quickly to state that Milo must knock him out to make it look convincing to the police. When Milo expresses hesitation about hurting him, Andrew pulls a gun and says that it can be used to add realism to their fight. With increasing nervousness, Milo watches as Andrew fires two shots, one at a jug Milo is holding and the other at a photograph of Marguerite. Andrew grows serious, however, and chillingly declares that "seducers and wife stealers" are always "in season," then levels the gun at Milo. At first, Milo thinks that Andrew is playing yet another game, but Andrew explains that he concocted the entire plot to have a legally acceptable excuse for killing Milo, and as he stalks the younger man, Milo grows hysterical. Breaking down in tears, Milo pleads for his life, but Andrew, who calls him "a sniveling dago clown," puts the revolver to his head and pulls the trigger. Later, on Sunday evening, Andrew is preparing dinner when he is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Detective Inspector Doppler. The balding, pot-bellied inspector, who has a thick country accent, is deferential to Andrew, but nonetheless reveals that he is suspected in the disappearance of Milo. Doppler explains that a local barman knew that Milo was coming to visit Andrew, a passerby heard three gunshots on Friday and Milo has not been seen since then. Although Andrew denigrates Doppler's intelligence and methods, the inspector is dogged, finding the bullet holes and some dried blood on the stairs. Andrew is baffled by the bloodstains, as well as by a grave-like mound of earth in garden, but persists in his explanation that the two men were merely playing a game devised by Andrew to humiliate Milo. Andrew insists that although the first two rounds he fired were live, the cartridge with which he shot Milo was a blank, and that after he recovered from a faint, Milo changed back into his suit and departed. When Doppler finds Milo's clothes in Andrew's wardrobe, however, Andrew's composure unravels. Doppler accuses Andrew of murdering Milo, and when Andrew attempts to flee, Doppler pins him face down on the couch. As Doppler is telling Andrew, who cannot see him, that he will be imprisoned for at least seven years, the inspector peels off his fake eyebrows, mustache and wig. After removing a latex mask, Doppler is revealed to be Milo. Andrew is both outraged and bemused by Milo's successful trick, and pretends that he was not afraid. Milo sees through him, however, and when Andrew proclaims that they are even, Milo lashes out that because Andrew terrified and humiliated him so profoundly, the score is not settled. With icy determination, Milo announces that they will be playing another game, one of his making that began when he murdered someone in real life. Although Andrew believes it is a joke, Milo continues that he strangled Teya the previous day, after first having consensual sex with her, and that he has planted four clues to incriminate Andrew, including the murder weapon, for the police, who will be arriving in fifteen minutes. After Andrew calls Teya's roommate, who sobs that Teya is dead and Andrew the prime suspect, Andrew searches for the clues, with Milo providing him directions. Milo beams with gratification as Andrew grows frantic, although within ten minutes, Andrew finds the first three clues. When Andrew spits out more bigoted remarks, Milo answers in Italian, making it difficult for Andrew to puzzle out the location of the murder weapon, a stocking. Milo announces the arrival of the police but offers to stall them, and as Andrew locates the stocking, hidden on a clock pendulum, he hears, but does not see, Milo conversing with the sergeant and constable. After disposing of the stocking, Andrew rushes back to the drawing room and invites in the police, only to discover that Milo has again tricked him by using his mimicry skills to pretend that he was talking with the unseen visitors. Milo then reveals that Teya helped stage the elaborate game because she, too, had been degraded by Andrew in the past. Andrew's own humiliation is complete when Milo relates that Teya confided in him that Andrew is impotent. Infuriated, Andrew loads his revolver with real bullets while Milo is upstairs retrieving Marguerite's fur coat. Hiding the gun, Andrew tells Milo that he cannot let him go, as he possesses too much damning information. Milo laughingly confesses that on Saturday, he informed the police of the trick that Andrew played on him, so that if he attempts the burglar scheme again, they will not believe him. Andrew does not believe Milo, however, and as Milo departs, Andrew shoots him in the back. While reveling in his "win," Andrew hears the arrival of a police car and realizes that Milo was telling the truth. Crawling into the drawing room, Milo advises Andrew to tell the police that it was "only a bloody game," then sets off Jolly Jack with the remote and dies. With the now-mocking toys laughing, playing their instruments and spinning around him, Andrew cries in despair.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Edgar J. Scherick
Allan B. Schwartz
Sleuth was the last feature film from Mankiewicz, the writer-producer-director responsible for such classics as A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), Julius Caesar (1953), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). His career took a serious downturn after the debacle of Cleopatra (1963), and he made only two more features before Sleuth restored him to familiar terrain, getting bravura performances in a script loaded with verbal wit. Mankiewicz couldn't resist paying himself a sly tribute in the opening and closing credits, which list actresses by the names of Margo Channing (Bette Davis's character in All About Eve) and Eve Channing, a conflation of Davis' character with the title role.
There is another "Eve" reference of sorts in the movie, albeit unconnected to the earlier Mankiewicz movie. The portrait of Andrew's wife that hangs on the wall was modeled after actress Joanne Woodward, who won an Academy Award in the title role of The Three Faces of Eve (1957).
The Edgar Allan Poe Award (for mystery writing) proudly displayed by Andrew in the film was actually the one presented to Shaffer for the stage version of Sleuth. Mankiewicz also received an Edgar for his film 5 Fingers (1952).
Although Laurence Olivier was a given in the role of the haughty author Andrew Wyke, Michael Caine was not the first choice to play the Cockney upstart Milo Tindle. Albert Finney was originally considered for the part but was rejected, some accounts say, because he was overweight. Alan Bates was also offered the job but turned it down. Caine was at first intimidated by the thought of working with the generally acknowledged World's Greatest Actor. Olivier was the only member of his profession to have been elevated to Lord status, and Caine was not even sure how to address him. But the amiable older actor insisted they should refer to each other as Michael and Larry and become friends, and that they did, working very well together.
Caine was surprised, however, by Olivier's initial difficulty with the role. Stumbling through their first rehearsals, he seemed to be having a hard time getting a handle on the character until it occurred to him that he needed nothing more than a mustache. According to Caine, Olivier realized he couldn't act with his own face and always needed a disguise. The next day, however, even with the fake facial hair, Olivier seemed distracted, astonishingly unable to remember his lines. It was only later that Caine and Mankiewicz learned that the acclaimed British actor was taking some sort of sedative that interfered with his focus. He needed the pharmaceutical calm because shortly before production began, he learned that he was being unceremoniously fired from his position as head of London's National Theater Company at the moment of its official opening, after years of tireless work to get the company started and its theater complex built. Caine and Mankiewicz worked around the difficulty with patience and understanding, and eventually Olivier's mood lightened and he was back in form. In addition to his own role, Olivier also provided the laughter coming from the Jolly Jack Tar dummy owned by his character.
One other reference to watch for: Fans of the British musical group The Smiths may recognize a line heard in the film. Their 1982 song "This Charming Man" contains the lyrics "you're just a jumped-up pantry boy who doesn't know his place," a line uttered by Andrew in his contempt of Milo.
Sleuth was popular at the box office and critically lauded, garnering many awards and nominations, including another Edgar for Shaffer, an Evening Standard British Film Award for Caine, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Olivier. It also received four Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Original Dramatic Score (John Addison) and Best Actor nods for both Olivier and Caine. And here's the last and biggest spoiler alert: this is the only other picture besides James Whitmore's one-man performance in Give 'Em Hell, Harry! (1975) in which the entire cast was Oscar®-nominated.
A new version of the story is planned for release in 2008 under the direction of Kenneth Branagh. Caine will play the role originally done by Olivier, while Milo will be played by Jude Law, who played Caine's role in the 2004 remake of Alfie (1966).
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer: Edgar J. Scherick
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer, based on his play
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Editing: Richard Marden
Art Direction: Peter Lamont
Original Music: John Addison
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Andrew Wyke), Michael Caine (Milo Tindle), Alec Cawthorne (Inspector Doppler), Eve Channing (Marguerite Wyke).
by Rob Nixon
There are certain skills best acquired in public bars, I suppose.- Andrew Wyke
So I understand you wish to marry my wife.- Andrew Wyke
Remember... to tell them... it was only a bloody game.- Milo Tindle
It's sex! Sex is the game! Marriage is the penalty. Round and round we jog towards each futile anniversary. Pass "Go". Collect 200 rows, 200 silences, 200 scars in the deep places.- Andrew Wyke
Milo, baby, lemme handle this one, eh? Crime's my baaag. I got this caper worked out ta the last detail!- Andrew Wyke
Joanne Woodward's likeness was used for the painting of Marguerite Wyke.
"Eve Channing" is a combination of "Eve Harrington" and "Margot Channing," the two main characters in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "All About Eve". "Higgs" is the name of the dead body in Tom Stoppard's play "The Real Inspector Hound", a parody of Agatha Christie-type mysteries. "Alec Cawthorne" is also the name of a film writer for the BBC.
One of only two films for which the entire cast was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar (the other was Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975)).
'John Addison' was nominated for an Oscar for his music score. However, he was not originally among the five nominees when then nominations were announced. He was added to the list after the score for Godfather, The (1972) was deemed ineligible.
The film's opening credits are presented over dioramas that illustrate scenes from the mystery books written by "Andrew Wyke." Each diorama is on a little stage with a curtain, and the last, that of a beautiful mansion, comes to life as the camera zooms in and "Milo Tindle" drives up to the house. At the end of the film, the last shot of Andrew as he stands forlornly in the drawing room turns into a diorama, and a curtain comes down on the shot before the end credits appear. The cast credits for Alec Cawthorne, John Matthews, Eve Channing and Teddy Martin are fictitious, as Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine are the only actors appearing in the film.
As was done with the hit play on which the picture was based, more cast members were listed in the credits in order to mislead the audience. The name Eve Channing is a nod to the 1950 picture All About Eve, also directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, in which Bette Davis played the character "Margo Channing" and Anne Baxter played "Eve Harrington." Because the studio publicity for Sleuth listed the fake actress' name as Margo Channing instead of Eve Channing, the error was sometimes continued by contemporary reviews and modern sources. The name of actress Karen Minfort-Jones, who supposedly plays "Teya," was included in the December 1972 New York Times review, although she also is fictitious.
The oil portrait of "Marguerite," Andrew's wife, who is never seen in the film, was based on a photograph of actress Joanne Woodward, a close friend of Mankiewicz. As reported by studio publicity, many of the photographs of Andrew with various celebrities were from Olivier's personal collection of photographs of himself with friends taken throughout the years.
The very successful play Sleuth first opened in London on February 12, 1970 and began its long, Tony Award-winning run on Broadway on November 12, 1970. The play did not end its New York run until October 13, 1973 and was still on Broadway at the time of the film's release. Modern sources note that the play and film vary slightly, with the Milo of the play being an English travel agent of Jewish and Italian descent, while in the film, he is a lapsed Catholic hairdresser whose father immigrated from Italy. The film also places more emphasis on the class distinction between the two characters by having Milo be from more lower-class, Cockney origins, and by heightening Andrew's bigotry. The rights to the play were acquired by Palomar Productions International in late November 1970, according to a November 30, 1970 Hollywood Reporter news item. A January 1972 Hollywood Reporter article noted that the rights had been sold to Palomar "for a sliding scale of the Broadway gross plus a percentage of the picture."
On September 8, 1971, Daily Variety reported that Albert Finney was "all but signed" to star with Olivier in the film, but in December 1971, Caine was announced as Olivier's co-star. According to an undated, circa 1972 Los Angeles Times article, contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Olivier himself suggested Caine for the role. Modern sources report that while working on the screenplay, playwright Anthony Shaffer wanted Anthony Quayle, who originated the part of Andrew on stage, to play Andrew, and Alan Bates to play Milo. On September 22, 1971, Hollywood Reporter announced that Morton Gottlieb, one of the producers of the Broadway production, would make his directorial debut with the motion picture, but the item was likely in error, as the film version of Sleuth actually marked Gottlieb's debut as a feature film producer. According to a January 6, 1972 Hollywood Reporter news item, United Artists was originally set to distribute the picture.
Sleuth marked the first major starring role for Olivier since the 1966 United Artists release Khartoum, although he had continued to appear in a variety of smaller film roles over the years. Olivier devoted most of his time to the theater, especially the directorship of Great Britain's National Theatre. According to modern sources, Olivier, who was dismissed from the National Theatre just before filming on Sleuth began, was devastated by his dismissal and his depression contributed to brief problems he had remembering his lines during the early days of production. Sleuth also marked the last film directed by longtime writer-director Mankiewicz (1909-1993). According to modern sources, Mankiewicz experienced several physical problems during filming, one of which necessitating shutting down production for a week.
As noted in the onscreen credits, interiors for the film were shot at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks, England, with the exterior scenes of Andrew's mansion shot at Athelhampton House in Dorset, England. The credits thank the owner, Mr. Robert Cook, M.P., for his permission to film at the estate, the initial site of which was established in 1086 and added onto throughout the centuries. According to the Athelhampton website, the garden maze was constructed especially for the film, and the MG driven by Milo is kept there as a museum piece.
The December 6, 1972 Variety article noted that the New York run of the film, which was on a "special performance basis" of three showings daily, would feature a fifteen-minute intermission, which was unusual at that time. According to the article, the intermission was added because of the film's length, and the film "was reportedly trimmed five minutes with the cooperation of Mankiewicz." A modern source reports, however, that the intermission was proposed by executive producer Edgar J. Scherick, without the knowledge of the director. After cuts to the sequence in which Andrew prepares his dinner were made for the intermission, Mankiewicz protested and the eliminated footage was restored. New York reviews of the picture do not mention if it was shown with an intermission.
Sleuth received mostly enthusiastic reviews and was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actor (both Olivier and Caine), Best Director and Best Original Dramatic Score. The nomination for score was received after Nino Rota's score for The Godfather, was disqualified and the Academy substituted another nominee. The nominations for Olivier and Caine marked the only time that the entire cast of a film has been nominated for Academy Awards. The picture also received several BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, and Olivier was named Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle.
A new adaptation of Sleuth, directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Harold Pinter, is scheduled to be released in October 2007. The 2007 film stars Caine as Andrew and Jude Law as Milo.
Olivier was named Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle.
Won three Golden Globes, for Best Picture-Drama and both Caine and Olivier won for Best Actor, Leading Role.
Released in United States December 1976
Released in United States March 1979
Released in United States on Video March 1988
Released in United States Winter December 1972
Based on the Anthony Shaffer play "Sleuth" (London, 12 Feb 1970).
Last film directed by writer-director Mankiewicz (1909-1993).
First major starring role for Olivier since the Khartoum, 1966.
Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The 50-Hour Mighty MovieMarathon: Mystery and Suspense) March 14-30, 1979.)
Released in United States on Video March 1988
Released in United States Winter December 1972
Released in United States December 1976