The Saint in New York (film)

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The Saint in New York
The Saint in New York FilmPoster.jpeg
theatrical release poster
Directed byBen Holmes
Produced byWilliam Sistrom
Written byAnthony Veiller (uncredited contributor to treatment)[1]
Screenplay byCharles Kaufman
Mortimer Offner
Based onThe Saint in New York
1935 novel
Leslie Charteris
StarringLouis Hayward
Kay Sutton
Sig Ruman
Jonathan Hale
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyJoseph H. August
Frank Redman
Edited byHarry Marker
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • June 3, 1938 (1938-06-03)[2]
Running time
71-72 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$460,000[3]

The Saint in New York is an American 1938 crime film, directed by Ben Holmes and adapted from Leslie Charteris's novel of the same name by Charles Kaufman and Mortimer Offner. After a police lieutenant is killed, the New York Police Department enlists gentleman criminal Simon Templar to fight criminal elements in the city.

Released by RKO Pictures, The Saint in New York marks the first screen appearance of Templar, also known as "The Saint". Louis Hayward stars as the title character, with Kay Sutton as his love interest. Alfred Hitchcock was initially discussed as a possible director for the film. This was the first of eight films in RKO's film series about The Saint. After being replaced in the series by George Sanders, Hayward would not play The Saint again until 1953 in Hammer Films production of The Saint's Return. There had not been a Saint film made in twelve years.


Police Lieutenant Martin, an officer leading the fight against New York gangsters, is killed. Jake Irbell is arrested and charged with his murder, but has to be released when prosecution witnesses are either coerced into changing their testimony or simply disappear. A civilian crime commission demands action of the police commissioner, but he has no fresh ideas. William Valcross (Frederick Burton), a respected leading citizen and member of the commission, suggests they resort to drastic measures and recruit Simon Templar (Louis Hayward), the "Saint", a British amateur Detective with a reputation for dealing with criminals outside the law. The commissioner reluctantly agrees to give the Saint free rein to do what he must.

Valcross spends months tracking the Saint down, following a trail of dead (criminal) bodies across Europe and South America. Templar is intrigued by the challenge and is given a list of six gangsters whose removal would hopefully bring peace to the city.

Disguised as a nun, the Saint kills Irbell just as he is about to shoot his most determined enemy, Inspector Henry Fernack (Jonathan Hale). (This differs from the original novel in which the Saint shoots an accused cop-killer in cold blood after the man walks free from court). As he works his way through the list, Templar learns that the mysterious "Big Fellow" is the mastermind who hides his identity by communicating with his underlings solely through Fay Edwards (Kay Sutton). Templar meets Fay, and they are attracted to each other. She saves his life twice when his recklessness gets him in trouble. The Saint disposes of the last of the six original targets, Hutch Rellin (Sig Ruman), leaving only their leader.

Fay has given her word not to divulge the Big Fellow's name, but agrees to point him out when she meets him the next morning at the bank where the profits of three years worth of crime have been kept. When Valcross happens by, Templar tells him why he is waiting there. Valcross starts to leave, but when Fay shows up, she recognizes him. He fatally shoots her before Templar guns down the Big Fellow. Valcross wanted Templar to kill his men so he would not have to share the loot.



Hayward is generally praised for his portrayal of the Saint; his performance has been described as "a poor man’s... Orson Welles",[4] considered "rakish" while staying faithful to Charteris' vision.[4][5][6] However he was unable to repeat the role because he was signed to a multi-picture deal by Edward Small who wanted to make Hayward a star.[7] After being replaced in the series by George Sanders (Sanders later being replaced by Hugh Sinclair), Hayward would return to the role 15 years later in 1953's The Saint's Return (known as The Saint's Girl Friday in the US).[4]

In the RKO films, Templar's New York Police Department contact, Inspector Fernack, as played by Jonathan Hale, appeared four times, even in films not specifically set in New York; Templar's British law enforcement foil, Inspector Teal of Scotland Yard, would appear in films set in Britain, played by different actors.

In 1937, Alfred Hitchcock met with Lillie Messinger of RKO. Hitchcock showed interest in coming to America and making The Saint in New York.[4][8] Ultimately, the film was made a year later with Ben Holmes directing.


The film was extremely popular, making a profit of $195,000.[3]


  1. ^ a b The Saint in New York at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ "The Saint in New York: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Jewel, Richard (1994) "RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951" in Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, vol 14, no 1, p.55
  4. ^ a b c d The Saint in New York at Turner Classic Movies
  5. ^ "The Saint in New York" Time Out
  6. ^ "The Saint in New York" The New York Times
  7. ^ Staff (November 1, 1938) "Louis Hayward to Play Lead in 'Man in the Iron Mask' for United Artists; Opening at Continental: 'The Singing Blacksmith,' New Yiddish Picture, Will Begin Engagement Today; Casting for 'Hotel Imperial'; Coast Scripts Of Local Origin" The New York Times p.27
  8. ^ Spoto, Donald (1999). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Da Capo. pp. 171–172. ISBN 0-306-80932-X.

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