The Sleeping Tiger  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Sleeping Tiger is a 1954 film noir starring Dirk Bogarde and Alexis Smith. It was Joseph Losey's first British feature, which he directed under the pseudonym of Victor Hanbury due to being blacklisted in the McCarthy Era.


Two criminals are stalking the streets of London one dark night. Frank Clemmons (Dirk Bogarde), a cocky young man, holds psychiatrist Dr. Clive Esmond (Alexander Knox) up at gunpoint, but Dr. Esmond manages to overpower him. Frank has two options; he can go to prison or he can be a guest at Dr. Esmond’s house where he’ll be a human guinea pig subjected to Dr. Esmond’s scrutiny, which aims to cure him of his criminality. Frank agrees upon the latter.

Arriving home from a holiday in Paris, Dr. Esmond’s wife Glenda (Alexis Smith) is taken aback when she sees the new household guest. Glenda has her reservations for Frank and behaves in a cold, aloof manner towards him.

Frank is regularly analysed by Dr. Esmond, who is determined to get to the root of his criminality. In between these sessions, he also goes horse riding with Glenda. Although at first indifferent to him, Glenda soon finds herself growing attracted to Frank.

With a co-conspirator in tow, Frank leaves the house one night and steals some jewellery. An inspector later asks him about the crime, but he denies having committed it.

Some time after, Frank ushers Glenda into the Metro, a seedy Soho nightclub where her conflicted attraction to him deepens. They soon begin an affair, which occurs the next day after Glenda’s attempt to chastise Frank for his violent behaviour towards the maid, Sally (Patricia McCarron), ends with a passionate clinch.

Frank and Glenda carry on with their affair. Dr. Esmond eventually finds them in a compromising position. Glenda’s conflicted feelings plague her. While at the Metro with Frank, the two have a huge argument that overwhelms her. She begins her journey home, driving recklessly and out of control. A police car soon follows. She manages to escape.

Sally’s fiancé pays Dr. Esmond a visit to complain about the abuse she has had to endure from Frank. Her fiancé threatens to tell the police. No charges are pressed and Frank finds out that this is due to Dr. Esmond buying the man off with £100. Frank reacts and carries out another robbery. When questioned by the police, Dr. Esmond ends up lying on Frank’s behalf. A cunning ploy, this results in Frank giving a tragic account of his tyrannical father, whom he deeply despises. As a youngster, Frank stole and his father consequently turned him in to the authorities. Frank vowed revenge on his Father when was released, but was then given a beating. His father shortly passed away and he was blamed. This is what caused Frank’s life of crime.

Dr. Esmond soon begins acting like a father figure towards Frank. The two enjoy carefree activities together until Glenda finds out and grows intensely jealous. She asks Frank to run away with her. However, with Dr. Esmond’s psychiatric experiment now over, Frank leaves and decides to turn himself in to the police. Glenda hysterically rushes to Dr. Esmond, claiming that Frank has assaulted her. Dr. Esmond goes upstairs with a gun and claims that he has shot Frank dead. Glenda is heartbroken and ends up declaring her love for Frank. She then finds out that Frank has merely escaped and goes after him in her car. He gets into her car and they drive off. The hysterical Glenda swerves to avoid a truck, but crashes into a billboard. Frank survives, but Glenda dies instantly.


Production notes

Due to his alleged ties with the Communist Party, the blacklisted Joseph Losey moved to London and began work on The Sleeping Tiger, his first British feature. Despite now being in England, he was faced with yet more problems. The film had to be directed under the pseudonym Victor Hanbury and its stars, Alexis Smith and Alexander Knox, were fearful of how appearing in Losey’s film would affect their Hollywood careers.

The film marks the beginning of Losey’s partnership with Dirk Bogarde, whom he later directed in The Servant, King & Country, Modesty Blaise and Accident.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Sleeping Tiger" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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