review for Raffles on AllMovie

Raffles (1939)
by Craig Butler review

The title character of Raffles is one of those thoroughly charming sorts that seem to have nine lives when it comes to cinema, and indeed the gentleman burglar had already turned up in three films before David Niven was given the chance to put his stamp on the part. It's quite a good thing that he was given that chance, for Niven was born to play the role, and the character returned the favor by helping Niven to prove he could carry an entire film, thus boosting him toward the top tier of stardom. Certainly, Niven is excellent in the part, as suave as they come, blessed with the lightest of touches and an innate ability to play subtle comedy, as well as more than enough dramatic chops to handle the more serious aspects of the story. He carries the film along in a featherweight grasp that is exactly what is called for. This is a good thing, for director Sam Wood's work is so uninspired as to be, at best, perfunctory; without Niven, Raffles would be devoid of style, and one thing that this kind of film must have is style. Niven is well assisted by Dudley Digges as his officer-of-the-law nemesis; he gets unfortunately little assistance from Olivia de Havilland, who seems uninterested in her role and her performance.