Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917 film)

Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman is a 1917 American silent film starring John Barrymore and Evelyn Brent. The movie also co-stars Frank Morgan and Mike Donlin, and was directed by George Irving.[1] The film has been released on DVD.[1][2]

Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman
1917 theatrical poster
Directed byGeorge Irving
Produced byL. Lawrence Weber
Written byAnthony P. Kelly (scenario)
Based onThe Amateur Cracksman
by E. W. Hornung
StarringJohn Barrymore
Evelyn Brent
Frank Morgan
Mike Donlin
Christine Mayo
CinematographyHarry B. Harris
Hyclass Producing Company
L. Lawrence Weber Photo Dramas
Distributed byHiller & Wilk (on State's Rights basis)
Release date
  • December 1917 (1917-12)
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


As described in a film magazine,[3] A. J. Raffles (Barrymore), a highly educated crook with entree to the best social circles, steals for the love of it and the thrill of the chase, enjoying outwitting the police and amateur detectives. An international swindler who has possession of a priceless "rose pearl" takes passage on a steamship and Raffles does likewise. Miles from land, Raffles determines that the swindler has hidden the pearl in a cavity in his shoe. After getting the pearl, Raffles empties a cartridge from his revolver and puts the pearl inside. There is an outcry over the theft, and on searching Raffles' cabin, a ship's officer takes the gun and removes all of the cartridges. Raffles grabs the cartridges and places them in his mouth and then jumps overboard, swimming to land. During his escape he was seen by Mrs. Vidal (Mayo), an English society woman with whom he had been flirting. Raffles reappears in London, mixing with the upper class, where he is recognized by Mrs. Vidal. She falls in love with him and attempts to force him to love her by threatening to tell of his past theft. Raffles defies her. The famous diamond necklace of Lady Melrose (Brundage) disappears while Raffles is a guest of the house. Mrs. Vidal immediately suspects that Raffles is the thief and again threatens to expose him, but he laughs at her. Captain Bedford (Perry), an amateur detective, declares that he will find the thief responsible for the Melrose robbery and even makes a bet with Raffles that the thief will be arrested. Bedford is sure that Raffles is the thief. Raffles then uses some ingenious methods to get the diamond necklace out of his possession, but still have it at his disposal when needed. Finally, after he loses the bet, Bedford proves that Raffles is the thief and Raffles shows that he took them only to prevent a professional thief from stealing them.



The film is set in England and was filmed in Livingston, Staten Island, New York. There are scenes filmed at the Staten Island Cricket Club.


Like many American films of the time, Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman was subject to cuts by city and state film censorship boards. For example, the Chicago Board of Censors required cuts, in Reel 1, of the intertitle "Relieving such as he of their ill-gotten gain would be an ideal occupation", closeup of stealing pearl from slipper, hiding pearl in empty cartridge, Reel 2, the intertitle "He strolled through life taking from the rich to give to the poor", Reel 4, maid taking key from under pillow and stealing necklace, closeup views of tearing man's mouth(*these scenes are extant in surviving prints), two closeups of biting hand, Reel 5, two intertitles "Oh Bunny, there is nothing equal to it, your very life hangs in the balance" and "I've never stolen a farthing for personal gain. I've robbed the rich to give to the poor", Reel 6, the intertitle "Get the sparklers and be quick about it", and holdup scenes before and after.[4]


  1. Progressive Silent Film List: Raffles the Amateur Cracksman at silentera.com
  2. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films:Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman
  3. "Reviews: Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman". Exhibitors Herald. New York: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (25): 25. December 15, 1917.
  4. "Official Cut-Outs by the Chicago Board of Censors". Exhibitors Herald. 6 (11): 29. March 9, 1918.
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