(director: Herman Shumlin; screenwriters: Robert Buckner/Jack Daniel/based on the novel by Graham Greene; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: George Amy; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Charles Boyer (Denard), Lauren Bacall (Rose Cullen), Katina Paxinou (Mrs. Melandez), Peter Lorre (Contreras), Victor Francen (Licata), George Coulouris (Captain Currie), Wanda Hendrix (Else), John Warburton (Forbes), Dan Seymour (Mr. Muckerji), Miles Mander (Brigstock ), Ian Wolfe (Dr. Bellows), George Zucco (Inspector Geddes), Guy Bellis (Butler), Art Foster (Chauffeur), Holmes Herbert (Lord Benditch); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Buckner; Warner Brothers; 1945)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on a Graham Greene novel, and is written by Robert Buckner and Jack Daniel. Theater director Herman Shumlin (“Watch on the Rhine”), with well-known leftist leanings, in his second and last film he ever directed, gets no sizzle from co-star Lauren Bacall, unconvincingly cast despite her Bronx accent as the daughter of an English lord, after her smashing film debut in To Have and Have Not (1944) opposite Bogie. But the film looks good courtesy of cinematographer James Wong Howe, was well-acted by the talented cast and had a tingle to its sinister spy theme of people living in fear that still keeps it fresh and relevant. Because of the film’s depiction of Spain as a Fascist country still at war with Loyalists, it did not catch the interest of the public, still living through their own war experience and too war-weary to concern itself with another part of the world’s problems. Therefore the film unfortunately bombed at the box office in the West and did not receive too many good reviews from critics, but when viewed today it has gained in reputation over the years. I thought it was an enjoyable classic thriller, made with insight and intelligence. The author Greene liked the film best of all the screen adaptations of his novels, and even liked Bacall’s performance (I thought it was solid, not great).
It’s set in 1937, in England, where the Spanish Loyalists send an aging world-weary Spanish classical musician Denard (Charles Boyer), whose wife and daughter were executed by the Fascists, to sabotage a valuable coal mining business deal with the Brits which if finalized would allow the Fascist Spanish government to buy munitions during the Spanish Civil War to be used against the Loyalists.
The chief villains, Peter Lorre and Katina Paxinou, give nasty performances as detestable heavies and sell-outs, and the other villains Victor Francen, Miles Mander, George Coulouris, Guy Bellis and Art Foster show what amateur agent Boyer is up against in his dangerous mission. While Bacall plays the spirited daughter of coal tycoon Lord Benditch (Holmes Herbert), who falls in love with the dashing Boyer after giving him a lift in her car at the train station, and later enlists the help of her wealthy aristocratic businessman boyfriend John Warburton to help get the besieged Boyer out of the country after the reluctant agent succeeds in his mission of blocking the coal deal by giving an impassioned speech to the hostile Brit coal miners at Benditch. The miners are more interested in jobs than politics, but respect a fellow worker’s plea for them to at least hear what he has to say. The newspaper headlines the next day force the cancellation of the deal.
REVIEWED ON 9/13/2012 GRADE: B