(director/writer: Herbert Wilcox; screenwriters: Miles Malleson/story by P.M. Bower/DeWitt Bodeen; cinematographer: Max Greene; editor: Vera Campbell; music: Clifton Parker; cast: Anna Neagle (Sally Maitland), Richard Greene (Lt. Cmdr. Jim Garrick), Albert Lieven (Jan Orlock), Nova Pilbeam (Betty Maitland), Lucie Mannheim (Madame Orlock), Margaret Rutherford (Mrs. Towcester), George Thorpe (Col. Hargraves), Franklin Dyall (Captain Foster), Claude Bailey (Major Fothergill); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herbert Wilcox; RKO; 1943-UK)

“A better-than-average wartime melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Herbert Wilcox (“A Yank in London”/Victoria the Great”) directs his lovely wife Anna Neagle in an unsympathetic part as a wartime traitor, the kind of role the beloved Brit star hasn’t done before. It’s co-scripted by Brit actor and playwright Miles Malleson and Hollywood writer DeWitt Bodeen, from a story written by P.M. Bower.

It’s a better-than-average wartime melodrama, set in September 1940. It tells about socialite Sally Maitland (Anna Neagle) and the bind she’s in because of her unpopular views. She’s ostracized by even her own family for being a Nazi sympathizer and contemptuously known by fellow Brits as the “Yellow Canary,” but is really a British secret agent. Sally goes by boat, the Carina, from Liverpool to Halifax after being forced to leave her country, where she is courted by both a Polish aristocrat refugee named Jan Orlock (Albert Lieven) and a British naval intelligence officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jim Garrick (Richard Greene), whom she rudely snubs while playing footsies with the Pole. Out at sea, a German cruiser forces the Carina to hand over Garrick. But he’s Garrick’s double and the real Garrick lands safely in Halifax. Jan takes Sally to meet his imperious mother (Lucie Mannheim), and later while alone describes Halifax as Europe’s gateway to the Atlantic and reveals himself as a Nazi who has come here to work in a spy ring. It leads to Sally being taken into the spy ring and meeting the head. When Sally learns she’s to play a part in the spy ring’s plan to blowup the Halifax harbor, she must use her wits to warn Garrick in time before the spies enact their plan.

The production values were of the highest level and the acting was rather good, even Margaret Rutherford has a funny bit as an ornery old sow, and though the suspenseful story was not great it was nevertheless smartly done and held my interest throughout.

Yellow Canary Poster