State Secret (1950 film)

Last updated

State Secret
"State Secret" (1950).jpg
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Written bySidney Gilliat
Based onnovel
by Roy Huggins
Produced by
Starring
Cinematography Robert Krasker
Music by William Alwyn
Production
company
Distributed by British Lion Films
Release date
  • 11 September 1950 (1950-09-11)(UK)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Box office£187,022 (UK) [1]

State Secret is a 1950 British drama film directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Olga Lowe and Herbert Lom. [2] It was made at Isleworth Studios with Italian location shooting in Trento and the Dolomites. It was released in the United States under the title The Great Manhunt. [3]

Contents

Plot

John Marlowe is an American surgeon visiting England when he is invited to Vosnia (a fictitious East-European country) to receive the "Kepler Gold Medal" for his contributions to medical science, and, coincidentally, to demonstrate his new techniques on a patient. Midway through the operation, he discovers that he is operating on the Vosnian dictator, General Niva. Niva dies during the recovery period. From talking beforehand with Colonel Galcon, the Minister of Health, Minister of Public Services and Minister for State Security, Marlowe is certain he is doomed—he knows too much—so he makes his escape while Galcon is distracted by Niva's death. With elections coming soon, the general is replaced by a double, and Marlowe is hunted by the state police.

Marlowe's attempts to telephone and reach the American embassy nearly get him captured. While hiding in a theater during a show, he notices a woman singing in English. He goes backstage and enlists the help of the reluctant, half-English Lisa. Marlowe has an idea: inside the coat he was accidentally given in a barber shop, by the barber, they find a wallet containing the ID of a Karl Theodor, and foreign currency, the possession of which is a capital offense in Vosnia. They blackmail the smuggler Theodor into helping them. They are pursued across the country and are on the point of escaping across the border when one of Karl's men, who is leading them across the mountains, is shot by a border guard and killed, and Lisa is wounded. Marlowe refuses to abandon her, and is captured by Galcon's men.

Galcon arranges a "shooting accident" for Marlowe, but as he is about to walk outside to his fate, the substitute for dictator Niva makes a live speech on the radio, and shots are heard. Galcon confirms by telephone that the stand-in has been assassinated. As the people have witnessed the death of Niva, albeit the fake Niva, it is no longer necessary to maintain the cover-up, nor to eliminate Marlowe and Robinson, who are subsequently released and fly to freedom in the West, and ultimately to their new life together in America.

Cast

Production

Development

Gilliat got the idea for making the film from a newspaper article he read shortly before World War II. He decided it would make a "chase thriller" in the style of films he had written for Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed, notably The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich . [4]

The fictitious "Vosnian" language was constructed for the film by a linguistics expert, combining Latin, Hungarian and Slavic. [4]

The star role went to Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who had made a number of British films in the 1930s and was keen to work in the country again. His casting was announced in May 1949. [5]

Fairbanks later said "We have definitely reached a One World status in pictures. British comedy and character acting do not seem remote to us any more." [6]

In July it was announced that another Hollywood star would play the female lead but by August, actress Glynis Johns got the role. [7] [8]

Filming

Filming began in August 1949. Although there was some filming done at Isleworth Studios in London, Gilliat wanted to make as much of the film on location. There was eight weeks on location filming, in Trento and the Dolomites. Trento stood in for the fictitious capital. Filming finished by November 1949. [9] [10]

Fairbanks later said filming was difficult as some in Italy thought the film was anti-communist while others said it was pro-communist, and the film unit had to avoid riots. [11]

Reception

Critical reception

In The New York Times , Bosley Crowther wrote, "... this picture is just about as lively as they come, and under Mr. Gilliat's direction, it moves like an auto gaining speed ... Beautifully photographed in Italian cities and in the Italian Dolomites, the whole adventure has the eminent advantage of a sparkling Continental atmosphere. And it also has the advantage of good performance by all concerned—by Mr. Fairbanks as the kidnapped surgeon, looking a little like Eugene O'Neill; by Miss Johns, very saucy and explosive, as the music-hall girl; by Jack Hawkins as the Vosnian premier [sic], with an Oxford accent and a Nazi attitude; by Herbert Lom as the Balkan shyster and any number of others in small roles." [12]

Box office

Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1950. [13] It was one of five successful movies from London Films that year, the others being The Wooden Horse , The Happiest Days of Your Life , Odette and Seven Days to Noon . [14] According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winners' at the box office in 1950 Britain were The Blue Lamp, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Annie Get Your Gun, The Wooden Horse, Treasure Island and Odette, with "runners up" being Stage Fright, White Heat, They Were Not Divided, Trio, Morning Departure, Destination Moon, Sands of Iwo Jima, Little Women, The Forsythe Saga, Father of the Bride, Neptune's Daughter, The Dancing Years, The Red Light, Rogues of Sherwood Forest, Fancy Pants, Copper Canyon, State Secret, The Cure for Love, My Foolish Heart, Stromboli, Cheaper by the Dozen, Pinky, Three Came Home, Broken Arrow and Black Rose. [15]

State Secret was less popular in the US but Fairbanks Jr. said "I thought I did my best work ever; Sidney really kept the pot boiling." [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glynis Johns</span> British actress, dancer, pianist, and singer

Glynis Johns is a South African-born British retired actress, dancer, musician and singer. Born in Pretoria, South Africa, while her parents were on tour, she is best known for originating the role of Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music on Broadway, for which she won a Tony Award, and for playing Winifred Banks in Walt Disney's musical motion picture Mary Poppins. In 2020, with the death of Olivia de Havilland, Johns became the oldest living Academy Award-nominee in any acting category.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. American actor and United States naval officer

Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr., was an American actor, producer and decorated naval officer of World War II. He is best known for starring in such films as The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Gunga Din (1939) and The Corsican Brothers (1941). He was the son of actor Douglas Fairbanks and was once married to Joan Crawford.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Herbert Lom</span> British actor

Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru, known professionally as Herbert Lom, was a Czech-British actor who moved to the United Kingdom in 1939. In a career lasting more than 60 years, he generally appeared in character roles, often portraying criminals or suave villains in his younger years, and professional men as he aged. Highly versatile, he proved a skilled comic actor in The Pink Panther franchise.

Margaret Lockwood British stage and film actress

Margaret Mary Day Lockwood, CBE, was an English actress. One of Britain's most popular film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, her film appearances included The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), The Man in Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress for the 1955 film Cast a Dark Shadow. She also starred in the television series Justice (1971–74).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Hawkins</span> British actor

John Edward Hawkins, CBE was an English actor who worked on stage and in film from the 1930s until the 1970s. One of the most popular British film stars of the 1950s, he was known for his portrayal of military men. He starred in Lawrence of Arabia, Ben Hur, and The League of Gentlemen.

Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hugh Williams</span> English actor

Hugh Anthony Glanmor Williams was a British actor and dramatist of Welsh descent.

<i>It Happens Every Spring</i> 1949 film by Lloyd Bacon

It Happens Every Spring is a 1949 American comedy film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Ray Milland, Jean Peters and Paul Douglas. The story of a baseball pitcher is completely fictitious, and the main character King Kelly is not based on or related to the actual player.

British Lion Films Film production and distribution company

British Lion Films is a film production and distribution company active under several forms since 1919. Originally known as British Lion Film Corporation Ltd, it entered receivership on 1 June 1954. From 29 January 1955 to 1976, the company was known as British Lion Films Ltd, and was a pure distribution company.

<i>The Green Man</i> (film) 1956 film

The Green Man is a 1956 black and white British black comedy film based on the play Meet a Body by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who produced and adapted the big-screen version.

<i>The Corsican Brothers</i> (1941 film) 1941 swashbuckler film starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. directed by Gregory Ratoff

The Corsican Brothers is a 1941 swashbuckler film starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in a dual role as the title Conjoined twins, separated at birth and raised in entirely different circumstances. Both thirst for revenge against the man who killed their parents, both fall in love with the same woman. The story is very loosely based on the 1844 novella Les frères Corses by French writer Alexandre Dumas, père.

<i>The Man with Bogarts Face</i> 1980 film by Robert Day

The Man with Bogart's Face is a 1980 American comedy film, released by 20th Century Fox and based on a novel of the same name. Andrew J. Fenady, author of the novel, produced the film and wrote the screenplay.

<i>Chase a Crooked Shadow</i> 1958 film

Chase a Crooked Shadow is a 1958 British suspense film starring Richard Todd, Anne Baxter and Herbert Lom. Michael Anderson directed Chase a Crooked Shadow, the first film produced by Associated Dragon Films, a business venture of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

<i>The Thief of Venice</i> 1950 Italian film

The Thief of Venice or Il Ladro di Venezia is a 1950 Italian film directed by John Brahm. The US title was "The Thief of Venice".

<i>The Fighting OFlynn</i> 1949 film by Arthur Pierson

The Fighting O'Flynn is a 1949 American adventure film directed by Arthur Pierson. The film's screenplay by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is based on the novel of the same name by Justin Huntly McCarthy. Fairbanks stars, along with Helena Carter.

Thornton Freeland was an American film director who directed 26 British and American films in a career that lasted from 1924 to 1949.

Douglas Fairbanks American actor (1883–1939)

Douglas Elton Fairbanks Sr. was an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films including The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro, but spent the early part of his career making comedies.

Marcel Hellman was a Romanian-born British film producer, who worked closely with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Harold French.

This is a summary of 1950 in music in the United Kingdom.

<i>Tyrant of the Sea</i> 1950 film by Lew Landers

Tyrant of the Sea is a 1950 American historical war film set during the Napoleonic Wars and starring Ron Randell, Rhys Williams and Lester Matthews. It was directed by Lew Landers.

References

  1. Porter, Vincent. "The Robert Clark Account". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2000, p. 492.
  2. "Review: 'State Secret'." BFI. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  3. "The Great Manhunt." TV Guide. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  4. 1 2 FILM IN THE MAKING: "State Secret" Enley, Frank. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 18, Iss. 71, (Fall 1949): 10.
  5. BY WAY OF REPORT By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 8 May 1949: X5.
  6. 1 2 Bawden and Miller 2016, p. 104, at Google Books
  7. AMERICAN INFLUENCE CHANGING BRITISH FILMS: Native Character Losing Out on Screen Due to Influx of Hollywood Artists By C. A. LEJEUNE New York Times 19 June 1949: X5.
  8. Of Local Origin New York Times 20 Aug 1949: 7.
  9. Paulette Goddard May Do 'Cynthia;' Erskine Plans Independent Film Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 2 Nov 1949: A7
  10. Round the British Studios Nepean, Edith. Picture Show; London Vol. 53, Iss. 1391, (Nov 26, 1949): 11.
  11. Schallert, Edwin (4 February 1951). "All World's A Stage' for Doug's Activities: International Swapping of Talent Aids Films, Says Peripatetic Star". Los Angeles Times. p. D3.
  12. Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review: The Great Manhunt, The screen in review; 'State Secret,' Thrilling 'Chase' film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., bows at Victoria." The New York Times, 5 October 1950. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  13. Murphy 2003, p. 212 at Google Books
  14. Watts, Stephen. "London Status quo: Production Remains Subject of Optimism And Gloom..." New York Times , 22 October 1950: X5.
  15. Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 233.

Bibliography

  • Bawden, James and Ron Miller. Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. ISBN   978-0-8131-6710-7.
  • Murphy, Robert. Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48. London: Routledge, 2003, First edition 1992. ISBN   978-0-4150-7684-5.