The Day Will Dawn

Last updated

The Day Will Dawn
Avengers Day Will Dawn poster.jpg
Theatrical poster for the American release
Directed by Harold French
Produced by Paul Soskin (associate)
Written byStory:
Frank Owen
Anatole de Grunwald
Patrick Kirwan
Terence Rattigan
Starring Ralph Richardson
Deborah Kerr
Hugh Williams
Griffith Jones
Music by Richard Addinsell
orchestrated Roy Douglas
Cinematography Cyril J. Knowles
Edited by Michael C. Chorlton
A Paul Soskin Production
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK)
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date
  • 8 June 1942 (1942-06-08)(UK)
  • 24 November 1942 (1942-11-24)(U.S.)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Day Will Dawn, released in the US as The Avengers, is a 1942 war film set in Norway during World War II. It stars Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Hugh Williams and Griffith Jones, and was directed by Harold French from a script written by Anatole de Grunwald, Patrick Kirwan and Terence Rattigan, based on a story by Frank Owen. [1] The music by Richard Addinsell was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Muir Mathieson.



As the Germans invade Poland in September 1939, the former horse racing-correspondent Colin Metcalfe is placed as a foreign correspondent in neutral Norway. Eight months later he meets a Norwegian fisherman, Captain Alstad, in a sailors' bar, where a scuffle breaks out between British and Norwegian sailors (singing "Rule Britannia", egged on by Metcalfe) and German ones (singing the Nazi Party anthem the "Horst-Wessel-Lied"). [2] Alstad takes him aboard his boat during a sea voyage in Norway's territorial waters, during which they sight the Altmark and are fired upon by a German U-boat, despite Norway's neutrality. They then come back to his home port of Langedal, and Metcalfe goes to Oslo to report this to the British embassy there, despite the best efforts of the German Kommandant and the German-sympathising local police chief Ottoman Gunter. There Metcalfe meets Frank Lockwood en route back to England from the Winter War in Finland. It was Lockwood who had got him the foreign correspondent job at the outbreak of war, but he now passes on the news to Metcalfe that he has been fired from it for sailing out with the fisherman rather than staying on dry land where the paper can contact him. Metcalfe informs the embassy, and also warns his paper of signs that a German war on Norway is imminent. Alstad's daughter Kari (who had accompanied them on their voyage) also meets him to tell him of suspicious German merchant ships at Bergen which her father suspects have troops on board.

The pair say goodbye and Metcalfe, getting into what he thinks is a taxi, is kidnapped by the Germans and put on board a ship bound for the German port of Bremen. Meanwhile, Germany invades, Metcalfe is scooped on the news of the invasion, and – back in Britain – Chamberlain's government falls and Churchill becomes prime minister. A British warship intercepts the ship on which Metcalfe is held and liberates him but she is re-routed to Cherbourg to help Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British troops from north-western France, before she can get Metcalfe back to Britain. Amidst the carnage on the docks at Cherbourg, Metcalfe finds Lockwood, dying of wounds.

Back in Britain as the Blitz begins, Metcalfe is persuaded not to join up and instead to start a press campaign for the public to make economies on the Home Front to help win the Battle of the Atlantic. Just about to set out on it, he is called upon by the Admiralty to be parachute-dropped back into Langedal, [3] sabotage a camouflaged U-boat base nearby, and escape across the border into neutral Sweden. On landing, he is spotted and pursued by the Germans, but manages to escape and gain shelter. There he finds that Alstad has been interned by the Germans, and Kari has brought shame on herself by getting engaged to the traitorous Gunter. However, when at a tense "Norwegian-German friendship dance" the Germans arrive to demand Metcalfe's papers, Kari saves him by inciting a riot and hiding him at her house. There she reveals she only took on the engagement to obtain her father's release.

Alstad is released and agrees to help Metcalfe to signal to British bombers with torches to guide them in on their raid on it, and Kari and Metcalfe bid a romantic farewell. The signalling is successful and the base destroyed, but Alstad is killed by a German patrol. Metcalfe returns to tell Kari the news, just as Gunter and the Germans take eight random hostages who will be shot if the British spy they are sheltering is not given up. Metcalfe overhears this, and gives himself up. Gunter returns to Kari to try to save her from the firing squad she too will face for sheltering the spy, but she refuses and is locked up with the hostages, though Gunter shows her the kindness of not separating her from Metcalfe. They prepare to die, and the first party for the firing squad are taken out, but then a British commando raid arrives. In the chaos Gunter is shot by the Kommandant as the latter makes a hasty escape, and the hostages are all freed unharmed. The raiders capture the town and its German garrison and then leave almost immediately, taking Metcalfe, Kari, the hostages and their families to safety in England. [4]


Main source is the BFI. [5]

Critical reception

David Parkinson gave the film three out of five stars in the Radio Times , and wrote, "Markedly less restrained than many other British tales of wartime resistance, this well-meaning flag-waver is far more effective than the majority of have-a-go Hollywood movies on the same theme...what sets this apart is a remarkable cast of British stalwarts, not one of whom puts a foot wrong. Special mention should be made, however, of Deborah Kerr, who lends quiet courage to an unrewarding romantic part, and Francis L Sullivan, who makes a most malevolent Nazi"; [6] while the reviewer for The Movie Scene rated the film similarly, although finding it "incredibly dated," but went on to say that it, "does feature a good storyline which is well knit together. It is still entertaining and you can see how it would have served its purpose of rallying British audiences back in the 1940s." [7]

Related Research Articles

HMS <i>Enterprise</i> (D52)

HMS Enterprise was one of two Emerald-class light cruisers built for the Royal Navy. She was built by John Brown & Company, with the keel being laid down on 28 June 1918. She was launched on 23 December 1919, and commissioned on 7 April 1926. She was the 14th ship to serve with the Royal Navy to carry the name Enterprise, a name which is still used in the Royal Navy today.

<i>Edge of Darkness</i> (1943 film)

Edge of Darkness is a 1943 World War II film directed by Lewis Milestone that features Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, and Walter Huston. The feature is based on a script written by Robert Rossen which was adapted from the 1942 novel The Edge of Darkness by William Woods.

<i>Mrs. Miniver</i> 1942 film by William Wyler

Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 American romantic war drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Inspired by the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, the film shows how the life of an unassuming British housewife in rural England is touched by World War II. Produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film features a supporting cast that includes Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, Richard Ney, and Henry Wilcoxon.

<i>Five Graves to Cairo</i>

Five Graves to Cairo is a 1943 war film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter. Set in World War II, it is one of a number of films based on Lajos Bíró's 1917 play Hotel Imperial: Színmű négy felvonásban, including the 1927 film Hotel Imperial. Erich von Stroheim portrays Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in a supporting performance.

<i>The Great Love</i> (1942 film)

The Great Love is a 1942 German drama film directed by Rolf Hansen and starring Zarah Leander, Viktor Staal and Grethe Weiser. It premiered in Berlin in 1942 and went on to become the most commercially successful film in the history of the Third Reich.

<i>The Man in Grey</i> 1943 film by Leslie Arliss

The Man in Grey is a 1943 British film melodrama made by Gainsborough Pictures, and is considered as the first of its "Gainsborough melodramas". It was directed by Leslie Arliss and produced by Edward Black from a screenplay by Leslie Arliss and Margaret Kennedy, adapted by Doreen Montgomery from the novel The Man in Grey by Eleanor Smith. The film's sets were designed by Walter Murton.

<i>Most Secret</i>

Most Secret is a novel by Nevil Shute, written in 1942 but censored until 1945, when it was published by Pan Books. It is narrated by a commander in the Royal Navy, and tells the story of four officers who launch a daring mission at the time when Britain stood alone against Germany after the fall of France. Genevieve is a converted French fishing vessel, manned by four British officers and a small crew of Free French ex-fishermen, armed only with a flame thrower and small arms. Their task is as much psychological as military: to show the Germans that they will one day be beaten back.

<i>Commandos Strike at Dawn</i> 1942 film by John Farrow

Commandos Strike at Dawn is a 1942 war film directed by John Farrow and written by Irwin Shaw from a short story entitled The Commandos by C.S. Forester that appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in June 1942. Filmed in Canada, it starred Paul Muni, Anna Lee, Lillian Gish in her return to the screen, Cedric Hardwicke and Robert Coote.

<i>Journey for Margaret</i> 1942 film by W. S. Van Dyke

Journey for Margaret is a 1942 drama film set in London in World War II. It stars Robert Young and Laraine Day as a couple who have to deal with the loss of their unborn child due to a bombing raid. It is an adaptation of the book of the same name in which William Lindsay White and his wife described their experiences adopting an orphan in London. This is reflected in the introduction to the film, which begins: “The Margaret of this story is real... “ This was the final film of the prolific director W. S. Van Dyke.

<i>Love Story</i> (1944 film)

Love Story is a 1944 British black-and-white romance film directed by Leslie Arliss and starring Margaret Lockwood, Stewart Granger, and Patricia Roc. Based on a short story by J. W. Drawbell, the film is about a concert pianist who, after learning that she is dying of heart failure, decides to spend her last days in Cornwall. While there, she meets a former RAF pilot who is going blind, and soon a romantic attraction forms. Released in the United States as A Lady Surrenders, this wartime melodrama produced by Gainsborough Pictures was filmed on location at the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno in Cornwall, England.

<i>Up from the Beach</i>

Up from the Beach is a 1965 French-American international co-production war film directed by Robert Parrish and starring Cliff Robertson, Red Buttons and James Robertson Justice. It was based on a 1959 novel by George Barr called Epitaph for an Enemy.

<i>The Exeter Blitz</i>

The Exeter Blitz is a children's historical novel by David Rees, published by Hamilton in 1978. Set in the southwestern England city of Exeter, partly at Exeter Cathedral, it features the heavy May 1942 air raid and its effect on the life of one family, the Lockwoods.

<i>Passport to Destiny</i>

Passport to Destiny is a 1944 RKO Radio Pictures fantasy war film, starring Elsa Lanchester as an English charwoman who, believing herself invulnerable by being protected by a magic eye amulet, travels to Nazi Germany to personally assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Crisbecq Battery

The Crisbecq Battery was a German World War II artillery battery constructed by the Todt Organization near the French village of Saint-Marcouf in the department of Manche in the north-east of Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. It formed a part of Nazi Germany's Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. The main armament were three Czech 21 cm Kanone 39 canons, two of which housed in heavily fortified casemates up to 10 feet thick of concrete. The battery, with a range of 27–33 kilometers, could cover the beaches between Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Pointe du Hoc.

<i>They Raid by Night</i>

They Raid by Night is a 1942 American low-budget World War II film directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and starring Lyle Talbot and June Duprez. It was from Producers Releasing Corporation.

George Merritt (actor) English actor

Frederick George Merritt was an English theatre, film and television actor, often in authoritarian roles. He studied German theatre in Magdeburg, Germany, and taught at the Berlitz School at the outbreak of the First World War, when he was held as a British Civil Prisoner of War, and interned at Ruhleben, 1914–1918. He was involved in over 50 plays at Ruhleben. He lived for many years in Lissenden Gardens, Parliament Hill, north west London.

German battleship <i>Gneisenau</i> Scharnhorst-class battleship

Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included her sister ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935 and launched on 8 December 1936. Completed in May 1938, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.

German destroyer <i>Z6 Theodor Riedel</i>

The German destroyer Z6 Theodor Riedel was a Type 1934A-class destroyer built for the Kriegsmarine during the mid-1930s. At the beginning of World War II in September 1939, the ship laid defensive minefields to the North Sea. She covered her sister ships over the next few months as they laid offensive minefields in English waters in late 1939–early 1940. She participated in the early stages of the Norwegian Campaign by transporting troops to the Trondheim area in early April 1940 and was transferred to France later that year where the ship covered another minelaying sortie before engine problems caused her to return to Germany in November for repairs. Theodor Riedel was badly damaged when she ran aground three days after her repairs were completed and was out of action until May 1942.

Counter-Espionage is a 1942 American comedy film directed by Edward Dmytryk. Counter-Espionage was the ninth film in Columbia's Lone Wolf series, based on characters created by Louis Joseph Vance. It is also known as The Lone Wolf in Scotland Yard.

Action of 24 March 1811

The Action of 24 March 1811 was a minor naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, fought as part of the Royal Navy blockade of the French English Channel ports. By 1811, Royal Navy control of the French coast was so entrenched that French ships were unable to travel safely even in French territorial waters. In late 1810, French frigates Elisa and Amazone sailed from Le Havre to join with a larger squadron at Cherbourg, but were intercepted by a British frigate squadron and forced to shelter at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. There they came under sustained attack and Elisa was destroyed, Amazone successfully slipping back to Le Havre under cover of darkness. To prevent Amazone from escaping once more, the British blockade squadron was reinforced.


  1. Allmovie Credits
  2. This scuffle is reminiscent of a similar stand-off in Casablanca , also released in 1942
  3. By the Special Operations Executive, though this is unnamed in the film.
  4. The raid is similar to real-life British commando raids on occupied Norway, such as Operation Claymore of March 1941 in the Lofoten Islands. Genuine film footage from the action is incorporated into the sequence.
  5. The Day Will Dawn. BFI.
  6. "The Day Will Dawn – review". Radio Times.
  7. "The Day Will Dawn (1942) – review". The Movie Scene.