|Directed by||Herbert Wilcox|
|Produced by||Herbert Wilcox|
|Written by||P. M. Bower|
|Starring|| Anna Neagle |
|Music by||Clifton Parker|
|Edited by||Vera Campbell|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|95 minutes (UK) (also given as 98 minutes) |
84 minutes, edited (U.S.)
Yellow Canary is a 1943 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Richard Greene and Albert Lieven. Neagle plays a British Nazi sympathizer who travels to Halifax, Canada, trailed by spies from both sides during the Second World War. Neagle and director/producer Wilcox collaborated on a number of previous film projects.
In the Second World War, Sally Maitland (Anna Neagle) appears to signal Nazi planes to bomb England after murdering an innocent citizen in his home. The next morning, Sally boards a ship bound for Canada. Two of her fellow passengers, Jim Garrick (Richard Greene) and Polish officer Jan Orlock (Albert Lieven), seek her acquaintance, despite her long-time and well-known admiration for Nazi Germany. It soon becomes common knowledge that Jim is a British intelligence officer. Sally rebuffs his advances, but welcomes Jan's attention. Sally is, in fact, a deep cover British agent on a secret mission shadowing her quarry: Jan. Unbeknownst to Sally, Jim has been assigned to help and protect her.
The ship is stopped in mid-ocean by the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, and a boarding party takes Jim prisoner. To the puzzlement of the ship's captain, the cruiser allows the ship to continue on its way. It turns out that the Germans have captured an impostor, when Jim emerges from hiding.
When they reach Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jan introduces Sally to his invalid mother, Madame Orlock (Lucie Mannheim). Jim uses his contacts to have Sally appear to be a true Nazi sympathizer by having Canadian government men expose her and warn the Orlocks to stay away from her due to her Nazi leanings. Sally pretends to try to break off their relationship to avoid trouble for them.
Jan reveals that he is working for the Nazis and recruits Sally into his spy ring on the night of their greatest exploit. Sally has been waiting for this chance to find out who his fellow conspirators are, especially their leader. To Sally's surprise, the leader turns out to be Madame Orlock, who is not Jan's mother and is not an invalid. The others are people she met at her hotel (who have been covertly observing her), and even include a port immigration officer. The leader reveals that one of the ships of an incoming convoy has been secretly replaced by another filled with explosives, which is to be detonated when they reach Halifax, wrecking the vital port; a plan inspired by a devastating accident of the First World War.
At this point, Jan reveals he is anxious to make up for a recent bungled secret mission to bomb British royalty which failed due to his contact man sending incorrect landmark signals to the bombers. This explains the opening sequence: Sally killed the Nazi agent and thwarted that mission. Sally finally learns that Jim is assigned to her, when she catches him breaking into Jan's study to try to uncover evidence, just as she has.
Later, after being caught unawares when Orlock sneaks into her room, she thinks fast to explain her friendliness to Jim. Orlock believes she is a double agent, but she claims she is tricking the enemy and avoids being summarily executed. She then slips Jim a note written in lipstick advising him to wait at headquarters for information and heads off with Orlock.
Orlock orders Sally to telephone Jim and tell him that an attempt will be made to sabotage the Queen Mary, scheduled to sail later that night, and that all available agents should be immediately sent to stop it. Sally is able to warn Naval Intelligence of the actual plot; RCMP officers are dispatched to the house. RCAF bombers are sent to bomb and destroy the ship. Jan shoots Sally before Jim can rescue her; the bullet is stopped by a cigarette case which he gave to her earlier.
Sally and Jim are married, and with Sally's cover now blown, they return to London to meet her family.
As appearing in Yellow Canary, (main roles and screen credits identified):
Although never identified as Unity Mitford, the central character played by Neagle has some obvious similarities to the pro-Nazi British dilettante who had a great deal of notoriety in pre-war times.In production during 1943, while the United Kingdom was still fearful of Nazi spies, Yellow Canary was obviously made as wartime propaganda, with the aim not only of keeping up morale but also of warning the British public to be on their guard.
Yellow Canary co-stars Richard Greene and Margaret Rutherford went on to further success in other films. Rutherford was especially adept at scene-stealing in the film.Greene was in the armed forces at this time, and had interrupted his successful acting career to serve in the Second World War in the 27th Lancers, where he distinguished himself. After three months, he went to Sandhurst and was commissioned. He was promoted to captain in the 27th Lancers in May 1944. He was relieved from duty in 1942 to appear in the British propaganda films Flying Fortress and Unpublished Story . In 1943, Greene appeared in Yellow Canary while on furlough.
Although set aboard a ship in the early scenes, the majority of the principal photography for Yellow Canary took place at the massive lots at Denham Film Studios (D&P Studios), located near the village of Denham, Buckinghamshire. All of the location sequences of Halifax were strictly "B" roll, but did provide a realistic, "atmospheric" look at wartime conditions in the busy Canadian military and civilian port.
After production had wrapped, Neagle and Wilcox made their professional relationship a personal one as well when they married on 9 August 1943.
Although the leading actors in Yellow Canary were well received by critics, the convoluted storyline was considered implausible when reviewed by The New York Times .More recent reviews were more favourable, commenting on the production values and acting as "better-than-average."
Dame Florence Marjorie Wilcox,, known professionally as Anna Neagle, was an English stage and film actress, singer and dancer.
Michael Charles Gauntlet Wilding was an English stage, television, and film actor. He is best known for a series of films he made with Anna Neagle, for the two films he made with Alfred Hitchcock and for being Elizabeth Taylor's second husband.
Odette is a 1950 British war film based on the true story of Special Operations Executive French agent, Odette Sansom, living in England, who was captured by the Germans in 1943, condemned to death and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp to be executed. However, against all odds she survived the war and testified against the prison guards at the Hamburg Ravensbrück trials. She was awarded the George Cross in 1946; the first woman ever to receive the award, and the only woman who has been awarded it while still alive.
Lucie Mannheim was a German singer and actress.
Spring in Park Lane is a 1948 British romantic comedy film produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding. It was the top film at the British box office in 1948 and remains the most popular entirely British-made film ever in terms of all-time attendance.
Herbert Sydney Wilcox CBE, was a British film producer and director who was one of the most successful British filmmakers from the 1920s to the 1950s. He is best known for the films he made with his third wife Anna Neagle.
Albert Lieven was a German actor.
I Live in Grosvenor Square is a British World War II romance directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox. It was the first of Wilcox's "London films" collaboration with his wife, actress Anna Neagle. Her co-stars were Dean Jagger and Rex Harrison. The plot is set in a context of US-British wartime co-operation, and displays icons of popular music with the purpose of harmonising relationships on both sides of the Atlantic. An edited version was distributed in the United States, with two additional scenes filmed in Hollywood, under the title A Yank in London.
Derby Day is a 1952 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Googie Withers, John McCallum, Peter Graves, Suzanne Cloutier and Gordon Harker. An ensemble piece, it portrays several characters on their way to the Derby Day races at Epsom Downs Racecourse. It was an attempt to revive the success that Neagle and Wilding had previously had opposite each other, but it failed in this regard. In an effort to promote the film Wilcox arranged for Neagle to launch the film at the 1952 Epsom Derby. In the United States it was released as Four against Fate.
They Flew Alone is a 1942 British biopic about aviator Amy Johnson directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Robert Newton and Edward Chapman. It was distributed in the UK and the US by RKO Radio Pictures.
Goodnight, Vienna is a 1932 British musical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Jack Buchanan, Anna Neagle and Gina Malo. Two lovers in Vienna are separated by the First World War, but are later reunited.
The Queen's Affair is a 1934 British musical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Fernand Gravey, Muriel Aked and Edward Chapman. An Eastern European President falls in love with the Queen whom he had previously deposed. It was also released as Queen's Affair and Runaway Queen.
Limelight is a 1936 British musical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Arthur Tracy, Anna Neagle and Jane Winton. It was released in the U.S. as Backstage.
Piccadilly Incident is a 1946 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Coral Browne, Edward Rigby and Leslie Dwyer. Wilcox teamed his wife Anna Neagle with Michael Wilding for the first time, establishing them as top box-office stars in five more films, ending with The Lady with a Lamp in 1951. Wilding was third choice for leading man after Rex Harrison and John Mills.
Bitter Sweet is a British musical romance film directed by Herbert Wilcox and released by United Artists in 1933. It was the first film adaptation of Noël Coward's 1929 operetta Bitter Sweet. It starred Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey, with Ivy St. Helier reviving her stage role as Manon. It was made at Elstree Studios and was part of a boom in operetta films during the 1930s.
Laughing Anne is a 1953 British adventure film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Wendell Corey, Margaret Lockwood, Forrest Tucker, and Ronald Shiner. It was adapted from Joseph Conrad's short story, "Because of the Dollars" and from his 1923 two-act play, Laughing Anne.
The Little Damozel is a 1933 British romance film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, James Rennie and Benita Hume. It is based on the 1908 play by Monckton Hoffe, previously filmed in 1916. The screenplay concerns a captain who pays one of his sailors to marry a woman who works in a nightclub. Dresses for the film were designed by Doris Zinkeisen.
The Lady with a Lamp is a 1951 British historical film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding and Felix Aylmer. The film depicts the life of Florence Nightingale and her work with wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War.
Lilacs in the Spring is a 1954 British musical film starring Anna Neagle and Errol Flynn. It was the first of two movies the stars made together, the other being King's Rhapsody. It was released in the US as Let's Make Up. It was the feature film debut of Sean Connery.
The Halifax Explosion has frequently been the subject of works of popular culture.