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British, made in 1943, which says you the ideological basis of the film.It's a well-worked storyline of deception and counter-deception, mostly set in Halifax, NS. Evil Nazi agents and heroic British agents, with Richard Greene looking handsomer than ever in the van, mount operations vs every other. Anna Neagle plays a double agent, which means she has to act acting, a use of ability which she carries off very well.Margaret Rutherford has a stormer of a cameo role, shamelessly stealing each stage she's in. Her line "Wouldn't it be great to do something violent?" is a classic.Well above average example of routine genre.
Sally Maitland, the daughter of an upper-class family, makes herself unpopular in wartime Britain because of her pro-Nazi views- so much so that the authorities arrange for her to be sent to Canada. (The hero of Sally was probably based upon Diana and Unity Mitford, two of the aristocratic Mitford sisters, both of whom held extreme right-wing views. The closeness of the first syllables of the names "Maitland" and "Mitford" is presumably no coincidence). While on board ship, she meets, and is romanced by, a refugee Polish units captain, forced to flee his homeland after the German invasion, and Jim Garrick, an officer with British Naval Intelligence, who has been sent to hold watch on her.Anna Neagle was a highly famous actress in Britain during this period. She specialised in testing heroines, particularly British national heroines such as Queen Victoria, Edith Cavell and the aviator Amy Johnson. To have played a villain, especially a traitor to her country, would have been a remarkable departure for her, so it is no surprise when Sally proves to be not the villain but the heroine of the piece, an agent with British Intelligence, sent to infiltrate a German spy-ring which is plotting to destroy the vital Canadian port of Halifax. In other twist typical of this kind of spy drama, the supposed Polish officer turns out not to be a Pole at all, but rather one of the German spies.Anna Neagle's part, which she pulls off very well, can be considered a "double acting" role; she is testing the part of a hero who is herself testing a part, pretending to be something she is not. During the first part of the film, while she is pretending to be a Nazi sympathiser, she seems convincing enough, with her cold, aristocratic hauteur, yet when the revelation comes about her real identity and motives I was not surprised; there is clearly something in her bearing which prepares the audience psychologically for a twist of this sort. There is also an amusing cameo from Margaret Rutherford as a cantankerous old battleaxe on the ship. (Those like me who have less than fond memories of the British TV present "That's Life"- an odd mixture of consumer investigations and childish humour- from the seventies and eighties will be amused to learn that the comedian Cyril Fletcher was churning out his appalling poetry as early as the forties).The movie 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 vs Nazi spies. Despite this, it is one of those wartime movies which has remained watchable long after the end of the war.6/10
Based on the situation of Unity Mitford-Freeman, a blonde British lady whom Hitler took a fancy to, and who it actually appears was a British agent all along, this storyline concerns a British socialite, Sally Maitland, who is reputed to be in the employ of the Third Reich. True, the true identities and characters of all concerned in this war-time, morale-boosting, spy thriller are obvious and the plot developments are as predictable as the dot of an "i", but it's well produced and by Herbert Wilcox's usual plodding standard, directed with pace and flair.Anna Neagle has bravely selected to enjoy her part the hard method and she comes through with a success that makes it all seem easy. Lucie Mannheim is also impressive, but by and large, most of the another users tend to over-act, especially Greene, Lieven, Rutherford and Bailey. Admittedly, the Men Own Paper dialogue is partly to blame, but then Neagle and Mannheim manage to surmount this obstacle to give restrained, realistic and convincing performances.Max Greene's magnificent cinematography with its elaborate noir lighting effects, especially in the ship-board and Halifax château scenes, was undoubtedly a key factor in the vigor of Wilcox's direction. The adroit skill of Vera Campbell's movie editing with its elaborate dissolves effectively joining together short strings of tracking shots, gotta also be mentioned.There's a fair amount of action but much of it is spruced up with fairly obvious stock footage. Despite a several half-hearted attempts at comic relief and romance, the pace is commendably brisk at least in the U.S. version, though it does disappointingly reduce Nova Pilbeam's role to a tiny bit at the finale!
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