|I See a Dark Stranger|
|Directed by||Frank Launder|
|Produced by||Sidney Gilliat|
|Written by||Sidney Gilliat|
(story & screenplay)
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Thelma Connell|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors (UK)|
Eagle-Lion Films (US)
|4 July 1946 (UK)|
3 April 1947 (US)
|112 minutes (UK)|
98 minutes (US)
I See a Dark Stranger – released as The Adventuress in the United States – is a 1946 British World War II spy film with touches of light comedy, by the team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and starring Deborah Kerr and Trevor Howard.
As the film was made during the war the final section of the film "Peace" is clearly either an additional or alternative ending.
It is hard to judge where the empathies of the British audience are meant to lie with Bridie herself, who is openly both anti-british and willing to help the Germans at the outset.
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In May 1944, during World War II, when a nationalistic young Irish woman, Bridie Quilty (Deborah Kerr), turns 21, she sets out to fulfil a lifelong dream born in listening to her late father's stories of the Irish Revolution. She leaves her small rural village and goes to Dublin. On the way, she shares a train compartment with J. Miller (Raymond Huntley), but believing him to be English, she is very brusque with him. Once in the city, she seeks out a famous ex-radical her father had supposedly fought alongside against the English in 1916, Michael O'Callaghan (Brefni O'Rorke). She asks him to help her join the Irish Republican Army. However, this former rebel has mellowed as the situation in Ireland has improved and tries unsuccessfully to dissuade her from her overly romantic notion. It's clear to the audience that O'Callaghan has never heard of Danny Quilty, but he is kind enough not to destroy her illusion.
Miller turns out to be a secret agent, assigned to break Nazi spy Oscar Pryce (David Ward) out of a British prison in Devon. When, by sheer chance, he runs into Bridie again, he recruits her for his task. She gets a job at The George, a hotel and bar in nearby Wynbridge Vale, and becomes acquainted with a sergeant, who unwittingly provides her with information about the prisoner's impending transfer to London.
This is the opportunity that Miller has been waiting for. However, he is disturbed by the arrival of Lieutenant David Baynes (Trevor Howard), a British officer on leave. Since there is little to attract anyone to the town, he suspects the newcomer of being a counter-intelligence agent. He orders Bridie to distract Baynes on the day of the transfer by persuading him to take her for a day out in the countryside. .
Miller succeeds in freeing Pryce by setting up false military personnel to escort him. Meanwhile Bridie is on a date with Lt. Baynes to make sure he is out of the way. When she discovers Baynes is genuinely there to gather material for his thesis on Oliver Cromwell, whom Bridie loathes intensely for his conquest of Ireland, and is not an intelligence officer, she dashes off, accusing a bemused Baynes of deceit.
Pryce is shot fleeing from a roadblock. Pryce tells Miller he hid a notebook on the Isle of Man, then is abandoned to his fate by Miller. Miller manages to make his way to Bridie's room and reveals that he too has been shot and is likely to die. He gives her the location to pass along. Unwilling to risk seeing a doctor, he tells her to dispose of his body after he is dead. Bridie does so, wheeling his body out of The George in a wheelchair into the rainy night. Lt Baynes queries her as she leaves and waits for her in the bar. On her return he is puzzled by the absence of Miller.
Bridie then boards a train as instructed, but her contact, an elderly woman, (Katie Johnson), is arrested before any exchange can take place. Not knowing what else to do, Bridie decides to return home.
However, she encounters David, who followed her aboard the train. In a bar with David she spots a newspaper headline discussing the finding of a dead spy in Wynbridge. Her plan to return to Ireland is foiled when another newspaper announces a ban on travel to that country.
With nowhere else to go she goes to the Isle of Man instead to retrieve the book. She is trailed by David and a German spy (Norman Shelley). Bridie figures out that the cryptic information gives the location of the imminent D-Day invasion, which could result in the death of thousands of soldiers, including Irishmen serving in the British armed forces, so she burns the book. David saves her from being arrested as Miller's confederate, and after telling Bridie that he loves her, she tells him what she has done. Bridie tries to turn herself in to save David the pain of having to report her, but the German sympathisers kidnap her. When David tracks them to a boat, he is abducted as well.
When she refuses to tell what she knows, the couple are taken to Ireland. They join a funeral procession to evade police searching for them but the mourners are actually smugglers trying to enter Northern Ireland with a load of contraband. When an alarm clock hidden in the coffin goes off at the border crossing, the ensuing confusion enables the prisoners to escape. David telephones for the police from a pub, mistakenly believing that they are still in Ireland, where Bridie would merely be interned. When he realises that they are actually in Northern Ireland, and that Bridie is in danger of being shot as a spy for treason, he tries to persuade her to flee across the nearby border, but she obstinately insists on staying with him. Then, they hear on the radio that D-Day has begun. Her information now useless, she escapes. David discovers the spies in a room upstairs and a bathtub-flooding fight breaks out. The police arrive and arrest all.
After the war, Bridie and David wed, but their marriage gets off to a rocky start when David books them in at The Cromwell Arms for their honeymoon night.
- Deborah Kerr as Bridie Quilty
- Trevor Howard as Lieutenant David Baynes
- Raymond Huntley as J. Miller
- Michael Howard as Hawkins
- Norman Shelley as Man in Straw Hat, a German spy
- Liam Redmond as Uncle Timothy
- Brefni O'Rorke as Michael O'Callaghan
- James Harcourt as Grandfather
- George Woodbridge as Walter
- Garry Marsh as Captain Goodhusband, an inept security officer on the Isle of Man
- Tom Macaulay as Lieutenant Spanswick, Goodhusband's more astute subordinate
- Olga Lindo as Mrs. Edwards
- David Ward as Oscar Pryce
- Harry Hutchinson as Chief Mourner/Smuggler
- Harry Webster as Uncle Joe
- Joan Hickson as Hotel Manageress
- David Tomlinson as Intelligence Officer
- Torin Thatcher as Policeman
- Eddie Byrne as Irish Sailor Lookout
- Katie Johnson was a veteran of many Ealing Studios comedies. She is best known for her role in The Ladykillers.
Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who were the writers for Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, formed Individual Pictures in 1945, with the intention of taking turns as director on the films they produced. I See a Dark Stranger was the first of ten films released by the company.
During production, the rumour among crew members was that a close relationship had developed between the "handsome, young" cinematographer Wilkie Cooper and Deborah Kerr. If there was an affair, however, it was short-lived, as Kerr married Spitfire pilot Tony Bartley almost immediately after the film was in the can.
The film was released in the United States under the title The Adventuress, to good reviews but modest box office. Bosley Crowther, the critic for the New York Times said that the film was "keenly sensitive and shrewd."
Awards and honours
- Feaster, Felicia "I See a Dark Stranger" (TCM article)
- IMDB Filming locations
- Capua, Michelangelo. Deborah Kerr: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2010. pp. 32-33.
- IMDB Awards
- Martin, Douglas. "Deborah Kerr, Actress Known for Genteel Grace and a Sexy Beach Kiss, Dies at 86" New York Times (19 October 2007)