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The Captive Heart (1946)

 -  War | Drama  -  29 April 1946 (UK)
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In 1940, a concentration-camp escapee assumes the identity of a dead British officer, only to become a prisoner of war.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frederick Leister ...
Mr. Mowbray
Mervyn Johns ...
Pte. Evans
Rachel Thomas ...
Mrs. Evans
Jack Warner ...
Cpl. Horsfall
Gladys Henson ...
Mrs. Horsfall
James Harcourt ...
Lieut. Lennox
Elliott Mason ...
Mrs. Lennox (as Elliot Mason)
Margot Fitzsimons ...
Elspeth McDougall
David Keir ...
Mr. McDougall
Derek Bond ...
Jane Barrett ...
Caroline Harley
Meriel Forbes ...
Beryl Curtiss


After the evacuation at Dunkirk, June 1940, some thousands of British prisoners are sent to German P.O.W. camps. One such group includes "Capt. Geoffrey Mitchell," a concentration-camp escapee who assumed the identity of a dead British officer. To avoid exposure, "Mitchell" must correspond with the dead man's estranged wife Celia. But eventual exposure seems certain, and the men must find a way to get him out. If he reaches England, though, what will his reception be? Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Would you forge love letters to save your life?


War | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

29 April 1946 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Corazón cautivo  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Film debut of Larry Taylor. See more »


The German guard tower had a Bren gun, which was a British light machine gun, not German. See more »


Cpl. Ted Horsfall: [watches as Evans begins planting his vegetable garden in the spring of 1944] Trying leeks again this year?
Pvt. Don Evans: I was thinking of trying some asparagus.
Cpl. Ted Horsfall: Asparagus? That takes seven years, Don.
Pvt. Don Evans: [sadly] Aye.
Cpl. Ted Horsfall: [referring to the war] I don't give it more than another year, meself.
Pvt. Don Evans: Another year? Meredith will be four.
Cpl. Ted Horsfall: Flo's hair's gone all white, she says.
Pvt. Don Evans: Everything's changing. Do you think we'll be able to pick it up? The business, and everything?
Cpl. Ted Horsfall: Search me. We're not as young as we were.
Pvt. Don Evans: No. We're not as...
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User Reviews

A resounding classic of the immediate Postwar British cinema
13 August 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is an immensely sensitive and very moving film about British POWs rounded up by the Germans at Dunkerque (Dunkirk) in 1940 and marched 220 miles to be interned for the rest of the War in a German POW camp. The film is half about them and half about their lives and loves back home, utilising flashbacks as well as real time events intercut with the men in the camp. The technique is carried out so well that it is highly effective and never seems forced. Much of the film was made in Germany, including the reconstruction of the POW camp. The film aimed for absolute authenticity, and was made with the passion and intensity which was perhaps only possible in the year immediately following the War, when all the issues raised were at their peak of relevance, both to the people making the film and the viewing public. The film is full of wonderful, sensitive and deeply-felt performances. They all really put their hearts into it, and it shows. For instance, rarely can the character actor Mervyn John have embodied such pathos. And the intensity of emotion conveyed by both Rachel Kempson and Jane Barrett is remarkable. Barrett died tragically young at the age of only 46, in 1969, having worked a great deal in television but never obtained the quality roles worthy of her in feature films. Thus she is little known today, but this film shows her qualities admirably. This was one of director Basil Dearden's finest films. He made it immediately after his two episodes of DEAD OF NIGHT (1946), and three years later he directed two episodes of the wonderful classic, TRAIN OF EVENTS (1949, see my review), one of which also dealt with prisoners of war. (The ironical thing is that Dearden made films all through the War and was not in the services, so had no military experience.) It is apparently in this film that Dearden's long professional association with Michael Relph commenced. Relph was both Associate Producer and Art Director on this film. Later he would produce most of Dearden's films. The lead role in this film is played by Michael Redgrave. He had already been married to Rachel Kempson for eleven years when they played in this film together. Redgrave plays a Czech soldier who has escaped from Dachau and is being hunted by the Germans. He speaks perfect English and indeed has been Professor of English at Prague University. He comes across the dead body of Captain Geoffrey Mitchell, a British officer, and takes his identity and uniform, is captured by the Germans and sent to the POW camp as an Englishman. The real Mitchell had been estranged from his wife (played by Rachel Kempson). Redgrave is forced to engage in correspondence with his 'wife' in order to convince the Germans that he is not an impostor. He smashes his right hand so that he is forced to write with his left, as a way of excusing the change of hand-writing to his 'wife'. They then exchange increasingly passionate letters to one another over the years, leading to an awkward situation when the War finally nears its end and Redgrave is 'repatriated' to England as Captain Mitchell. There are wonderful character parts for Gordon Jackson, Jack Warner, Gladys Henson, and others. Derek Bond is excellent as a sensitive concert pianist, Lieutenant Harley. The following year he was to make a big hit as Nicholas Nickleby in the film of that (1947). He never achieved lasting star status, and died as recently as 2006 after appearing in 67 titles. This film, done with such passion and integrity, is a classic of the time, and makes compulsive viewing today considering what it conveys of historical importance, of the manners, situations, and modes of feeling of that period.

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