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Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
A reasonably entertaining Lancashire comedy of a browbeaten soldier home on leave and the two strong-minded women -- the good girl and the bad -- who battle it out to get him. Accents seem pretty sound all round (Donat, playing the lead, was of course a Manchester boy himself), and while the selection of stereotypes is broad, with the first scene or two verging on pure caricature, the various characters are sympathetically treated; in particular Jack's mother, whom we are initially encouraged to dislike for her hard-hearted pragmatism. Renée Asherson makes an attractive wartime incomer in the mill village, although her accent is more RADA than Cockney, let alone Tooting, and Dora Bryan is eye-popping as the brazen floozy with the hero in her snares.
Production values are fairly high, despite the fact that the entire picture was apparently shot in the studio (if you look hard you can tell that some outdoor scenes are studio-bound, but it's well done); the print we saw had a number of obvious splices and soundtrack damage, which resulted in the loss of a few dialogue punchlines. American listeners would probably have trouble with the high proportion of north-country dialect, but to a native speaker it's fairly clear once you've 'got your ear in'.
I suspect that the generous use of dialect invective allowed the script to get a little more past the censor than would otherwise have been the case! This was apparently a project close to Robert Donat's own heart, and as his sole excursion into direction it's a curiosity in his career. Unfortunately it simply isn't anything very special. The comedy is broad, sometimes amusing, never outstanding, the character-work is pleasant but rarely developed (Sarah Hardacre being perhaps an exception), and the turning of the worm is predictable and yet not especially heart-warming. It's a decent enough picture, but not really worth going out of your way for -- and alas, it's not likely to be exactly easy to find, if the condition of the BFI's print is anything to go by...
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