Kenneth More recalls in his autobiography, "More or Less" (1978), that the film copyright to "White Rabbit" was held by Hal E. Chester. Chester would not give permission for the BBC series to be made in case he decided to make a film of the book himself. However, the BBC (in British Law) can by-pass this, provided they make one transmission only of the subject and do not repeat the programme or sell it elsewhere. According to More, the then Controller of Features at the BBC, David Attenborough, decided to go ahead with the project, show it once and then destroy the tapes. It is therefore unlikely that any copy of this production still exists. See more »
I saw 'The White Rabbit' when it was originally televised on the Beeb, and would happily watch it again if it were given a repeat transmission. However, considering Auntie Beeb's penchant for taping over her original recordings, I doubt that 'The White Rabbit' still exists. Here's hoping.
The IMDb credits correctly state that this miniseries is adapted from Bruce Marshall's book of the same name, but the credits wrongly identify Marshall's book as a novel. It's non-fiction, right enough -- some of it all TOO real -- although Marshall wrote it in the same novellised format made famous in Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood'.
Kenneth More gives possibly the best performance of his career as Frederick Yeo-Thomas, an Anglo-Welshman who volunteers for a dangerous undercover mission in Nazi-occupied Paris. ('The White Rabbit' is his code name.) 'Tommy' is ordered to liaise with the Resistance ... but he swiftly gets betrayed, and is handed over to the Gestapo for interrogation. From there, he's on his way to a death camp.
The entire miniseries is taut and suspenseful, but I was especially impressed by one scene -- apparently a true incident -- during Yeo-Thomas's interrogation. In his undercover identity as a Frenchman, 'Tommy' has a supply of French banknotes: intentionally rumpled and used, as crisp notes would be too conspicuous. One of his ten-franc notes has a 'phone number scribbled on it by a previous possessor. After Yeo-Thomas is captured and searched, the Gestapo naturally assume that this is the 'phone number for his contact. With impressive and terrible swiftness, they track down the Parisian to whom this 'phone number was issued. He turns out to be a meek little cabaret musician, played brilliantly by John Barrard. There is a harrowing sequence in which More is forced to watch while Barrard -- an utter stranger, who doesn't know him and doesn't have any tactical secrets -- is manhandled by Gestapo officers who demand he give up secrets he doesn't possess. Just because somebody wrote his 'phone number on a banknote!
It's a shame that the true story of the courageous Frederick Yeo-Thomas isn't better known. I'll rate this taut mini-series 8 out of 10, and I should be delighted to watch it again.
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