THE CLOUDED YELLOW, the first film from the talented team of Ralph Thomas (directing) and Betty E. Box (producing) is a swell 1950 blend of a number of complimentary themes, Janet Green’s script melding adventure, murder mystery, espionage, and romance into a smart vehicle for two popular stars.
Despite an excellent record, British intelligence agent ‘David Somers’ (Trevor Howard) is dismissed from the service after a failed mission. He takes what appears to be a relaxed job at a country estate, cataloguing butterflies for ‘Nicholas and Jess Fenton’ (Barry Jones and Sonia Dresdel). Their vaguely troubled niece ‘Sophie Malraux’ (Jean Simmons) hits it off with the calmly assured David, but then the murder of an arrogant local gamekeeper is blamed on her. Believing her innocent, David takes her on the run, the skills from his previous line of work keeping them ahead of a police dragnet that includes one of David’s fellow agents (Kenneth More).
Granted one accepts some credibility flaws, it works quite well, the acting by everyone naturalistic and unaffected, their characterizations well drawn, the chase framed by location shooting in Newcastle, Liverpool and the Lake District, with Geoffrey Unsworth as cameraman. Twenty-one year old Simmons is ravishing. A villain gets a bracingly nasty sendoff courtesy of a freight train.
One source says this made £158,000 in England, comparable to £6,017,669 in 2022. Placing 190th in the States, it eked $900,000 from those able to seek it out (British films given little push in the USA at the time). At any rate, it did well enough to ensure that the Thomas-Box team would keep at it (she’d co-financed by mortgaging her house) in more than 30 movies over three decades.
Plum lineup of secondary players: Andre Morell, Geoffrey Keen, Eric Pohlmann, Richard Wattis, Maxwell Reed. 95 minutes.