UNCERTAIN GLORY is of moderate interest for fans of Errol Flynn, who does a neat job sparring with Paul Lukas in this 1944 item, the least-successful (#77 at the year’s tills) of the six war movies Flynn made between 1941 and 1945. Raoul Walsh directed the fifth of seven collaborations with the charismatic star. *
Occupied France, 1943. Blithely amoral career criminal ‘Jean Picard’ (Flynn) escapes from fate at the guillotine by a fortuitous British bombing raid. Recaptured by longtime pursuer ‘Marcel Bonet’ (Lukas), an inspector for the Sûreté nationale, Picard proposes to exchange the undignified chopping block for a more gallant firing squad by posing as a saboteur who demolished a bridge and German troop train. His sacrifice will spare 100 innocent civilians the Gestapo will execute. Warily, Bonet accepts, but how trustworthy is Picard, who takes advantage of the situation by romancing a sweet village girl, unaware of who he really is.
The screenplay by László Vadnay and Max Brand is the chief culprit in that it arranges too many about-faces for the dodgy ‘hero’, and misses out by dropping a interesting early character, a sexy operator played with sly heat by Faye Emerson, for the bland nice girl assigned to 20-year-old ingenue Jean Sullivan (she only made two more films before returning to ballet in New York), the former striking sparks with the star that the newcomer lacked. The courtly Lukas, 49, had just won an Oscar for Watch On The Rhine; maybe Warner’s felt that pairing a “serious” actor with Errol’s devil-may-care persona would polish their respective resumes. Lukas headlined another anti-Nazi flick that year, the good, neglected Address Unknown. The two distinctly dissimilar types—as performers and personalities—play well off one another, each afforded drama-accentuating closeups in Sid Hickox’ cinematography. A lack of action works against it, and the script flipflops Flynn’s motives so often that tension fades, drawing out the 102 minutes a good ten longer than necessary.
* Thirty-four in ’44, Flynn’s textbook array of medical problems kept him out of the military, and the movies exemplar of dashing heroism took a good deal of grief as result. He tried to get in (to every branch of service) but was rejected for—among other ailments—a heart condition, malaria and TB. Battling the Axis in costume rather than uniform, Errol socked propaganda punches via Dive Bomber (okay), Desperate Journey (entertaining nonsense), Edge Of Darkness (very good), Northern Pursuit (okay), Uncertain Glory (okay) and finally the excellent Objective Burma!