I See A Dark Stranger/The Adventuress

I SEE A DARK STRANGER came out in Great Britain in 1946. When released the following year in the States it came under the more fitting title THE ADVENTURESS. Well-reviewed, it merely grazed the box office (British films facing distribution problems saw American audiences miss out on a lot of fine films for years), not repeating the financial success it enjoyed at home. Besides being a credit to its creative team headed by director Frank Launder and writer Sidney Gilliat, it added another plus to rising co-star Trevor Howard and especially for 24-year-old Deborah Kerr, the adventuress coleen of the title. Told with pictorial style and wit, the WW2 espionage story, part suspense, part satire, told dovetailed with Kerr’s acclaimed Black Narcissus and her same-year introduction to Hollywood and international stardom via The Hucksters. This less-known pleasure, under whichever title, deserves attention.

May of 1944, neutral Ireland. Raised on family tales (tall ones) of fighting against England, spirited ‘Bridie Quilty’ (Kerr) decides to take her inculcated hatred of the British a step further and join  the I.R.A. When that martial hope is squashed, she unwittingly becomes a pawn for German agents: the Nazis seeking to use anti-Crown sentiments to aid their war effort, especially with D-Day approaching. Bridie gets in over her head, even as she triggers the romantic interest of a British naval officer (Howard), who begins to see something more than Irish ire in her erratic behavior.

Excellent work all round, from the clever plotting and skillful direction, use of locales, fine photography from Wilkie Cooper (Green For Danger, The Admirable Crichton, Jason And The Argonauts) and an evocative score from the prolific William Alwyn (Odd Man Out, Zarak, A Night To Remember).

Kerr, beautifully lit by cameraman Cooper, is a beguiling, brogue-enhanced spitfire; it’s one of her liveliest characterizations, her passions (alternately justified and misguided) combined with her fresh beauty make a daunting combination. Howard’s a calming influence, and there is expert villainy courtesy of deftly insinuating Raymond Huntley. Cheeky satire elements (not overdone) come from Garry Marsh and Tom Macaulay as a pair of bumbling British officers. Further down the supporting tree look for bits from future familiar faces David Tomlinson (Mary Poppins),Torin Thatcher (The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad), Albert Sharpe (Darby O’Gill and the Little People), Liam Redmond (Night Of The Demon), Katie Johnson (The Ladykillers) and Patricia Laffan (Quo Vadis).

Location shooting took place in Ireland (Dublin, Westford and Dundalk), England (Dunster) and on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. 112 minutes.





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