Albert R.N.

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Albert R.N.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Gilbert
Written by
Based onplay by Guy Morgan and Edward Sammis
Produced byDaniel M. Angel
CinematographyJack Asher
Edited byCharles Hasse
Music byMalcolm Arnold
Angel Productions
Distributed byEros Films
Release date
23 November 1953
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Albert R.N. is a 1953 British war film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Jack Warner, Anthony Steel and Robert Beatty.


An escape tunnel for the naval officer prisoners during the Second World War at a German prisoner-of-war camp is discovered.

Lieutenant Ainsworth devises a scheme with the escape committee to use the components of a mannequin named Albert to convince the Germans that all prisoners sent outside the camp for a bathhouse wash up are returned to the camp. A piece of Albert is smuggled with the prisoners going to the bathhouse and reassembled for the return. Ainsworth also has a woman pen pal he has never seen; he plans to marry her once he is free. Though the originator has the right to try out his own idea, Ainsworth insists that his hut mates draw cards for the privilege; Erickson wins and gets away.

After waiting a while, they decide to reuse the ploy. This time, Ainsworth's friend, after hearing that his pen pal has not written in a while, sees to it that the draw is rigged so that he wins. Ainsworth auctions his place, only to have Captain Maddox, the senior prisoner of war, order him to go. Ainsworth is recaptured the same day. Later, the camp commandant informs the men that Erickson was shot while resisting arrest by the Gestapo; his ashes are handed over.

When SS Hauptsturmführer Schultz expresses interest in American Lieutenant "Texas" Norton's chronometer, Norton notes Schultz is in charge of the camp's boundary lights and asks him to see that they malfunction during the next Allied night bombing raid but it is a trap. Schultz signals his men to turn the lights back on while Norton is cutting through the barbed wire fence, then shoots him down in cold blood.

Schultz tries to suborn Ainsworth but Ainsworth tells him he will see to it he is prosecuted for murder after the war. When Schultz becomes the new Kommandant, Ainsworth insists on trying to escape again, using Albert. He gets away but waits at night to confront Schultz outside the camp. After a struggle, he gets Schultz's pistol. When Allied bombs drop uncomfortably close by, Schultz runs for it. Ainsworth is unable to bring himself to shoot the fleeing German in the back but a bomb kills him. Ainsworth takes back Norton's chronometer from the dead man and walks away.


Historical background[edit]

The film is based on a true story. "Albert R.N." was a dummy constructed in Marlag O, the prisoner of war camp in northern Germany for naval officers. The head was sculpted by war artist John Worsley (1919–2000), the body by Lieutenant Bob Staines RNVR, and Lieutenant-Commander Tony Bentley-Buckle devised a mechanism enabling Albert's eyes to blink and move, adding realism to the dummy.[2] "Albert" was used as a stand-in for a head count while a prisoner escaped and was used on two occasions.[3] In the first attempt Lieutenant William "Blondie" Mewes RNVR escaped from the camp shower block and the skilful use of "Albert" during roll-calls gave him four days head start before a missing PoW was reported. Mewes was recaptured in Lübeck and returned to Marlag camp. The second occasion failed when the escaping PoW was discovered hiding in the camp shower block and "Albert" was discovered in the subsequent searches.[4]

Worsley made a new "Albert" for use in the film. Senior Commissioned Gunner (TAS) Lieutenant John William Goble RN aided Worsley in the development of "Albert" in the POW camp, Marlag O and acted as technical adviser for the film. Worsely made a third "Albert" for the retrospective exhibition of his work held in Brighton College's Burstow Gallery. After the show, it was donated to the Royal Naval Museum Portsmouth. Guy Morgan and Edward Sammis, who were British POWs, wrote a play based on the story on which this film was based. This was subsequently adapted into a screenplay.[5]


The film was first planned as a project for Romulus Productions and star Sonny Tufts (as an American film star), Trevor Howard, Anton Walbrook and Ralph Richardson.[6] Jack Warner and Anthony Steel were both leased to producer Daniel Angel by the Rank Organisation. Both had previously appeared in POW movies, The Captive Heart (1946) and The Wooden Horse (1950) respectively, and had just made Emergency Call together. Steel frequently made war films in support of an older British actor.[7] A POW camp was built on Headley Heath.[1] At one stage the film was going to be called The Spare Man.[8]


Lewis Gilbert said the film earned its money back in the United Kingdom.[1] Variety on 21 October 1953, page 181, described it as "Well-done British-made prison meller, lacks names for U.S. market", and went on the say it had "A solid all-round cast admirably fits into the plot. Anthony Steel handsomely suggests the young artist responsible for the creation of 'Albert' and Jack Warner is reliably cast as the senior British officer who maintains discipline with understanding in the camp. Robert Beatty, William Sylvester and Guy Middleton are among the principal POWs. Frederick Valk is a sympathetic camp commandant, but Anton Diffring suggests the typical ruthless Nazi type."[9][full citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p. 220
  2. ^ Daily Telegraph obituary: Lieutenant-Commander Tony Bentley-Buckle
  3. ^ Steve Holland, 'John Worsley: Energetic artist who drew a debonair police hero for the Eagle comic, and created Albert RN, the dummy hero of a famed wartime escape', The Guardian, 13 October 2000 accessed 11 July 2012
  4. ^ Worsley, John; Giggal, Kenneth (1993). John Worsley's War: An Official War Artist in World War II. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 978-1-85310-257-8.
  5. ^ "Dummy as star of film". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 13 September 1952. p. 7 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  6. ^ 'Slapstick' Will Tell Big Comedy Saga; Tufts Builds British Career Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 12 January 1953: B9.
  7. ^ Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.
  8. ^ "FROM LONDON". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 17 October 1953. p. 60. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  9. ^ Review of film at Variety

External links[edit]