Dangerous Moonlight

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Dangerous Moonlight
Theatrical Release Poster (Suicide Squadron)
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Produced by William Sistrom
Written by Terence Young (original story and screenplay)
Rodney Ackland and
Brian Desmond Hurst (contributing writers, uncredited)
Starring Anton Walbrook
Sally Gray
John Laurie
Guy Middleton
Cecil Parker
Alan Keith
Derrick De Marney
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography Georges Périnal
Edited by Alan Jaggs
Distributed by RKO Radio British Productions
Release date
  • 26 June 1941 (1941-06-26) (UK)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Dangerous Moonlight (also known as Suicide Squadron in the USA) is a 1941 British film, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst starring Anton Walbrook, best known for its score written by Richard Addinsell with orchestrations by Roy Douglas, which includes the Warsaw Concerto. Among the costumes, the gowns were designed by Cecil Beaton.

Brian Desmond Hurst, director of Dangerous Moonlight, in 1976 (portrait by Allan Warren)

The film's love-story plot told mainly in flashbacks, revolves around the fictional composer of the Warsaw Concerto, a piano virtuoso and "shell-shocked" combat pilot, who meets an American war correspondent in Warsaw, and later returns from America to join the RAF in England to continue to fight against the Germans and their occupation of Poland.[1]


During the German invasion of Poland, Polish airman and piano virtuoso Stefan Radecki (Anton Walbrook) meets American reporter Carole Peters (Sally Gray). He volunteers to fly a "suicide mission" against Germany, but is not selected. Radecki is among the last to escape Warsaw and months later, in New York, he and Carole meet again, and marry.

In England, Radecki gives a public concert and reveals that he has come back to fight, volunteering to fly as a pilot in a Polish squadron, fighting in the Battle of Britain, even though Carole fears he will be killed. His final mission ends with his self-sacrifice by crashing into a German aircraft. He is badly injured in the crash and suffers from amnesia.

Later, Radecki is in a London hospital, recovering from his injuries. He begins to remember his past, recalling composing the "Warsaw Concerto," while the Germans bomb the city, and when he first met his wife. Sitting at the piano, Radecki sees Carole and says, "Carole, it's not safe to go out with you when the moon is so bright", repeating the first words he ever spoke to her.


As appearing in Dangerous Moonlight, (main roles and screen credits identified):[2]

In a key scene, Radetzky plays his composition, Warsaw Concerto for Carole Peters in the midst of a ruined city. The scene was reminiscent of actual events in Poland at the time.


Dangerous Moonlight was produced by the British unit of RKO, which financed it.[1] Since music was such a key element in the film, Walbrook, who was an accomplished amateur pianist, is seen playing in the film, although the music on the soundtrack is played by the professional pianist Louis Kentner. Kentner's involvement was initially uncredited, as he thought that being seen to be playing film music would not help his career. He changed his mind on seeing the film's success.[3] Aerial scenes were actually filmed in combat and feature the No 74 Squadron (Squadron lettering "ZP")[4][better source needed][5][better source needed] Supermarine Spitfire fighters that flew in the Battle of Britain.[6]


Released initially in the UK as Dangerous Moonlight, it was a box office success in Great Britain, although contemporary reviews were generally unfavourable,[1] with The New York Times in its review, noting that it was "... mainly ... a sentimental fable in which the excellent Anton Walbrook, so eloquent as the Hutterite leader in "The Invaders," and Sally Gray make a listless and anemic pair of lovers. Derrick De Marney does much better by the roguish character of an Irish daredevil. None of them has lifted the film above the level of a hackneyed fiction."[7]

Dangerous Moonlight was a melange of art and warfare, with the best-remembered scenes involving the Warsaw Concerto, composed by Richard Addinsell, one of the most beloved classical pieces that emerged from the period.[8] Walbrook was not pleased with his performance and considered the film his least favourite.[9] When released in the United States, the film was renamed Suicide Squadron in a slightly abbreviated 83 minute version, and distributed by Republic Pictures under lease, although its UK release was through RKO Radio British. Despite relying heavily on its film music, Variety noted that the sound quality was noticeably poor, especially in early scenes, although the aerial sequences, however, were particularly effective.[8]

In a modern appraisal of essentially an obscure wartime propaganda film, Leonard Maltin commented that Dangerous Moonlight was an "intelligently presented account of concert pianist who becomes a member of a British fighter squadron during WW2; musical interludes (including Richard Addinsell's well-known Warsaw Concerto) well handled. Look for Michael Rennie in a small role."[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Dangerous Moonlight is mentioned in the British television series Dad's Army episode "Is There Honey Still for Tea?", an in-joke as John Laurie[11] had featured in the film.


  • Theirs is the Glory. Arnhem, Hurst and Conflict on Film takes film director Brian Desmond Hurst's Battle of Arnhem epic as its centerpiece and chronicles Hurst's ten films on conflict including Dangerous Moonlight. Released in hardback on 15 September 2016 with almost 400 pages and over 350 images "this book also shows why Hurst was an enigma, but a master of the genre, and at his very best when focusing on the vast canvas of film" (from dust jacket). ISBN 978-1-911096-63-4. Publisher Helion and Company and co-authored by David Truesdale and Allan Esler Smith.
  • Enemy Coast Ahead by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC DSO DFC ISBN 978-0859791182. Publisher Crecy Publications Ltd 15 Sept 2008. In the book Gibson refers to a BBC wireless programme[12] in which he was the guest in February 1944, just a few months before he was killed in action in France. The original sound recording is now lost, but from the script re-recording by the actor Richard Todd (who played Gibson in the film The Dambusters[13]) we know he said:- The first choice is an easy one - the Warsaw Concerto. Firstly, in my opinion this piece of music somehow seems to illustrate the mind of every airman. Not only that. It has a very strong sentimental appeal for me. In the days when my squadron was bombing Germany every night this was the record that, at our many parties in the Mess, we would put on the radio-gram and let it repeat itself again and again. This went on for a long time, and a good many parties, until there were very few left in the Mess who remembered those who had listened to it first in the days gone by.[14]



  1. ^ a b c Jahiel, Edwin. "Dangerous Moonlight (UK, 1941)." Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel. Retrieved; 7 May 2012.
  2. ^ "Credits: Dangerous Moonlight (1941)". IMDb. Retrieved: 7 May 2012.
  3. ^ "Dangerous Moonlight". BBC website. Retrieved: 7 May 2012.
  4. ^ List of RAF squadron codes
  5. ^ No. 74 Squadron RAF
  6. ^ "Notes: Suicide Squadron." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved; 7 May 2012.
  7. ^ T.S. "Movie Review: Dangerous Moonlight (1941), At Loew' s Criterion." The New York Times, 14 May 1942. Retrieved; 7 May 2012.
  8. ^ a b Parish 1990, p. 388.
  9. ^ Cross, Brenda. "Interview with Anton Walbrook." The Picturegoer, 14 February 1948. Retrieved: 7 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Leonard Maltin Movie Review." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved; 7 May 2012.
  11. ^ [1] "John Laurie"
  12. ^ [2] "Desert Island Discs"
  13. ^ The Dam Busters (film) "The Dambusters"
  14. ^ "Dambuster DVD"


  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.
  • Parish, James Robert. The Great Combat Pictures: Twentieth-Century Warfare on the Screen. Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-8108-2315-0.

External links[edit]