Odette (film)

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Odette
Odette FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Herbert Wilcox
Produced by Herbert Wilcox
Anna Neagle
Screenplay by Warren Chetham-Strode
Based on Odette: The Story of a British Agent 
by Jerrard Tickell
Starring Anna Neagle
Trevor Howard
Marius Goring
Bernard Lee
Peter Ustinov
Music by Anthony Collins
Cinematography Mutz Greenbaum (credited as Max Greene)
Edited by Bill Lewthwaite
Production
company
Wilcox-Neagle Productions
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK)
Lopert Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • 6 June 1950 (1950-06-06) (UK)
  • 27 March 1951 (1951-03-27) (US)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office ₤269,463 (UK)[1]

Odette is a 1950 British war film based on the true story of Special Operations Executive French-born agent Odette Sansom, who was captured by the Germans in 1943, condemned to death and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp to be executed. However, against all odds she survived the war and testified against the prison guards at the Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials. She was awarded the George Cross in 1946; the first woman ever to receive the award, and the only woman who has been awarded it while still alive.

Anna Neagle plays Odette Sansom and Trevor Howard plays Peter Churchill, the British agent she mainly worked with and married after the war. Peter Ustinov plays their radio operator Adolphe Rabinovitch. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, who was head of the SOE's French Section, played himself in the film, as did Paddy Sproule, another FANY female SOE agent.[2]

Production[edit]

The film was directed by Herbert Wilcox, and the screenplay by Warren Chetham-Strode was based on Jerrard Tickell's non-fiction book Odette: The Story of a British Agent. It was jointly produced by the husband and wife team Herbert Wilcox and Anna Neagle.

Both Odette Sansom (by then Odette Churchill) and Peter Churchill served as technical advisors during the filming, and the film ends with a written message from Odette herself. Samson and Neagle spent considerable time in France, visiting locales associated with the story. Samson later said that Neagle "was absolutely into it. In fact it took one year after the end of the film to get back to normal, she was more upset by doing that film than I was reliving the experience." Samson said that she lobbied intensely for the film not to be made in Hollywood, for fear that it would be fictionalized, and that she was pleased by the result.[3]

Main cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film was the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1950.[4]

New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said that the film portrays "a pretty punk secret agent" who "lacks the wit or caution to avoid a most obvious trap that is set for her" by Henri. Crowther wrote that "the point of the picture, so far as we can see, is to get Miss Neagle into prison, as quickly as possible, so she can suffer elaborately. And this she does, like the stalwart and noble lady-actress that she is. For the rest of the picture, Miss Neagle is tortured—and so are we."[5]

Epilogue[edit]

The end of the film contains a title card saying as follows:

"It is with a sense of deep humility that I allow my personal story to be told. I am a very ordinary woman to whom a chance was given to see human beings at their best and at their worst. I knew kindness as well as cruelty, understanding as well as brutality. My comrades, who did far more than I and suffered far more profoundly, are not here to speak. It is to their memory that this film has been made and I would like it to be a window through which may be seen those very gallant women with whom I had the honour to serve."
Odette Churchill

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p492
  2. ^ Paddy Sproule obituary
  3. ^ "Sansom, Odette Marie Céline (Imperial War Museums interview) Reel Two". Imperial War Museums. 1986-10-31. Retrieved 1 June 2016. 
  4. ^ "BOB HOPE BEST DRAW IN BRITISH THEATRES.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954). Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (28 March 1951). "Movie Review - - THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Anna Neagle Portrays British Secret Agent in 'Odette' at the Park Avenue". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 

External links[edit]