State Secret (1950 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

State Secret
"State Secret" (1950).jpg
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Produced by
Written by Sidney Gilliat
Based on novel
by Roy Huggins
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Robert Krasker
Distributed by
Release date
  • 11 September 1950 (1950-09-11)
  • 4 October 1950 (1950-10-04)
Running time
104 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office £187,022 (UK)[1]

State Secret is a 1950 British drama film directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Olga Lowe and Herbert Lom.[2] It was made at Isleworth Studios with Italian location shooting in Trento and the Dolomites. It was released in the United States under the title The Great Manhunt.[3]


John Marlowe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is an American surgeon visiting England when he is decoyed to Vosnia, a small European country speaking Esperanto. He finds that he is to operate on the Vosnian dictator. The dictator dies but is replaced by a look-alike. As one of the few who know, Marlowe is hunted by the country's secret police.

Marlowe flees and seeks the help of Lisa Robinson (Glynis Johns). They blackmail smuggler Karl Theodor Herbert Lom into helping them. They are pursued across the country and are on the point of escaping when their guide is shot and killed and she is shot and wounded. Marlowe could escape without her but stays.

Government minister (Minister of Health, Minister of Public Services and Minister for State Security) Colonel Galcon (Jack Hawkins) arranges a "shooting accident" for Marlowe, but, as Marlowe walks outside to his fate, the false dictator is heard making a live speech on the radio. Shots are heard and Marlowe goes back inside the building. Galcon confirms by telephone that the stand-in has been assassinated.

Marlowe and Galcon discuss the situation and Galcon realises that it may be over for him. As the people have seen the "dictator" die, it is no longer necessary to have a cover-up. Marlowe and Robinson are released and fly to freedom.


Critical reception[edit]

In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote, "... this picture is just about as lively as they come, and under Mr. Gilliat's direction, it moves like an auto gaining speed ... Beautifully photographed in Italian cities and in the Italian Dolomites, the whole adventure has the eminent advantage of a sparkling Continental atmosphere. And it also has the advantage of good performance by all concerned—by Mr. Fairbanks as the kidnapped surgeon, looking a little like Eugene O'Neill; by Miss Johns, very saucy and explosive, as the music-hall girl; by Jack Hawkins as the Vosnian premier [sic], with an Oxford accent and a Nazi attitude; by Herbert Lom as the Balkan shyster and any number of others in small roles."[5]

Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1950.[6]

State Secret was not that popular in the US but Fairbanks Jr. said "I thought I did my best work ever; Sidney really kept the pot boiling."[7]


  1. ^ Porter, Vincent. "The Robert Clark Account". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2000, p. 492.
  2. ^ "Review: 'State Secret'." BFI. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  3. ^ "The Great Manhunt." TV Guide. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Nelly Arno." BFI. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review: The Great Manhunt, The screen in review; 'State Secret,' Thrilling 'Chase' film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., bows at Victoria." The New York Times, 5 October 1950. Retrieved: 23 July 2016.
  6. ^ Murphy 2003, p. 212.
  7. ^ Bawden and Miller 2016, p. 104.


  • Bawden, James and Ron Miller. Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. ISBN 978-0-8131-6710-7.
  • Murphy, Robert. Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48. London: Routledge, 2003, First edition 1992. ISBN 978-0-4150-7684-5.

External links[edit]