The Next of Kin
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|The Next of Kin|
|Directed by||Thorold Dickinson|
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Written by||Basil Bartlett
|Music by||William Walton|
|Edited by||Ray Pitt|
|Distributed by||Ealing Studios|
|15 June 1942|
The film was originally commissioned by the British War Office as a training film to promote the government propaganda message that "Careless talk costs lives". After being taken on by Ealing Studios, the project was expanded and given a successful commercial release.
After the war and up until at least the mid 1960s, services in British Commonwealth countries continued to use The Next of Kin as part of security training.
The British are preparing a secret raid on the German-held French coastal village of Norville, where a lightly defended submarine base has been newly set up. Major Richards is assigned as the security officer for the 95th Brigade, the unit chosen for the task. German intelligence learns that the 95th are being moved to Westport for training for some mission via Miss Clare, an attractive showgirl who has a talkative admirer in Lieutenant Cummins.
They send agents 23 and 16 to England to discover the intended target by piecing together information from different sources, including conversations overheard in pubs, railway stations, shops and other public places. 16 is caught when he claims to be a soldier with the same company as Private Durnford, but 23 reaches his contact, Mr Barratt, a bookseller at Westport. When Richards spots Miss Clare in a pub in Westport having a drink with Cummins, he has the police search her belongings, not expecting them to find anything. However, they discover spy equipment and she is arrested. Agent 23 witnesses this and departs hastily, having already come to the attention of Richards. Barratt assigns him to 16's job, to infiltrate an ordnance depot. After he helps an ATS driver with a punctured tyre, she invites him to a dance. There he learns that the 95th have top priority for special equipment.
Certain that the mission is imminent and without any agents to spare, Barratt forces his employee, Dutch refugee Beppie Leemans, to take on the task of finding out where and when the 95th are going from her soldier boyfriend in exchange for the safety of her parents in German-occupied Holland. She informs him that the 95th are expecting aerial photographs. Barratt sends 23 to London to contact another agent to try to obtain the photographs. When Leemans realises the seriousness of what she has done, she stabs Barratt to death, but 23 returns unexpectedly and knocks her out. He then turns on the gas and makes it look like a murder–suicide. An agent manages to steal the briefcase containing an aerial negative, carelessly left unattended at a cafe by a wing commander. The officer believes his briefcase was taken by mistake and is relieved when it is returned to the cafe (after a photograph is developed). The photograph is smuggled to German intelligence and used to identify the 95th's objective. As a result, the Germans are waiting in ambush.
Originally, the commando raid depicted was intended to be a complete failure. However, the War Office were uncomfortable about showing such a defeat. In the final version, the raid is successful, albeit with heavy losses. Winston Churchill reportedly wanted the film banned as a threat to morale, but was eventually persuaded of the importance of its message.
Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne appear in cameos at the end of the film as two "careless talkers" on a train, in the same compartment as 23. The two men made many appearances together in British films of the 1940s, following their successful pairing as "Charters and Caldicott" in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.
- Mervyn Johns as No 23, Mr "Arthur Davis"
- John Chandos as No 16
- Nova Pilbeam as Beppie Leemans
- Reginald Tate as Major Richards
- Stephen Murray as Mr Barratt
- Jack Hawkins as Brigade Major Harcourt (billed as 2nd Lt. Jack Hawkins)
- Geoffrey Hibbert as Private John
- Philip Friend as Lieutenant Cummins
- Phyllis Stanley as Miss Clare
- Mary Clare as Mrs. Webster
- Basil Sydney as a naval captain
- Joss Ambler as Mr Vemon
- Brefni O'Rorke as Brigadier
- Alexander Field as Private Durnford
- David Hutcheson as an intelligence officer
- Torin Thatcher as a German general
- Thora Hird as an ATS driver with a puncture