|I See a Dark Stranger|
theatrical poster (US)
|Directed by||Frank Launder|
|Produced by||Sidney Gilliat|
|Written by||Sidney Gilliat|
(story & screenplay)
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Thelma Connell|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors(UK)|
Eagle-Lion Films (US)
|4 July 1946 (UK)|
3 April 1947 (US)
|112 minutes (UK)|
98 minutes (US)
In May 1944, during World War II, when nationalistic Irishwoman Bridie Quilty (Deborah Kerr) turns 21, she sets out to fulfill a lifelong dream engendered by listening to her late father's stories of the Irish Revolution. She leaves her small rural village and goes to Dublin. On the way, she shares a train compartment with J. Miller (Raymond Huntley), but believing him to be English, she is very brusque with him. Once in the city, she seeks out a famous ex-radical her father had supposedly fought alongside, Michael O'Callaghan (Brefni O'Rorke), and asks him to help her join the Irish Republican Army. However, he has mellowed as the situation in Ireland has improved and tries unsuccessfully to dissuade her from her overly romantic notion.]
Miller turns out to be a secret agent assigned to break Nazi spy Oscar Pryce (David Ward) out of a British prison in Devon. When, by sheer chance, he runs into Bridie again, he recruits her for his task. She gets a job at The George, a hotel and bar in nearby Wynbridge Vale, and becomes acquainted with a sergeant, who unwittingly provides her with information about the prisoner's impending transfer to London.
This is the opportunity that Miller has been waiting for. However, he is disturbed by the arrival of Lieutenant David Baynes (Trevor Howard), a British officer on leave. Since there is little to attract anyone to the town, he suspects the newcomer of being a counter-intelligence agent. He orders Bridie to distract Baynes on the day of the transfer by persuading him to take her for a day out in the countryside. It turns out Baynes is merely there to gather material for his thesis on Oliver Cromwell, whom Bridie loathes intensely for his conquest of Ireland.
Miller succeeds in freeing Pryce, but both are shot fleeing from a roadblock. Pryce tells Miller where he hid a notebook, then remains behind to delay their pursuers. Miller manages to make his way to Bridie and gives her the location to pass along. Unwilling to risk seeing a doctor, he tells her to dispose of his body after he is dead. Bridie does so, and afterward boards a train as instructed, but her contact, an elderly woman, (Katie Johnson), is arrested before any exchange can take place. Not knowing what else to do, Bridie decides to return home.
However, she encounters David, who followed her aboard the train, and changes her mind, going to the Isle of Man instead to retrieve the book. She is trailed by David and a German spy (Norman Shelley). Bridie figures out that the cryptic information gives the location of the imminent D-Day invasion, which could result in the death of thousands of soldiers, including Irishmen, so she burns the book. David saves her from being arrested as Miller's confederate, and after telling Bridie that he loves her, she tells him what she has done. Bridie tries to turn herself in to save David the pain of having to report her, but the Germans abduct her. When David tracks them to a boat, he is caught as well.
]When she refuses to tell what she knows, the couple are taken to Ireland. They join a funeral procession to evade police searching for them. But the mourners are actually smugglers trying to enter Northern Ireland with a load of contraband. When an alarm clock hidden in the coffin goes off at the border crossing, the ensuing confusion enables the prisoners to escape. David phones for the police from a pub, mistakenly believing that they are still in Ireland, where Bridie would merely be interned. When he realises that they are actually in Northern Ireland, and that Bridie is in danger of being shot as a spy, he tries to persuade her to flee across the nearby border, but she obstinately insists on staying with him. Then, they hear on the radio that D-Day has begun. Her information now useless, she escapes. David discovers the spies in a room upstairs and a bathtub-flooding fight breaks out. The police arrest all.
After the war, Bridie and David wed, but their marriage gets off to a rocky start when David stops at the Cromwell Arms for their honeymoon night.
- Deborah Kerr as Bridie Quilty
- Trevor Howard as Lieutenant David Baynes
- Raymond Huntley as J. Miller
- Michael Howard as Hawkins
- Norman Shelley as Man in Straw Hat, a German spy
- Liam Redmond as Uncle Timothy
- Brefni O'Rorke as Michael O'Callaghan
- James Harcourt as Grandfather
- George Woodbridge as Walter
- Garry Marsh as Captain Goodhusband, an inept security officer on the Isle of Man
- Tom Macaulay as Lieutenant Spanswick, Goodhusband's more astute subordinate
- Olga Lindo as Mrs. Edwards
- David Ward as Oscar Pryce
- Harry Hutchinson as Chief Mourner/Smuggler
- Harry Webster as Uncle Joe
- Joan Hickson as Hotel Manageress
Deborah Kerr, a strikingly versatile actress whose screen persona of a genteel, tea-sipping Englishwoman blossomed into a deeper, more provocative identity when she played a ocean-swept sex scene opposite Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity,” died Tuesday in Suffolk, England. She was 86.
The death was confirmed yesterday by Jack Larson, a family friend. She had Parkinson’s disease.
Louis B. Mayer, boss of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, famously decreed that Miss Kerr’s last name rhymed with star, and she more than lived up to the billing with big roles in memorable pictures like “The King and I”(1956), “An Affair to Remember” (1957) and “The Sundowners” (1960).
In more than four decades as a major Hollywood actor, Miss Kerr, who had red-gold hair and blue-green eyes, was nominated for six Academy Awards without winning. In 1994 she received an honorary Oscar for her lifetime of work. The citation called her an “artist of impeccable grace and beauty.”
Her influence persisted after she retired from big-screen movies in 1969 and moved to Switzerland and Spain, appearing only in occasional stage and television roles. Film buffs still return with fascination to her intriguing performance in “Black Narcissus” (1947), in which she played a nun whose pride yields to spiritual humility while doing missionary work in the Himalayas.
Her indelible performance in “An Affair to Remember” could be felt below the surface of Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993). It used the theme song and clips of critical scenes from the earlier tear-jerker, which went on to a renewed burst of popularity.
It is hard to overstate the impact of Miss Kerr’s appearance in “From Here to Eternity” in 1953. Until then she had played what she called “goody, goody” roles; Laurence Olivier termed her “unreasonably chaste.” Miss Kerr, with Greer Garson and Jean Simmons, was the quintessential Englishwoman, with all the staidness that implied.
In “Eternity” Miss Kerr was suddenly something entirely different: a sexy, adulterous wife making torrid love to Burt Lancaster on a Hawaiian beach. Parts of the scene were so daring for the time that they were cut.
The role broadened her image. Moviegoers came to suspect that even in the more refined moments of her later roles, a raw sensuality lurked below Miss Kerr’s placid surface. This mix of niceness and sexiness prompted tag lines like “A Sweet Kerr Named Desire” and did not exactly hurt at the box office.
“I don’t think anyone knew I could act until I put on a bathing suit,” Miss Kerr said in an interview with Collier’s magazine.
A line Miss Kerr delivered in the 1956 movie “Tea and Sympathy”exemplified her seemingly new knowingness. As she’s about to sexually initiate an anguished student, she tells him, “Years from now, when you talk about this — and you will — be kind.”
Versatility was a hallmark of subsequent roles. Yul Brynner, who had played the King on Broadway in “The King and I,” chose Miss Kerr for the 1956 film version. She was nominated for a fifth Oscar for her role as a repressed spinster in “Separate Tables” (1958). Her sixth nomination was for “The Sundowners” (1960), in which she performed without makeup as a sheep farmer’s wife.
Stage roles were fewer but drew positive comment. When “Tea and Sympathy” opened on Broadway in 1953, with Miss Kerr in the role she later reprised in the film, Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, noted her “effortless style.”
Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer was born on Sept. 30, 1921, in Helensburgh, Scotland. From an early age, she staged dramatic presentations for her family. Her father, Arthur, was a naval architect who died when she was in her midteens.
More roles in British films came quickly. A notable one was the female lead in “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943). Miss Kerr played three different aspects of the ideal woman in three generations. Hollywood legend has it that Mr. Mayer of M-G-M saw this picture after its release in the United States in 1945 and said: “That girl’s a star. Get her.”
Miss Kerr’s last film in England was “Black Narcissus,” for which she won the New York Film Critics Award for best actress after its American release. (The award also recognized her critically acclaimed role as a young Irish woman in the 1946 film “I See a Dark Stranger.”)
Her first film for M-G-M was “The Hucksters” (1947). She played opposite Clark Gable under a contract that initially paid her $3,000 a week and guaranteed that she would be a co-star in all her productions. She was soon leading lady to Cary Grant, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Spencer Tracy.
Miss Kerr earned her first Oscar nomination for her third film for M-G-M, “Edward, My Son” (1949), in which she played the alcoholic wife of Mr. Tracy. But she soon grew uneasy about playing the foil for male stars in movies like “King Solomon’s Mines” (1950) with Mr. Granger.
“I wore a halo of decorum and was just about as exciting as an oyster,” she told American Weekly magazine in 1957.
So she got a new agent, Bert Allenberg. He had called her and declared: “Deborah, for years now you’ve been playing the insipid English virgin. I think I can get you the roles you ought to have,” Collier’s reported.
Harry Cohn, who was president of Columbia Pictures, originally wanted Joan Crawford or somebody like her, decidedly un-virginal. Mr. Allenberg argued the merits of a different sort of sexuality: a heroine “who looks like a lady but acts like a harlot.”
“The result is screen history — which keeps repeating itself in the form of love scenes almost identical to that which Deborah and Burt played,” American Weekly magazine said.
Miss Kerr’s first marriage, to Anthony Bartley, an Englishman who had been a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, ended in divorce. She is survived by her husband, Peter Viertel, an author and screenwriter; her daughters Melanie and Francesca; a stepdaughter, Christine Viertel; and three grandchildren.
It is likely that her role in “The King and I,” as Anna in her famous hoop skirt, tops many people’s list of favorite Kerr characters. In an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 1986, Miss Kerr suggested it might not have been hers.
“I’d rather drop dead in my tracks one day than end up in a wheelchair in some nursing home watching interminable replays of ‘The King and I,’” she said before hooting with laughter.
Correction: October 25, 2007
An obituary on Friday about the actress Deborah Kerr rendered incorrectly the final line of Robert Anderson’s play “Tea and Sympathy,” which she spoke in both the Broadway and film versions as her character was about to sexually initiate an anguished student. It is “Years from now, when you talk about this — and you will — be kind.” It is not “When you speak of this in future years, and you will, be kind.”
Richard Severo contributed reporting.