ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY
US, 1943, 96 minutes, Black and white.
Jean Pierre Aumont, Signe Hasso, Susan Peters, Reginald Owen, Richard Whorf, Margaret Wycherley, John Emery, Miles Mander, George Coulouris.
Directed by Jack Conway.
Assignment in Brittany is based on a bestseller by top writer Helen Mc Innes (Reunion in France, later The Salzburg Connection were filmed). The film, however, while interesting, is a wartime flag-waver. The propaganda value of the film is very strong and so dates it somewhat now.
Veteran director Jack Conway directed. Jean Pierre Aumont, at the beginning of his Hollywood career, is a rather gung-ho, musketeer-style spy. Susan Peters is attractive as the heroine - but she had a very short career. There is a good supporting cast led by Signe Hasso as a spy and collaborator, George Coulouris as a Nazi and Margaret Wycherley as the hero's mother.
An interesting example of the popular kind of film during World War Two.
1. War adventure? Espionage? Made while the action was going on? Propaganda?
2. M.G.M. production values, Hollywood style, black and white photography, French settings, musical score?
3. The title, the focus on Metard? Brittany and the German occupation? Anti-Nazi? The Resistance and the Underground?
4. Metard and the opening, his success in Africa - derring-do? Transferred to England, his being transformed into Bertrand? Listening to Bertrand's background? His being briefed to go into Brittany?
5. Parachuting in, the Resistance, the British and the Scotsman? His going to the village? His knowledge of the village? Meeting his mother, Anne, the teacher, Elise, the people in the bar? The irony of his finding out what Bertrand was really like? Disdainful to his mother, Anne wanting to break the engagement, the liaison with Elise, the German collaboration?
6. Metard and his handling the situation? Finding out the rendezvous for the Nazi meeting? His mother knowing the truth, the breaking of the glasses, her not giving him away? Anne and her discovery of the truth - and Metard falling in love with her?
7. The activity in the village, his mission to find out about the navy and the submarines? The contact and the collaborators, the Nazis rounding them up, imprisonment and torture? The barkeeper, the wife, the daughter? Their not giving him away? The young boy identifying him (and later revealing that he had to, in order to save the radio)? His father's torture and death? The schoolteacher and his bitterness against Bertrand, love for Elise, not believing she was a spy?
8. The tensions in the village, ordinary life, people covering for others, collaboration and resistance? The sequences in the church?
9. The mother and her liking for Metard, advising him, covering for him? Anne and her falling in love? Elise and her discovering the truth? With the Nazi? Their deaths? The death of the schoolteacher?
10. The picture of France during the war? The dangers? In retrospect with audiences knowing the history, as well as seeing so many movies about this period?