Adventuress, The (1946): Deborah Kerr in British Spy Thriller

The British film The Adventuress (aka I See a Dark Stranger) is an expertly scripted and directed espionage thriller, as well as a slyly amusing satire of the genre.

The young Deborah Kerr, prior to going Hollywood, plays Bridie Quilty, an Irish colleen raised from childhood to despise the British and all the values and mores that they uphold.

Have been raised by her grandfather (James Harcourt), she remembers the latter’s tales of British snobbery and cruelty.  When she leaves her small village of Ballygarry, Bridie’s anglophobia proves useful to the Nazi spy Miller (Raymond Huntley), who hopes to use the girl to help him steal the plans for the D-day invasion.

Playing a variation of the more famous spy, “Mata Hari,” Bridie immerses herself wholeheartedly in the subculture of clandestine meetings and coded messages.  She believes that by helping Germany, she also helps her own Irish country.

It takes narrative time—and several twists and turns—before Birdie finally realizes the error of her ways, and turns the tables on Miller and his entourage of conspirators.

The witty, sophisticated scenario is co-written by producer Sidney Gilliat, director Frank Launder, and Wolfgang Wilhelm.

Reviewers at the time failed to recognize the merits of this film, but later-age critics revised its reputation; some even compared it to Hitchcock’s absorbing suspense thrillers, specifically The Lady Vanishes, which the aforementioned Gilliat also wrote.

The acting of the entire ensemble is uniformly high. Making her fifth feature, Deborah Kerr was only 24 when she played the above spitfire. Kerr was cited as Best Actress of 1947, when the picture was released in the U.S.) for this feature as well as for Black Narcissus, also a great film.

Trevor Howard, fresh off from his success the year before in “Brief Encounter,” opposite Celia Johnson, is reliable as David Baynes, Birdie’s love interest.



Black and white

Running time: 112 Minutes.


Deborah Kerr as Birdie Quilty

Trevor Howard as Lt. David Baynes

Raymond Huntley as Miller

Garry Marsh as Capt. Goodhusband

Tom Macauley as Lt. Spanswick

W.G. O’Gorrnan as Danny Quilty