Escape (1948): Mankiewicz’ British-American Thriller, Starring Rex Harrison, Peggy Cummins, Jill Esmond

Joseph L. Mankiewicz. directed Escape, a British-American thriller about a Royal Air Force World War II veteran, well played by Rex Harrison, who goes to prison and then escapes.

Escape FilmPoster.jpeg

Theatrical release poster

The screenplay by Philip Dunne was based on the 1926 play Escape by John Galsworthy, which had previously been filmed in 1930.

Rex Harrison in his second film with Mankiewicz (following the romantic fantasy, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) plays a former RAF squadron leader, Matt Denant, goes to Hendley, England to visit an airfield,

It is run by his friend Titch. Rodgers, who asks Matt to make a large wager on a horse. Matt does, and when the horse loses, Rodgers promises to repay.

Strolling through Hyde Park, a woman begins talking with Matt, but Penter, a detective, charges her with unlawful soliciting. Matt intervenes, and when the two men fight, Penter knocks his head on park bench and is mortally wounded.

Placed under arrest, Matt is then sentenced to 3 years in prison after Penter dies. Believing it an unjust punishment, Matt escapes. Inspector Harris of Scotland Yard is assigned to find him, while Matt takes refuge at the home of Sir James Winton, whose daughter Dora helps him hide.

Titch gives an airplane to Matt, enabling him to flee to France, but he is betrayed by Rodgers after the police offer a reward.

The plane is caught in a heavy fog and crashes, but Matt survives and takes refuge in a farm. Dora, who’s in love with him, persuading Matt that to turn himself in to the law.

Harrison, in top form, gives a restrained but persuasive portrait of a man troubled by physical but moral tribulations.

Rex Harrison as Matt Denant
Peggy Cummins as Dora Winton
William Hartnell as Inspector Harris
Peter Croft as Titch
Stuart Lindsell as Sir James Winton
Norman Wooland as Minister
Jill Esmond as Grace Winton
Frederick Piper as Brownie the convict
Marjorie Rhodes as Mrs. Pinkem
Betty Ann Davies as Girl in Park
Cyril Cusack as Rodgers
John Slater as Salesman
Frank Pettingell as Constable Beames
Michael Golden as Detective Penter
Frederick Leister as Judge
Walter Hudd as Defense Counsel
Maurice Denham as Crown Counsel
Patrick Troughton as Jim the shepherd


Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay by Philip Dunne, based on the play Escape by John Galsworthy
Produced by William Perlberg
Cinematography Freddie Young
Edited by Alan L. Jaggs
Music by William Alwyn
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release dates: March 1948 (London); July 30, 1948 (LA)

Running time: 78 minutes