I See a Dark Stranger (1946): British Spy Thriller Comedy, Starring

Starring the young Deborah Kerr and Trevor Howard, I See a Dark Stranger is a British WWII spy thriller-comedy, made by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat.

Launder and Gilliat, the writers of Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, formed Individual Pictures in 1945.  I See a Dark Stranger, which was shot in Dublin, Dundalk and Wexford in Ireland, Devon in England and the Isle of Man, was the first of ten films released by their company.  

Set in May 1944, during World War II, the tale centers on a young and bold Irish woman, Bridie Quilty (Kerr), who sets out to fulfill a lifelong dream, the result of listening to her late father’s stories of the Irish Revolution.

Leaves her rural village for Dublin, she shares a train compartment with J. Miller (Raymond Huntley), but believing him to be a Brit, she is brusque with him.

Once in the city, she seeks out a famous ex-radical and her father’s colleague, Michael O’Callaghan (Brefni O’Rorke), and asks him to help her join the Irish Republican Army. However, as the situation in Ireland has improved, he tries unsuccessfully to dissuade her from her 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 information about the prisoner’s impending transfer to London.

Miller is disturbed by the arrival of Lieutenant David Baynes (Trevor Howard), a British officer on leave. He suspects the newcomer of being a counter-intelligence agent. He orders Bridie to distract Baynes on the day of the transfer by spending a day in the countryside.

It turns out Baynes is merely there to gather material for his thesis on Oliver Cromwell, whom Bridie loathes due to 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 then makes 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, but her contact, an elderly woman, (Katie Johnson), is arrested. 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, so she burns the book. David saves her from being arrested as Miller’s confederate, and after telling Bridie that he loves her;

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 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 realizes that they are  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 insists on staying with him.

When they hear on the radio that D-Day has begun, her information becomes useless, and 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.

The film was released in the US under the title The Adventuress, to good reviews but modest box office.

Deborah Kerr won the 1947 New York Film Critics Circle  Best Actress Award for her performances in Black Narcissus and I See a Dark Stranger.

Cast

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