Knight Without Armour Rediscovered

Marlene Dietrich becomes close to human with Robert Donat on the screen in Knight Without Armour (1937).jpg

I wonder if anyone reads James Hilton‘s books anymore?

The movies that were made from his books certainly seem to have a longer shelf life than the author’s reputation. But then, Hilton, born in 1900,  was never trying to compete with his generation’s literary stars such as Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene or even Eric Ambler, but his slight stories certainly have found a place in viewers’ hearts. As a line in one of his most enduring works, Goodbye, Mr. Chips goes, he was a man of his time and a particular place writing mostly about those who went out into the changing world from “the heart of England, a heart with a very gentle beat.”

Yet in reading his books again, I find that they do not enshrine the British Empire or idealize a pastoral England, though the best and worst of those elements are a part of his stories. The novels are full of the international, class, labor and political unrest of the first half of the 20th century. They are told from the wistful point of view of a man who wanted to get down on paper his own mixture of impatience with sometimes hide-bound, unjust society that made him and his own rather dreamy belief in the individual’s ability to discover a certain peace within their own lives. To say that he found a responsive audience among the beleaguered reading and movie-going public in the 1930s and 1940s is an understatement.

The best selling James Hilton book that no one reads anymore

James Hilton‘s familiar cinematic yet perhaps forgotten literary world always struck me as an idealistic landscape with a north, south, east and west bounded by Lost Horizon (1937), Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), Random Harvest (1942), and and the little known We Are Not Alone (1939), which MorlockJeff described so well here.  Now, thanks to the recent broadcast of a little seen Hilton story on TCM during last month’s tribute to the Kordas, the points of that small literary and cinematic compass might also include Knight Without Armour (1933), a must for those of us susceptible to this storyteller’s gifts, the film of which may feature one of the best retellings of a Hilton book on film–even though it was considered a financial failure in its day and a mixed bag critically since then. After many years of longing to see this movie, one viewing sent me in search of the novel it was based on after reveling in the movie’s romantic but surprisingly even-handed look at one of the twentieth century’s most tragic breaks with the past.

Robert Donat in Knight Without Armour (1937)

The movie tells the story of A.J. Fothergill (Robert Donat), an Englishman whose fluency in Russian enables him to gain a foothold as a journalist in the epicenter of Imperial Russia’s uneasy society just before the “Great War”.  Told to leave Russia by the Czarist police within a week after writing an article that is considered seditious, the crestfallen writer longs to remain in Petrograd, (a story point that is a bit puzzling in the film, since our glimpse of Donat in Britain show him to be a fellow who rubs elbows with a pretty lively, posh crowd. In the book, he has nothing and no one in England, with no prospects for a career there). Soon, he is approached by an English Embassy acquaintance who offers him a way to stay in his beloved Russia, a country, Fothergill says, “he’d like to explain to his native countrymen.” The offer requires him to adopt the false identity of a fictitious Russian student, one Peter Ouranov, though he’d actually be an agent of the British Secret Service. He would be required to infiltrate one of the many underground groups bent on halting the archaic system that hobbles the country, (and whose instability poses a possible threat to the British Empire). More in the spirit of adventure, the need for an income and some curiosity, Fothergill sheds his British passport and undertakes his task. Coldly, his new British superiors explain that they will not help him if he is caught by either side. Inevitably, after Fothergill becomes involved in a small revolutionary cell, he is implicated and exiled to near the Arctic Circle when a young hothead bombing suspect dies in his arms in his apartment, after leaving an unhelpful trail of blood to his door for the police. Eventually freed years later when the Revolution breaks out and the czar resigns, Fothergill/Ouranov is a man without a country and an identity, adrift in a broken land, and half-numb to all feeling after years of brutalization. The fact that he is elevated to some power among the revolutionaries through happenstance and his natural ability only becomes relevant to him when he encounters a widowed, deposed countess, Alexandra Vladinoff (Marlene Dietrich), an aristocrat who, in a highly effective haunting scene, awakens one day in her silken bed, to find that no one, neither serf nor house servant, is there, as you can see here, which also gives one an idea of the remarkable Lazare Meerson settings designed for this movie.

The ex-countess soon learns that she is to be shipped to the capital for further inquiry by the revolutionary authorities. Gradually, Fothergill/Ouranov comes to care for the lonely and elegant woman. A crucial moment in their relationship comes early in their relationship, when they are waiting for a train that never comes. Finding that neither of them can sleep out of fear or habit, they sit, bonding in spirit, while the countess has her back to gentle commisar, who surprises her with his knowledge of English verse, when he eloquently recites Robert Browning’s “Prospice”. You can hear Donat‘s touching recitation here.

This movie, which will be seen again on TCM on May 2nd at 8:30AM ET, attempts to evoke a sweeping look back on a scale that few filmmakers aside from Korda and Selznick would attempt. Set around the years preceding and during the Russian Revolution, the filmmakers assumed that audiences would be familiar with the plethora of underground groups and conspiracies leading up to that cataclysmic upheaval and the tragedies surrounding the Russian Civil War, as the White (mostly imperial forces) and Red (mostly Bolshevik) Armies duked it out for ultimate control over the body politic of Russia, an empire that lay in chaos following the fall of the Czars in the midst of the disaster that was World War I. While necessary simplifications of the hero’s background and the setting were made once renowned screenwriter Frances Marion joined neophyte (and ultimately uncredited) screenwriter Hilton in Britain to translate the story to film in Britain (along with the credited assistance of Korda associates Lajos Biro and Arthur Wimperis).

The movie does a fine job of showing with equitable restraint the casually bloody atmosphere created by the Red Army and the Czarist loyalists of the White Army. Workers, serfs, brutal commisars and callous aristocrats surge through this movie, with an underlying ominous feeling accompanying the appearance of each crowd. Even the mindless fin de siecle bunch at Ascot in 1913 glimpsed in all their glamorous finery at the beginning of the movie carry a bit of doom in their dithering comments about horses, courses and clothes.

James Hilton in Hollywood

This novel was written and published by James Hilton (left) in 1934, when the Great Depression made that Soviet experiment in social engineering more appealing to many, (especially at a distance). The terrible economic cycles of the Depression also exposed the limitations of capitalism, highlighting the disreputable abuses that could flourish under the unchecked tyranny of the market, and fueling an understandable concern about the viability of the system’s future.  While our own current troubles on the economic front may look like tiddly winks by comparison to that period, there is a familiar thread of anxiety and tension in contemporary life that I suspect might make Knight Without Armour resonate for many of us. My interest was piqued by the history involved, which I didn’t expect to see illuminated so clearly and by the involvement of a lovely actor, Robert Donat, then at the height of his early fame, as well as Marlene Dietrich, who was retreating to Europe after a series of box office disappointments led to her labeling as “box office poison” by American movie exhibitors.

Donat & Dietrich separated in Knight Without Armour (1937)

Dietrich being Dietrich, she was, according to her daughter Maria Riva’s tartly written biography of her mother, disappointed to discover that Donat was married. Characterizing his “bourgeois mind mind with such a face” as “such a waste”, the actress found it a bit of a disappointment to find her co-star enthusiastically describing the special fertilizer he used on his prize hollyhocks during moments when she was trying to form a more intimate friendship with him. The actress said that she did not find it easy to make what she called “the Grand Passion” with the Englishman, (though she soon transferred the need for that all-consuming emotion to visiting anglophile Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in her private life). Marlene still was soon a bit concerned that Donat was “so beautiful” that she worried that the audience “won’t know who to look at first–him or me.”

Actually, having Jacques Feyder as director (seen at left) and Harry Stradling, Sr. behind the camera insured that Dietrich would appear as regal, elegantly luminous and considerably more vulnerable than she had recently appeared on film. Feyder, who had guided Greta Garbo’s last silent, The Kiss (1929) and her first talkie, Anna Christie (1931), and was married to French actress Françoise Rosay, knew how to showcase a woman. Some on the set reportedly found the endless setups, costuming and lighting for Dietrich wore the director out a bit, leaving him little time for Donat‘s work, which I find surprising, since he is so effective and endearing in this role. According to Steven Bach’s biography of Dietrich, her less predatory female side emerged when the seriously asthmatic Donat‘s part in the film was threatened by his Alexander Korda‘s attempt to curtail his role to speed up the expensive production, (Dietrich was being paid an astronomical $250,000 plus 10 per cent of the gross profits for playing the Russian countess, a part that was greatly expanded from the book). The actress shared what she knew about breathing techniques to allow Donat to do his scenes and generally became his protector with management while he recovered from a particularly nasty spell for about a month during production. One can’t help but sympathize with Korda‘s anxiety over the movie’s budget. According to Time magazine in the year that this movie was released, Knight Without Armour cost $1,100,000, while the average cost of his company’s previous movies had been $300k.

When preparing for an opening at Radio City Music Hall in October of 1937, Korda, whose financial tightrope became a bit threadbare following this expenditure, took the opportunity to publicly complain about the Breen office obstreperousness over Miss Dietrich‘s alleged nudity in one scene in this movie. Though it was actually a body double who took a very discreet dip in a pond in the woods in this movie, the PCA expressed dismay that a star of her magnitude would be associated with such an exhibition. Actually, Alexander Korda‘s vociferous objection to censorship may have been done to offset tepid audience response to the movie, which wasn’t helped by items such as Time‘s review of the film, describing the movie “as a combination of Karl Marx and the Perils of Pauline.” Korda, who may never have recouped his expenses on this movie, called the interference of Breen “a savage mutilation” but the crowds stayed away from the would-be epic, though many of the principals would thrive despite this rejection.

Viewed today, I found that the movie’s story sparked to life in several ways, and found some fascinating parallels in several scenes with that other great dramatic epic of the Russian Revolution for Western audiences, with director David Lean‘s far grander adaptation of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1965). I can’t help wondering if Lean (or at least his co-creators such as production designer John Box) hadn’t studied the earlier movie carefully. Some scenes, such as those at train stops overwhelmed by teeming refugees, the nightmarish journey of the couple on a jammed cattle car overflowing with people, the capriciousness of the newly empowered revolutionaries, and the extreme contrasts between wealth and poor were occasionally more effective in the black and white Knight Without Armour.

John Clements as a doomed Commisar with Dietrich and Donat almost steals the movie

The similar effects that both films reach for encompass the squalor, desolation, fear and paranoia of the Revolution as well as transcendent and redemptive moments of beauty, romance and tenderness in the staging of their scenes. While the color and size of the Russian land and conflicts are conveyed with dazzling impact in Zhivago, in Knight, imho, the “Russian quality” of the people, their perversity and idealism, comes across beautifully, especially in one scene when a wave of people stop a train with their bodies and their collective will and when a desperately lonely, decent young commisar, (John Clements), longing for the intimacy he sees passing between the pair, offers the couple a way out, even as he chooses a different final path. Another striking sequence came when–similarly as in Doctor Zhivago–a madman unexpectedly appears. While Klaus Kinski‘s brilliant turn as the imprisoned anarchist on the train ridden by Zhivago’s family offers his piercing insight into the insanity around him, Hay Petrie plays a similar role in KWA with some brio. He is cast as a bewhiskered station master at a railroad stop who is encountered when Donat and Dietrich are unwittingly waiting for their train. Striding officiously around the empty station, he orders imaginary travellers to hurry along to take their seats on a train that is not there. In a singular moment of clarity, the zealous lunatic responds to Donat‘s statement that “he doesn’t see the train” with a conspiratorial “Shhh. Trains that are seen are being blown up.” Following the railway martinet into his office where he sits down to tap out a message on the telegraph, it is only then that Donat sees the wires have been cut–probably around the same time that the man’s grip on reality began to fade.

However, Knight Without Armour truly surpasses the later movie for me in the quietest scenes. Played with great skill by Donat and Dietrich under Feyder‘s subtle direction, these become more intimate and memorable as the film progresses.  This is particularly true in the scenes in the forest, when Donat, disguised as a Bolshevik soldier, has hidden the “enemy of the people”, Dietrich, under a pile of leaves to elude the Red Army soldiers hunting her. Returning to find her under the leaves, there is an exquisite realization when Donat and Dietrich finally acknowledge their growing love for one another. The forest becomes an enchanted, still place animated by their emotional relinquishment of their reserves. With Feyder‘s help, the rapturous cinematography of Harry Stradling, Sr. and the presence of Robert Donat, as an actress, Marlene blooms from icon into a strong, warm and vulnerable woman in this movie. Sadly, while I always enjoy her entertaining presence, I wish that Dietrich could have replicated this delicacy of characterization again in her long career.

Marlene Dietrich in Knight Without Armour (1937)

Donat, whose English reserve so frustrated the actress off-screen, brings a real masculine dash and a touching sense of the character’s growing rebirth spiritually and emotionally throughout the movie. In the forest sequence mentioned earlier, he becomes an ardent lover, but a playful one as well, bringing out a beguiling, roguishness and a teasing quality and even a sexiness that is rarely detectable in his most famous performance as Hilton’s “Mr. Chips.” Graham Greene, writing film criticism at the time, found this movie wanting, but still thought that Donat was “the best best film actor–at any rate in star parts–that we possess”. Greene, dipping his pen into a bit of venom, went on to say that he regarded the actor’s achievement was particularly noteworthy, since, as far as the author was concerned, he was appearing without a partner in this film–since his co-star was Miss Dietrich. While Mr. Greene clearly doesn’t share my amused appreciation and respect for Marlene,  I would agree with his assessment of Robert Donat‘s talent, which sneaks up on you in picture after picture. It is a shame that he was unable to perform in more films during his all too brief life.

The then lavish international scale of this production for Britain was almost unprecedented, with one English star and one German one, both of whom had considerable international success under their belts, American cinematographer Harry Stradling, Sr.,  beginning one of the best periods of his career, along with the first film score from the talented, Budapest-born composer Miklós Rózsa. The Hungarian-born Kordas, who were fiercely British storytellers in many ways, poured their creative and financial resources into the movie, went on to create outstanding works of the British and American cinema, being instrumental in creating The Jungle Book, The Thief of Bagdad and more.  se used his light touch and incisive way with storytelling to try to focus this story less on the overwhelming historical events and more on the personal. James Hilton, who would die at the relatively young age of 54, moved to Hollywood after the experience of screenwriting on this movie. He also fell in love with his scenarist-mentor Frances Marion, despite his being married and her being a decade older than the novelist. In a supremely awkward arrangement, he and his then wife moved into Marion’s house in Hollywood, where, at her increasingly reluctant invitation, they took over her master bedroom, until “guided” by Marion friend Hedda Hopper to set up their own home six months later.

Hilton, who would continue to work as a novelist and a screenwriter throughout his time in Hollywood, is credited with contributions to Camille (1936), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Forever and a Day (1943), The Story of Dr. Wassell (1943), The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942) and We Are Not Alone (1939), among others. During his tenure in America, became a prominent figure, serving on the  board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and as a vice president of the Screen Writers Guild. A quiet man with a distinctive English voice, Hilton hosted a radio program, Hallmark Playhouse from 1948 until 1953. He can be heard as  the narrator for the movie,  Madame Curie (1943) and the adaptation of his novel, So Well Remembered (1947). His patient first wife Alice eventually divorced him and a second marriage to an Hollywood actress also ended in divorce, though, by the time he lay dying, his first wife had returned to him and they had remarried. Sounds like a slightly mysterious, bittersweet if unlikely James Hilton ending, as the creator of Shangri-La might have imagined it. His books are still engaging, evocative reads about flawed people trying to live  decent lives with a few moments of transcendence in a world gone mad. Occasionally they even succeed, if only in books and movies.

Sources:
Bach, Steven, Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend, Morrow, 1992.
Barrow, Kenneth, Mr Chips: The Life of Robert Donat, Methuen, 1985.
Beauchamp, Cari, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood, Univ. of California Press, 1998.
Riva, Maria, Marlene Dietrich, Knopf, 1992.
Slide, Anthony, ‘Banned in the USA’: British films in the United States and Their Censorship,1933-1960, I.B.Tauris, 1998.

0 Response Knight Without Armour Rediscovered
Posted By john august smith : April 16, 2009 4:17 pm

I requested this movie over and over and was delighted to see it when it appeared. I had read the book and loved it. Of course the movie dropped about half the story, but Donat was his usual excellent self. One of my favorite actors although I could never see him as Captain Blood. I believe he was to be in Secret Agent but dropped out due to his asthma which eventually killed him. No one has come along to replace him, mores the pity!

Posted By john august smith : April 16, 2009 4:17 pm

I requested this movie over and over and was delighted to see it when it appeared. I had read the book and loved it. Of course the movie dropped about half the story, but Donat was his usual excellent self. One of my favorite actors although I could never see him as Captain Blood. I believe he was to be in Secret Agent but dropped out due to his asthma which eventually killed him. No one has come along to replace him, mores the pity!

Posted By Jenni : April 17, 2009 12:39 am

I tivoed this movie and watched it last night. I enjoyed it immensely. Donat, as always, was excellent as the male lead, playing savvy spy and romantic hero. Dietrich was a revelation, to me, in her part. I used to think of her as an over-the-top sort of actress, but in this film( and one I saw a couple of months ago, when she starred with Fred MacMurray, as a Broadway musical star who badly wants to adopt a child) she was very convincing in her portrayal;a poignant performance. She is quickly moving up in my estimation of her acting abilities, and when I see one of her movies scheduled, I tivo it, as I now know it will probably be a good movie to watch. Now I want to find the book and read it!

Posted By Jenni : April 17, 2009 12:39 am

I tivoed this movie and watched it last night. I enjoyed it immensely. Donat, as always, was excellent as the male lead, playing savvy spy and romantic hero. Dietrich was a revelation, to me, in her part. I used to think of her as an over-the-top sort of actress, but in this film( and one I saw a couple of months ago, when she starred with Fred MacMurray, as a Broadway musical star who badly wants to adopt a child) she was very convincing in her portrayal;a poignant performance. She is quickly moving up in my estimation of her acting abilities, and when I see one of her movies scheduled, I tivo it, as I now know it will probably be a good movie to watch. Now I want to find the book and read it!

Posted By Victoria : April 18, 2009 9:37 am

I’ve never even heard of this movie before or the book by James Hilton, though I’ve read this author’s best known works. It sounds intriguing, especially if the movie pierces the veil of Marlene Dietrich’s artifice of glamourous self-absorption. I loved her in “Destry Rides Again”, but thought she was too self-conscious in other movies. However, anything with Robert Donat is usually worth my time. I’ll look for it on May 2nd.

Posted By Victoria : April 18, 2009 9:37 am

I’ve never even heard of this movie before or the book by James Hilton, though I’ve read this author’s best known works. It sounds intriguing, especially if the movie pierces the veil of Marlene Dietrich’s artifice of glamourous self-absorption. I loved her in “Destry Rides Again”, but thought she was too self-conscious in other movies. However, anything with Robert Donat is usually worth my time. I’ll look for it on May 2nd.

Posted By william : April 18, 2009 8:24 pm

Does anyone read James Hilton’s books anymore? I do!!!

I reread two to four of his books each and every year. RANDOM HARVEST, SO WELL REMEMBERED, LOST HORIZON, TIME AND TIME AGAIN…! There’re not many things I enjoy better than indulging in these largely-forgotten literary treasures. And–speaking as a writer–Hilton(one of the best story-telling novelists of the 20th Century) deserves to be rediscovered TIME AND TIME AGAIN!

Posted By william : April 18, 2009 8:24 pm

Does anyone read James Hilton’s books anymore? I do!!!

I reread two to four of his books each and every year. RANDOM HARVEST, SO WELL REMEMBERED, LOST HORIZON, TIME AND TIME AGAIN…! There’re not many things I enjoy better than indulging in these largely-forgotten literary treasures. And–speaking as a writer–Hilton(one of the best story-telling novelists of the 20th Century) deserves to be rediscovered TIME AND TIME AGAIN!

Posted By moirafinnie : April 24, 2009 3:48 pm

After thoroughly enjoying James Hilton‘s novel and this movie Knight Without Armour recently, I’m delighted to find that others enjoyed the book and the movie as well. I appreciate each of your thoughtful, heartfelt responses.

John August Smith,
I could never quite picture Robert Donat as Capt. Blood either, (and I suspect that was one of Donat’s problems with the part too).

Jenni,
I enjoyed the Dietrich-MacMurray pairing in The Lady Is Willing (1942) that you referred to as well, but couldn’t quite get past the idea that because she played a famous actress, it was copasetic for her to keep a baby she’d found. Boy, that’s going a bit too far, though the scenes when Marlene exhibited tender concern for the child were effective. I think that if you liked the movie of Knight Without Armour, the book may be a pleasure for you to read as well. For me, Marlene Dietrich seemed more recognizably human in Knight Without Armour than in any other movie. I particularly like the expression on her face and the quiet way that she tells the White Army officers her future plans to “leave Russia” as she hears the firing squad in the distance>. One other time when she portrayed such vulnerability and strength may have been in one of her scenes from Judgment at Nuremberg when she is with Spencer Tracy. Reportedly, Tracy encouraged the nervous Dietrich by telling her that she was one of the few German-born actresses in the world who could play her role and that it might make a difference to the world’s perception of Germany’s troubled history if she could do it effectively.

William,
I’m so glad that you and the other respondents have confirmed for me that readership of Hilton’s still resonant stories is alive and well, still.

Victoria,
I hope that you’ll catch this movie on May 2nd on TCM and please see below for more info about upcoming Donat movies:

Early this morning I caught Sabotage Agent (1943) with Robert Donat doing a quietly dashing turn as a pretty flamboyant spy in Rumania and Czechoslovakia, foiling vast chemical warfare plans by the Nazis and getting the girl, played by Valerie Hobson, a vaguely exotic actress who seemed to specialize in these roles as seemingly duplicitous women in English movies of the period, notably The Spy in Black (1939) and Contraband (1940).

Fortunately there are a slew of fairly rare Robert Donat movies scheduled for TCM in the near future. Here’s a rundown:

April 27th 1 PM ET
Captain Boycott (1947): Stewart Granger’s the star, but Donat gets to play doomed Anglo-Irish politician Charles Parnell. Hope he has better luck with that part than Clark Gable did.

May 11th, 7:45AM ET
Jul 19th, 6:00AM ET
The Magic Box (1951): Robert Donat plays William Friese-Greene, one of the developers of the motion picture camera. Haven’t seen this for years but remember first being aware of the wistful power of Donat in this role when I first viewed it as a kid, (long before seeing his “Mr. Chips”)

May 31st, 8:00PM ET
The Winslow Boy (1948): one of the under-appreciated Terence Rattigan’s best plays is said to have given Donat a splendid opportunity to blend his eloquent vulnerability and deceptively delicate demeanor in a character trying to find some justice in the world. I can’t wait to catch this one.

Jun 4th, 2:00PM ET
Jul 24rd, 12:00AM ET
Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939): Donat’s Oscar winning performance, though perhaps he deserved it for other roles more?

Jun 27th, 4:30AM ET
The 39 Steps (1935): fascinating Hitchcock with Donat and Madeleine Carroll in the taut chase story that still holds your interest, even if you’ve seen it before. If you’ve never seen it, this is an essential not to be missed.

Posted By moirafinnie : April 24, 2009 3:48 pm

After thoroughly enjoying James Hilton‘s novel and this movie Knight Without Armour recently, I’m delighted to find that others enjoyed the book and the movie as well. I appreciate each of your thoughtful, heartfelt responses.

John August Smith,
I could never quite picture Robert Donat as Capt. Blood either, (and I suspect that was one of Donat’s problems with the part too).

Jenni,
I enjoyed the Dietrich-MacMurray pairing in The Lady Is Willing (1942) that you referred to as well, but couldn’t quite get past the idea that because she played a famous actress, it was copasetic for her to keep a baby she’d found. Boy, that’s going a bit too far, though the scenes when Marlene exhibited tender concern for the child were effective. I think that if you liked the movie of Knight Without Armour, the book may be a pleasure for you to read as well. For me, Marlene Dietrich seemed more recognizably human in Knight Without Armour than in any other movie. I particularly like the expression on her face and the quiet way that she tells the White Army officers her future plans to “leave Russia” as she hears the firing squad in the distance>. One other time when she portrayed such vulnerability and strength may have been in one of her scenes from Judgment at Nuremberg when she is with Spencer Tracy. Reportedly, Tracy encouraged the nervous Dietrich by telling her that she was one of the few German-born actresses in the world who could play her role and that it might make a difference to the world’s perception of Germany’s troubled history if she could do it effectively.

William,
I’m so glad that you and the other respondents have confirmed for me that readership of Hilton’s still resonant stories is alive and well, still.

Victoria,
I hope that you’ll catch this movie on May 2nd on TCM and please see below for more info about upcoming Donat movies:

Early this morning I caught Sabotage Agent (1943) with Robert Donat doing a quietly dashing turn as a pretty flamboyant spy in Rumania and Czechoslovakia, foiling vast chemical warfare plans by the Nazis and getting the girl, played by Valerie Hobson, a vaguely exotic actress who seemed to specialize in these roles as seemingly duplicitous women in English movies of the period, notably The Spy in Black (1939) and Contraband (1940).

Fortunately there are a slew of fairly rare Robert Donat movies scheduled for TCM in the near future. Here’s a rundown:

April 27th 1 PM ET
Captain Boycott (1947): Stewart Granger’s the star, but Donat gets to play doomed Anglo-Irish politician Charles Parnell. Hope he has better luck with that part than Clark Gable did.

May 11th, 7:45AM ET
Jul 19th, 6:00AM ET
The Magic Box (1951): Robert Donat plays William Friese-Greene, one of the developers of the motion picture camera. Haven’t seen this for years but remember first being aware of the wistful power of Donat in this role when I first viewed it as a kid, (long before seeing his “Mr. Chips”)

May 31st, 8:00PM ET
The Winslow Boy (1948): one of the under-appreciated Terence Rattigan’s best plays is said to have given Donat a splendid opportunity to blend his eloquent vulnerability and deceptively delicate demeanor in a character trying to find some justice in the world. I can’t wait to catch this one.

Jun 4th, 2:00PM ET
Jul 24rd, 12:00AM ET
Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939): Donat’s Oscar winning performance, though perhaps he deserved it for other roles more?

Jun 27th, 4:30AM ET
The 39 Steps (1935): fascinating Hitchcock with Donat and Madeleine Carroll in the taut chase story that still holds your interest, even if you’ve seen it before. If you’ve never seen it, this is an essential not to be missed.

Posted By franck kato : March 24, 2010 12:11 am

Moira Dearest:- follows my Internet Explorer save mode notes.

Since the only revolution I am interested in nowadays is the East Jerusalem situation with its beyond apartheid characteristics worthy of, at minimum, U.N. sanctions of equal treatment provided Pretoria,

And as for Netan.yahoo’s biography, honey, the only biography about that son-of-a-bitch that interests me is his obituary. Nothing but a man without scruples, the means justifying the ends and as for the Eichmann finale rerun, I image he goes to sleep with it blaring. Such good fare for the children of Nazareth, the children of pleasure, the children of accident, the children of paradise…all with imported weapons and no Palestinian workers amongst the statistics….

Moira Finnie critique of A Knight Without Armour with those special landmarks of north,south, east and west so essential to one who is to understand 20th century cinema, théâtre. Marlene does not mock as in Shanghai Express or heave tan excessiva thighs of her Von Sternberg Der Blauer Engel collaboration. As Countess Alexandra she effectively portrays a spoiled exponent of an economic class who so controlled the means of production implosion as a means of re-distribution occurred with still ongoing consequences beyond pollution and market share. The script is a believable tale of its time underscoring universal methods of summary displacement, outrage in any language in any country. A Nation Destroying, Nation Building Class epic worthy of Eisenstein but with a humanistic Western touch, optimistic like you English.March 23, 2010

Posted By franck kato : March 24, 2010 12:11 am

Moira Dearest:- follows my Internet Explorer save mode notes.

Since the only revolution I am interested in nowadays is the East Jerusalem situation with its beyond apartheid characteristics worthy of, at minimum, U.N. sanctions of equal treatment provided Pretoria,

And as for Netan.yahoo’s biography, honey, the only biography about that son-of-a-bitch that interests me is his obituary. Nothing but a man without scruples, the means justifying the ends and as for the Eichmann finale rerun, I image he goes to sleep with it blaring. Such good fare for the children of Nazareth, the children of pleasure, the children of accident, the children of paradise…all with imported weapons and no Palestinian workers amongst the statistics….

Moira Finnie critique of A Knight Without Armour with those special landmarks of north,south, east and west so essential to one who is to understand 20th century cinema, théâtre. Marlene does not mock as in Shanghai Express or heave tan excessiva thighs of her Von Sternberg Der Blauer Engel collaboration. As Countess Alexandra she effectively portrays a spoiled exponent of an economic class who so controlled the means of production implosion as a means of re-distribution occurred with still ongoing consequences beyond pollution and market share. The script is a believable tale of its time underscoring universal methods of summary displacement, outrage in any language in any country. A Nation Destroying, Nation Building Class epic worthy of Eisenstein but with a humanistic Western touch, optimistic like you English.March 23, 2010

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We regret to inform you that FilmStruck is now closed.  Our last day of service was November 29, 2018.

Please visit tcm.com/help for more information.

We would like to thank our many fans and loyal customers who supported us.  FilmStruck was truly a labor of love, and in a world with an abundance of entertainment options – THANK YOU for choosing us.