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Green for Danger (May 24, 2012)

Sidney Gilliat was a screenwriter. With Frank Launder he co-wrote The Lady Vanishes, which we saw earlier in this series. In that inevitable way we’ve seen before, he began to direct the films he scripted in 1942. Green for Danger, which we’ll see tonight, was released in 1946. It was based on a novel by Christianna Brand, was co-written by Claude Guerney, and starred Alastair Sim, Sally Gray, and Trevor Howard.

It was by no means Alastair Sim’s first role. He’d appeared in British films since 1935. But this modest little mystery-thriller shows him at his very best as police Inspector Cockrill investigating this case. He’s best known, perhaps, for his influential portrayal of Scrooge in the 1951 film, and later, for his performance as brother and sister in the school comedy The Belles of St. Trinian’s in 1954. Sim’s classic comedy delivery and timing are on display in Green for Danger, just as they are in those later films.

Green for Danger is set at the end of the war, and brings to a close an arc of films (Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, and this one) that track how Britons felt about the war and its emotional center – a war that moved from a near-impossible stand against overwhelming odds to a fight that Britain knew it could win.

Sidney Gilliat wrote about this film, in 1977: “Green for Danger was by no means ill received by the critics; but it mortified me somewhat that nobody at all spotted that it was, so to speak, a film presented in quotation marks, dotted with references to the stereotypes of half a century of detective fiction, with an affectionate sideswipe at the arrogantly omniscient Detective figure of the genre. . .what appealed to me was the anaesthetics—the rhythmic ritual, from wheeling the patient out to putting him out and keeping him out (in this case, permanently), with all those crosscutting opportunities offered by flowmeters, hissing gas cylinders, palpitating rubber bags, and all the other trappings. . .As for that unfortunate whodunit element, I largely informed myself. . .we would lose it altogether, or at least reduce its importance. . .but Miss Brand had integrated her story far too well, and in the end we had to change tack and—on the principle, one supposes, of if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em---deliberately make capital of the very clichés of the detective novel, in the course of which Cockrill turned into the sprightly, conceited extrovert of the film, with a dash of mild sadism and a decided tendency to jump to the wrong conclusion.”

Anyway, it’s a neat little movie, that I hope you enjoy watching tonight.