Confidential Agent (1945)
Directed by Herman Shumlin Robert Buckner (Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)) adapted the screenplay from the Graham Greene (The Fallen Idol (1948)) novel of the same name. Unfortunately this war time drama fails to connect. In fact it leaves one feeling that it could have been better given the cast … perhaps Greene’s story is to blame. There’s evidence of some serious editing however to get the film in under two hours. For instance there’s a credited actor Lawrence Grant as Lord Fetting who though introduced appears only in the corner during a conference seemingly having just been drugged or interrogated harshly.
Luis Denard (Charles Boyer) is a Spanish nationalist whose country is in the midst of a civil war. He has traveled to England to secure coal and thus supplies needed to combat the fascists who are winning the war. Through circumstances at immigration he meets and then catches a ride with a young socialite Rose Cullen (Lauren Bacall) whose father Lord Benditch (Holmes Herbert) coincidentally happens to be one of the men Denard needs to see. On his journey he bumps into one of the fascists Licata (Victor Francen) who unfortunately for Denard continues to turn up in the same places at the same times as he. For instance when Rose’s rented car gets a flat tire and they have to stop at a roadside inn Licata happens to be there too. After a brief introduction to one of Rose’s acquaintances Captain Currie (George Coulouris) or “Toddy” Denard’s coat is searched by Licata’s chauffeur (Art Foster). Rose doesn’t really believe the story she thinks Denard is handing her and cautions him against being melodramatic. Rose then drinks to the point of wanting to stay before going on to London so Denard who has urgent business excuses himself and leaves with the repaired car. However Toddy with the others in tow tracks him down and forces him to stop at which time Licata’s chauffeur lays him out and leaves him without anything but the important credentials he’d thought earlier to stuff in his shoe. Denard must then walk to London.
When Denard gets to London he checks into a hotel run by fellow Spanish nationalist Mrs. Melandez (Katina Paxinou who seems to be trying to channel Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940) and not doing a very good job of it either). He meets the 14 year old maid Else (Wanda Hendrix) who for no apparent reason he trusts with his key and later even with his valuable papers. Denard also goes to rendezvous for no apparent reason with another Spanish nation Contreras (Peter Lorre) who’s working in a universal language training facility run by the eccentric Dr. Bellows (annoyingly played by Ian Wolfe). Finally he goes to see Lord Benditch but by then has lost his papers. There he meets Rose’s boyfriend Neil Forbes (John Warburton) who is also in conference with Lord Benditch. This is the scene which includes the sleepy (?) Lord Fetting as well as Mr. Brigstock (Miles Mander). Of course after Denard discovers that he no longer has his papers Licata turns up; he seems to have a penchant for controlling the hired help as it was Lord Benditch’s butler who lifted Denard’s documents.
The convoluted plot continues with Rose getting involved to assist Denard apparently she fell for him when he proved to her that he’d been shot at and another opportunity for actress Paxinou to overact when her character takes out her frustration on Else. By then the police including Detective Geddes (George Zucco) are involved and there’s another opportunity for the meddling Toddy to stick his nose into things as well. I’m not really sure why Peter Lorre’s character is even in the film except to give him an opportunity to play an over stressed whiny little man under pressure (which he does so well). Just for good measure Melandez’s hotel has a resident eccentric Mr. Muckerji (a native of India played by Dan Seymour?) whose character is a strange and rather nosy though uninvolved observer until circumstances necessitate otherwise. I should also mention that the film’s hokiest moment is near the end (saving the best for last?) and involves a crowd scene with Denard and Benditch with the ever present Licata at cross purposes.