Cast & Crew
In the spring of 1918, Swiss modiste Madeleine Goddard returns to Stockholm after an excursion to Paris to buy dresses. Madeleine, who is a spy for the Nazis, then visits her German contacts and gives them the information she has gathered on Allied troop movements. Madeleine's information is cleverly sewn into the gowns she transports, and the Germans believe that she is one of their top spies. Unknown to them, Madeleine is actually a French double agent, and so she resolves to learn the identity of the new German secret service section leader who is being stationed in Stockholm. While Madeleine confers with her confederates, two German citizens cross the border into Switzerland. One is Dr. Muller, who is to reorganize the spy network of which Madeleine is a part, and the other is Baron Karl Von Marwitz, a deserter from the German Navy. While at a nightclub with her frequent escort, English secret service agent Bob Carter, Madeleine exposes the trick behind Von Marwitz's game of predicting what a girl will say after he kisses her. Intrigued by Madeleine's beauty and cool demeanor, Von Marwitz visits her shop the next day in the company of Lupita, a Brazilian socialite. Von Marwitz quickly tires of the temperamental Lupita and begins asking Madeleine to go out with him. When she continually refuses his requests, he begins to buy all of the stock in her shop until finally she gives in. Madeleine gives her German contacts information about an Allied counter-offensive, then begins seeing Von Marwitz. Despite their different nationalities, the couple quickly fall in love, much to the dismay of Bob, who returns to Stockholm after a brief journey to London to investigate Madeleine's trustworthiness. On the night Von Marwitz proposes to her, Madeleine's faithful porter and co-conspirator, Anatole Bergen, is murdered. Shaken by Anatole's death, Madeleine confers with Muller and the others, who tell her that the information she provided proved disastrous for the German Army. Muller orders her to go to Paris immediately and determine whether her French contacts are to be trusted. After a difficult journey, Madeleine reaches Paris, where she is secretly greeted by a French official and given the medal militaire for her service to her country. Upon her return to Stockholm, Madeleine deduces that Von Marwitz is the German secret service leader, and he reveals his knowledge that she is actually a French spy. The lovers are glad to be rid of the lies between them, but acknowledge with heavy hearts that their dream of a life together can never be realized. Madeleine rushes to Bob, who promises to help her escape from Stockholm and the Germans, while Von Marwitz is simultaneously planning her capture. The next day, Bob engineers Madeleine's arrest by the Swedish police, thereby foiling Von Marwitz's plan to apprehend her quietly. Madeleine is deported, but once the boat she is on has sailed out of Swedish jurisdiction, it is stopped by a German submarine. Von Marwitz boards and arrests Madeleine for being a French spy, but his plans are once again foiled by Bob's cunning plans. Disguised as a tramp steamer, a British destroyer enters the scene and engages the submarine in battle. The Germans are defeated, Madeleine is rescued and Von Marwitz is captured. Madeleine is assured that Von Marwitz will not be shot, but will instead be detained until the end of the war, and with the hope of a future together, the lovers wave goodbye as Von Marwitz is taken aboard the destroyer.
M. Martin Harvey
A. W. Watkins
Though Leigh had made a few film appearances already, Dark Journey was her first true leading role, and she was still learning the ropes. She also was not director Victor Saville's first choice for the film. For this espionage tale set in Stockholm during World War I, in which a male German spy falls for a female French spy as they attempt to outwit one another, Saville had Conrad Veidt set for the male lead. When Saville learned that American starlet Miriam Hopkins was in Paris, he traveled there and convinced her to take the female lead. When he brought her to London, producer Alexander Korda stole her away for a film he was then casting (Men Are Not Gods, 1936). Saville protested, but Korda said, "Don't worry, Victor, I have the perfect leading lady for you, a young and most beautiful actress who has just completed a small part in Fire Over England (1937). Her name is Vivien Leigh."
Leigh and Veidt were both under contract to Korda and his London Films production company. Saville had just entered into a deal whereby Korda arranged a loan for Saville to produce and direct a handful of films for Korda to distribute. They would be shot at Korda's Denham Studios. Saville later wrote: "The following eighteen months gave me more satisfaction than any period in my fifty years of picture making. My arrangement with Korda meant full autonomy; it was up to me to choose my subjects, make them my own way. I was completely responsible and under no supervision. My loan was for 320,000 pounds, for which I was to deliver four films." Dark Journey was the first.
Saville had been nursing the idea for Dark Journey for some time in his head; now was a chance to make it. He discussed his story idea with American writer John Monk Saunders, a friend who happened to be in London at the time. Saunders offered story input, as did Korda's story editor Lajos Biro. Saville went to Sweden to research the script, and while there he befriended a retired vice navy admiral who had run the Swedish counterintelligence bureau during the war. "Not only did he give us loads of correct information that we could hang our storyline on," Saville recalled, "but I lured him to England to act as a technical adviser. He kept our wartime Stockholm correct in all details."
Vivien Leigh, in the same letter mentioned above, admitted that she didn't fully understand the complicated storyline of this film. She enjoyed working with Saville, however, because he was almost always satisfied with the first take, especially on Leigh's close-ups. Leigh photographed exquisitely in Dark Journey, not a big surprise considering her stunning natural beauty, but she was certainly helped by the work of legendary French cinematographer Georges Perinal, working here with the fine American cinematographer Harry Stradling. But Leigh saw the film as a personal failure because to her, it was not a good representation of her acting. She couldn't understand her character or the plot even when she saw the finished product, and she had no interest in being appreciated simply for her physical beauty.
This was the first of several films that Conrad Veidt made under contract to Korda. Veidt had acted in dozens of German films over the previous 17 years and was a major romantic star. Soon he'd be one of Korda's two biggest stars (along with Charles Laughton) and working with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on some of their key early films like The Spy in Black (1939), Contraband (1940), and of course The Thief of Bagdad (1940), Veidt's only color film appearance. Hollywood and Casablanca (1942) eventually followed, but Veidt would die of a heart attack in 1943.
Dark Journey received strong notices on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, the film was distributed by United Artists but did not get a wide release. Still, critics loved it, with The New York Times declaring it "swift, colorful and engagingly tangled." Variety praised the "beautiful photography," "carefully thought-out direction," and "some really thrilling encounters."
The picture was reissued in 1953 as The Anxious Years.
Producer: Victor Saville, Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Director: Victor Saville
Screenplay: Lajos Biró, Arthur Wimperis
Cinematography: Georges Périnal, Harry Stradling, Sr.
Art Direction: Andrew Andrejew, Ferdinand Bellan
Music: Richard Addinsell
Film Editing: Hugh Stewart
Cast: Conrad Veidt (Baron Karl Von Marwitz), Vivien Leigh (Madeleine Goddard), Joan Gardner (Lupita), Anthony Bushell (Bob Carter), Ursula Jeans (Gertrude), Margery Pickard (Colette), Eliot Makeham (Anatole Bergen).
by Jeremy Arnold
J.C. Allen, Conrad Veidt: From "Caligari" to "Casablanca"
Michelangelo Capua, Vivien Leigh: A Biography
Anne Edwards, Vivien Leigh: A Biography
Roy Moseley, Evergreen: Victor Saville in his Own Words
Jeffrey Richards (editor), The Unknown 1930s: An Alternative History of the British Cinema 1929-1939
Hugo Vickers, Vivien Leigh
This picture opened in London on January 30, 1937. According to modern sources, the film was reissued in 1952 under the title The Anxious Years. Modern sources add the following credits: Set Design Ferdinand Bellan and Film Editor Lionel Hoare.