Cast & Crew
In a French prison in 1943, habitual criminal Jean Picard is to be executed. On the way to the guillotine, however, the prison is bombed and Picard escapes. He demands a passport and money from a fellow criminal, Henri Duval. Louise, Duval's girl friend, follows Picard when he leaves, and a jealous Duval then betrays Picard to his nemesis, police detective Marcel Bonet, who recaptures Picard near the Spanish border. On the train returning to Paris, their journey is interrupted because a bridge has been blown up by the French underground. In response, the Germans arrest 100 hostages, whom they intend to kill if the saboteur does not surrender to them. Seeing a possible avenue of escape, Picard suggests that as he must die anyway, he could claim to be the saboteur and thus die for a good cause. At first Bonet is skeptical of Picard's motives and rejects the idea, but later changes his mind and tells his superiors that Picard was killed trying to escape. Picard and Bonet then survey the ruined bridge, and that night, Bonet coaches Picard so that he can convince the Germans of the truth of his claim. Meanwhile, shopkeeper Mme. Maret, whose son is a hostage, suggests that one of the villagers pretend to be the saboteur and sacrifice himself for the release of the prisoners. The villagers reject her plan, but later, when Picard and Bonet come into her shop, she decides to accuse them of sabotage. She encourages her shopgirl, Marianne, to go out with the flirtatious Picard, hoping the girl will keep him in the village until she can put her plan into action. Later that afternoon, when Picard and Bonet return to their room, the police are waiting for them. They have arrested a man they believe to be the saboteur, but they are also suspicious of these strangers. Bonet shows them his police identification and pretends that both Picard and the other man, who is the real saboteur, also belong to the Sureté, or secret police. Before they help the real saboteur to escape, Bonet questions him closely, without explaining that Picard will then use the information to bolster his own confession. As the time nears to take Picard to Paris, Bonet becomes ill and is confined to his bed. Picard takes advantage of his illness to escape, accompanied by Marianne, who warns him of the villagers' plot. The couple hides out with a farm family whose son is one of the hostages. Picard, who has genuinely fallen in love with Marianne, leaves her at the farm while he returns to Paris in order to acquire enough money to leave the country. In Paris, however, Picard goes to Bonet and asks the policeman to accompany him to Gestapo headquarters. His love for Marianne has convinced Picard to redeem his life of crime by sacrificing himself for the hostages. At Picard's request, Bonet delivers the news to Marianne. Sadly she asks Bonet what Picard was really like in his heart and Bonet responds, "He was a Frenchman."
Albert Van Antwerp
Jean Del Val
Robert E. Keane
Robert C. Fischer
Harry Hayes Morgan
Adele St. Maur
Leo F. Forbstein
Oliver S. Garretson
Jack L. Warner
Errol Flynn Adventures - OBJECTIVE, BURMA! & 4 More in the New ERROL FLYNN ADVENTURES DVD box set
Four of the five pictures in the collection were directed by Flynn's good friend Raoul Walsh, a proven master who made almost any script play well. Add solid Warner production values (give and take occasional traces of wartime austerity) and the Errol Flynn Adventures disc set is a showcase collection of our favorite matinee idol in action -- in this case, doing a lot more fighting than kissing.
In the hectic days after Pearl Harbor, it took a few months for Hollywood to figure out how to portray the war on movie screens. With newspapers reporting one bad-news headline after another, the studios were tasked to produce feel-good pictures to raise civilian spirits. Released in September of 1942, Desperate Journey is a preposterous tale of Allied derring-do behind enemy lines, with Flynn and his gung-ho buddies (including his Adventures of Robin Hood sidekick Alan Hale) making fools of the Nazis in their own back yard.
When their flight commander is killed, co-pilot Terry Forbes (Errol Flynn) crash-lands his bomber deep in the heart of Germany. After escaping from Major Otto Baumeister (Raymond Massey), Forbes and his four surviving comrades flee westward to Holland. They blow up a chemical factory, hitch a ride on Herman Goering's private railroad car and make fools out of every German in their path. Beautiful underground activist Kaethe Brahms (Nancy Coleman) helps them escape from the authorities, and they barely survive a trap set by Gestapo agents. After a breakneck car chase in Holland, the survivors see their chance -- the Germans are preparing a captured Allied bomber for a raid on London. Can our intrepid heroes hijack it and flee back home?
Any comparison to real-life commando action inside Germany will make Desperate Journey seem like total idiocy. But the movie takes itself seriously only when characters pause to deliver $10 morale speeches about the need to win or the sacrifice of "good Germans" resisting their evil leaders. The rest of the time it's a Vaudeville act, with the players telling jokes as they hoodwink the enemy. Alan Hale pesters German guards with spit-wads and laughs himself silly when his appetite is compared to Goering's. Smart aleck Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan) confuses the dimwit Major Baumeister with fast-talking word games and smart remarks. Our boys behave like the Dead End Kids, leaving the Germans standing around looking embarrassed. Escaping from these dodos is all too easy. The violence is on a par with gags in a Three Stooges movie, except that some of the straight-man comedy targets get shot dead.
Ex-child star Ronald Sinclair later became an editor for Roger Corman; this is his last movie as an actor. He plays the green recruit among the fugitives, while Arthur Kennedy's Jed Forrest constantly reminds the jolly commandos that they have a serious mission to perform. Star Errol Flynn barely gets to hold hands with Nancy Coleman, and delivers the painful verbal jokes in Arthur T. Horman's original screenplay with a breezy attitude. More than a few punch lines riff on Flynn's personal reputation. Stranded on a roadside, Terry Forbes quips, "This is the first time I ever ran out of gas while I was with two men!
Director Walsh's brisk work keeps the story from dragging, aided by Bert Glennon's glossy camerawork. The budget crunch is seen in various WB studio facilities enlisted to serve as a German chemical factory. Max Steiner's rousing score is almost too refined for this escapist frivolity. Desperate Journey achieved its mission by giving wartime audiences a chance to laugh at the enemy.
The one film in the collection not directed by Raoul Walsh, 1943's Edge of Darkness adopts an entirely different approach to laud the fierce resistance of proud Norwegian patriots. Robert Rossen's unsubtle, humorless screenplay takes every Nazi-imposed hardship in deadly earnest. A peaceful fishing town is oppressed by German occupiers aided by the owner of the local cannery (Charles Dingle), a Quisling who expects to make a profit no matter who rules Norway. Fisherman Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan are brought together by the resistance movement. Sheridan and her doctor father (Walther Huston, in an imposing beard) are distressed when her brother (John Beal), a known collaborator, returns from Oslo. The Quisling easily forces the brother to become an informer. A shipload of guns for the patriots arrives at the same time that the local commandant (Helmut Dantine) plans to execute a hundred hostages. As our heroes are forced to dig their own graves, open rebellion breaks out. The local Pastor (Richard Fraser) fires the first shot from his church tower -- with a machine gun.
The intent of Edge of Darkness is to shock the audience with oppressive Nazi measures. Every family fears for the life of a loved one taken hostage. The class-act cast (Judith Anderson, Ruth Gordon, Roman Bohnen) trembles with fear and simmers with hatred for their occupiers. In a scene that probably tips the film a bit too far, Ann Sheridan's character is raped by a loutish German soldier, in the vestibule of the church, no less. Stoic solidarity is the only response; as the screenplay emphasizes the need for a communal vengeance. The movie would probably have been better without any recognizable stars. None of these great actors is given much to do, and Errol Flynn's character is given little chance for individual expression.
The revolt of the townspeople is very much a fantasy. The Norwegians attack with guns they've never shot, overwhelming outposts until they converge on Dantine's forest headquarters. German soldiers fall like tenpins. Guilty informer John Beal atones by sacrificing himself in the heat of battle. Among the younger female cast members is the beautiful Virginia Christine, who would later become the star of Folger's coffee commercials. Up in the Nazi lair, Nancy Coleman's Polish girl is apparently kept as Helmut Dantine's "guest". She's shocked to find out that the commandant will not let her go home, and that if he tires of her she will be "turned over to the enlisted men". Some wartime propaganda films clearly received a no-questions pass from the Production Code.
Director Lewis Milestone keeps his camera moving, over-using the signature fast-trucking shot he introduced to startling effect in his classic All Quiet on the Western Front. Shot after shot rakes across lines of charging patriots, turning the camera into a machine gun. Cameraman Sid Hickox frequently employs a zoom lens, a gadget that didn't see much use until the 1960s. The technically slick movie employs plenty of unconvincing but dramatic miniatures. Told as a flashback, the story begins as Germans discover that the entire town square is covered with at least 200 dead bodies -- no survivors, no wounded, no blood. Whoever arranged the shot draped these extras around the large outdoor set so decoratively, that the scene now seems laughable.
1943's Northern Pursuit finds a better balance between action escapism and sober war rhetoric. Taking a cue from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel, a Nazi submarine disgorges a group of German spies in Hudson Bay. Thanks to their inflexible, fanatic leader Keller (Helmut Dantine), the intruders die in the frozen wastes. Keller is rescued by Canadian Mountie Steve Wagner (Flynn), but Wagner's behavior soon becomes questionable. Of German descent, Wagner listens to Keller's talk about German repatriation and defies his superiors' demands that he take a less friendly attitude to his prisoner. Wagner soon resigns under a cloud of suspicion. When Keller escapes from an internment camp, Wagner abandons his sweetheart Laura (Julie Bishop) at the altar to join the Nazi on a snowy trek into uncharted territory.
Northern Pursuit is an unpretentious thriller that allows audiences to concentrate on a game of wits in an interesting setting. Flynn's renegade hero can't stop the nefarious German infiltrators from murdering his comrades. His options disappear when his fianceé is brought along as a hostage. The intelligent screenplay shows the nasty villain defeated by his own evil nature. Keller begins with a number of willing allies, all of which soon realize that they're expendable pawns in his fanatic Nazi scheme. Keller murders his loyal aide Gene Lockhart when the man becomes too sick to travel, and likewise alienates his foolish Indian guides. Much like James Bond, Wagner survives to foil a diabolical sabotage scheme organized years before war was even declared.
The movie has suspense and intrigue and some good humor, and establishes a warm relationship between Wagner, Julie Bishop's cute girlfriend and their best buddy Jim Austin (John Ridgely). It's also an impressive production, with lavish, convincing sets representing Northern Manitoba. The avalanche sequence benefits from excellent special effects. Don Siegel is credited with special montages.
1944's Uncertain Glory delves rather awkwardly into a story of the French Occupation, offering a Nazi hostage situation as an opportunity for personal redemption. Thief and murderer Jean Picard (Flynn) escapes from the guillotine when his execution is interrupted by a timely allied bombing raid. He flees to rural France with the girlfriend (Faye Emerson) of another criminal (Sheldon Leonard) but is quickly recaptured by the brilliant, famous Inspector Bonet (Paul Lukas). Picard's return trip to the executioner is delayed by a blown-out bridge. The local Nazis will execute a hundred hostages from a small community unless the saboteur comes forward. Picard convinces Bonet that he'd rather die by a German firing squad than have his head cut off. Thinking of the hostages, Bonet breaks his vows of service and reports that Picard is dead. Amused by the opportunity to become a post-mortem hero, Picard insists that he'll go through with the bargain. But that's before he falls in love with a local girl, the lovely Marianne (Jean Sullivan).
Uncertain Glory is just unusual enough to work. Errol Flynn plays a womanizer who reforms, a choice perhaps influenced by the bad publicity from Flynn's real-life tangles with statutory rape accusations that had put his viability as a movie star in doubt. Jean Picard makes fun of his change of heart from knave to selfless patriot, continually teasing Bonet with the possibility that his conversion is just another dodge. One rather inspired church scene has Picard confessing his past crimes to Bonet. The crook can't resist exaggerating his personal record of villainy.
Laszlo Vadnay and Max Brand's suspenseful story keeps us guessing right up to the end, when it looks certain that Bonet's trust in Picard has been poorly placed. Considering the story device of the interrupted execution, we keep wondering if Uncertain Glory will have an Ambrose Bierce-style ending. Paul Lukas is sympathetic as the skilled detective who arrests Picard only a few hours after his untimely escape. Ex-ballet dancer Jean Sullivan is touching as the innocent Marianne, who seems to intuit that her mystery boyfriend's secret is related to the hostage crisis.
The filmmakers can be commended for not painting all of the French as noble lovers of democracy. When Mme. Maret (Lucile Watson) frames the outsider Picard as the saboteur in an effort to save her son taken as a hostage, the little town forms an impromptu lynch mob. What makes Uncertain Glory interesting is that its hero isn't innocent, but a confessed thief and murderer. He's somewhat comparable to James Cagney's Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces, a bad man not entirely certain why he feels compelled to do the right thing.
The most popular and acclaimed film in the collection is 1945's Objective, Burma!, a combat saga that pretty much wrote the last word on the American attitude toward the enemy in the Pacific Theater. Jungle fighting in Burma is a hellish ordeal in waist-high swamp waters, and contact with the Japanese is a nasty business of ambushes and massacres. Ranald MacDougall and Lester Cole's screenplay, from Alvah Bessie's story, avoids the most obvious of service clichés, giving the exhausted soldiers plenty of dialogue about their miserable condition. Characters aren't wounded in billing order, either. Captain Nelson (Flynn) leads commandos to destroy an enemy communications center, a mission that goes off without a hitch. When their escape route is overrun, the hardy troops must force-march across 200 miles of forbidding, enemy-infested jungle.
The movie stresses the reaction of a cross-section of Americans to the horrors of combat, including an over-aged war correspondent (Henry Hull). The strongest scenes involve the group's discovery of a Japanese atrocity. Although we don't see the corpses, it's evident that the American victims were dismembered and mutilated while alive, in an effort to gain information. The soldiers are sickened at the sight and even Nelson is moved to tears, but the final reaction to the massacre is the formation of an indignant, cold-blooded resolve to "wipe all those Japs off the face of the Earth!" The same fury is communicated to the theater audience, making the film one of the more powerful statements about the nature of warfare.
Directed by Raoul Walsh with his usual expressive economy, Objective, Burma! seems a lot shorter than its 142 minutes. It was nominated for George Amy's editing, Franz Waxman's music score and Alvah Bessie's original story. But it was met with indignation in England, where veterans' groups objected to the portrayal of the Burma campaign as an all-American fight. The controversy was big enough to cause the movie to be pulled from British release for seven years.
Warner Home Entertainment's DVD set Errol Flynn Adventures is a fat package containing excellent new transfers. After years of seeing gray 16mm TV prints, these new restorations revive the films' excellent contrast and sharp focus. Edge of Darkness once existed in damaged prints, often with its flashback bookends removed. Objective, Burma! is the only title in the collection already out on disc, but this pressing is new and not repackaged. A commentary is offered featuring Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame and Frank Thompson.
Each film is on its own disc and has been given the full Warner Night at the Movies treatment, with newsreels, trailers and short subjects from the year of its release. Military Band short subjects share space with novelty music items, and morale building shorts celebrating America's men in uniform. Burgess Meredith plays a dead-shot tail gunner for one patriotic short, and Dane Clark and Ronald Reagan show up several times each. The set also contains seven cartoons, including Robert Clampett's hilarious musical insult to Hitler, Russian Rhapsody, the non-PC classic about "Gremlins from the Kremlin". Frank Tashlin's Abbott & Costello take-off A Tale of Two Mice is here as well.
For more information about Errol Flynn Adventures, visit Warner Video. To order Errol Flynn Adventures, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Errol Flynn Adventures - OBJECTIVE, BURMA! & 4 More in the New ERROL FLYNN ADVENTURES DVD box set
Instead of delighting audiences with the vicarious thrill of eliminating Nazis en masse and striking blows for freedom loving Frenchmen, Flynn and his co-star Paul Lukas pursued more elusive prey, such as the true nature of heroism and honor in the face of overwhelming evil. The best scenes in the film include the unlikely pair debating the ethics of wartime resistance. Their discussions of the moral compromises inherent in their parallel lives as a thief and a policeman living in a captive society often veer from the serious into comic areas. The irreverent Flynn character goads his strait-laced companion further when he speculates on the likelihood of spontaneous combustion while accompanying Lukas to Mass. Despite a sometimes awkward storyline and a slower pacing than usual for a Flynn film in the Warner years, today's audiences may still find themselves intrigued by the quality of acting in this story. Directed by action master Raoul Walsh, who regarded the movie as "a quickie,"
Uncertain Glory was a propaganda piece with an unusual philosophical undercurrent, telling the story of a criminal whose last gesture was an unacknowledged bid to find meaning in his life.
Years later, in his posthumously published memoir, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Flynn claimed that "the stereotyped roles I played stamped out of me my ambition to do finer things or expect to be able to do them in Hollywood....I do not know to what extent this stereotyping... this handing me a sword and a horse... led to my rebellions, high jinks and horseplay over the globe, but I think it had plenty to do with it." When he made Uncertain Glory Flynn seemed to be more willing to take responsibility for his public image for a time, though he was unable to arrest his own self-destructive tendencies for long. This film was made just after he had signed a new seven year contract at Warner Brothers that granted him more power over the choice of story, casting and directors--as well as a share of the profits via the actor's newly formed production company. Uncertain Glory, the story of a furtive journey across Nazi-occupied France, was the first project chosen by Errol Flynn under this new arrangement. Evidence that Uncertain Glory had some personal significance for the actor came when the leading man told an interviewer that the role was "the best I've ever had."
The title of the movie, taken from Shakespeare's lines in Two Gentleman of Verona: "O, how this spring of love resembleth/ The uncertain glory of an April day; / Which now shows all the beauty of the sun, / And by and by a cloud takes all away," indicated a romantic earnestness and a certain wistful quality that appealed to the actor in the timely screenplay written by the prolific Max Brand and Hungarian-born László Vadnay, with Joe May also credited for the sometimes meandering story. Privately, a demoralized Flynn, was momentarily chastened by the lurid off-screen publicity surrounding his indictment and acquittal on statutory rape charges in 1942-1943, especially since it occurred in one of the grimmest years of the Second World War, when the course of the war seesawed precariously between the Axis and Allied powers. The scandal, which may have ended the career of most actors and that may have been rooted in internecine political fights in Los Angeles between studios and the political establishment, did increase Flynn's desire to re-establish himself as a more mature presence on screen; it also led him to play the role of a criminal whose nihilistic life is ennobled by his ultimate self-sacrifice in this movie. The results, perhaps in part because the star had more input than usual on the ever-changing script, occasionally departs from formulaic wartime propaganda, and offered some opportunities for good acting and unexpected moments of reflection from the actor. As one perceptive Flynn biographer, Thomas McNulty, noted in Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, there were moments in the movie when Flynn's "own personal troubles and the knowledge of what he was doing to himself at this point must surely have coloured his performance. Some of the scenes in the latter half of the film, where he is confronted with the ugliness of his actions and the prospect of abandonment, really ring true and one can read the resignation and despair in his eyes."
The opening scene of Uncertain Glory is set in a grim prison in Nazi-held France. An unrepentant criminal and master thief, Jean Picard (Errol Flynn), is removed from his cell and brought to the courtyard to pay the ultimate price under the blade of the guillotine for a lifetime of transgressions, including the murder of a night watchman who had been killed during his last theft. Just as Picard is about to be beheaded, a contingent of British bombers descends on the city. Miraculously, in the chaos and mayhem that ensues, the lifelong reprobate escapes from justice, fleeing through the surrounding rubble.
Picard is indifferent to which government he escapes from--the French authorities or the occupying German army--it's all the same to him. In these early scenes, the actor's own real cynicism adds to the character of Picard as he blithely places his self-interest and irreverence for all sentiment above all other considerations. The character's nihilistic attitude is evident as he disregards all the turmoil that he passes by outside the prison, intent only on avoiding detection and seeking refuge among his underworld contacts. Two of those contacts are Henri Duval (Sheldon Leonard), and Louise (Faye Emerson), a woman of easy virtue who was involved with Picard in the past. It is evident that Louise, despite her jaded manner, actually harbors stronger feelings for this beguiling if unscrupulous man. Faye Emerson, whose private life, which included a wartime marriage to FDR's son, Elliot Roosevelt, often overshadowed her acting, was then relegated to small roles at this stage of her career at Warner Brothers.
was seen as a step up for her, prompting the contract player to tell the press that playing a woman who is romanced and then jilted by the star in this movie wasn't so bad and compared to her previous bits, "Even that is an improvement."
In some of the publicity for Uncertain Glory, Errol Flynn anxiously pointed out that he had made suggestions to the screenwriters and the director about his part; adding touches to his characterization that were meant to convey Picard's duplicity and inner turmoil. While filming scenes together with Errol Flynn, utility actor Sheldon Leonard found that all the tension in the movie was not reserved for the screen. In his irreverent memoir, And the Show Goes On: Broadway and Hollywood Adventures, Leonard described Errol Flynn as "a pain in the ass."
The character actor, who had played everything from a "Mexican jailer to psychotic killers," liked to find some bit of business during rehearsal to keep his hands occupied in a scene and to add some life to his often one-dimensional roles. In one moment when sharing the frame with Flynn, Leonard had chosen to "idly tie and re-tie a long telephone cord. "While lighting was being adjusted before filming, director Raoul Walsh sidled up to Leonard and speaking softly, said "'Shel...that piece of business you've got with the telephone cord...Don't do it.'" Thinking it might have looked phony the stage-trained actor asked the director "'Why?'"
"'Errol's going to do it.'" Chagrined but acquiescent to this direction, Leonard later twirled a string of beads around his finger while delivering dialogue. Again, Leonard was quietly told that the bit was out, and informed that "'Errol's going to do it.'" Finally, after Walsh was compelled to broach this subject more than a few times with the resourceful supporting player, Sheldon Leonard wrote that he began to keep his hands firmly in his pockets from then on.
On-screen, Flynn's Picard is soon captured by Sûreté Inspector Marcel Bonet, played by character actor Paul Lukas. The role played by the Hungarian-born Lukas might initially appear to be a variation on Javert in the classic French novel, Les Misérables. Unlike that rigid fictional creation from Victor Hugo, Bonet's determination to bring his man to justice is leavened with a strong streak of French patriotism and a nuanced understanding of human nature.
The scenes between Lukas and Flynn are among the most entertaining in the dialogue-heavy film. Their bantering almost nonsensically but pointedly touch on justice, the nature of evil, self-sacrifice, and one's obligation to conscience and country. Lukas' Bonet brings a warm gravitas to his role as he enjoyed a brief co-star status with Flynn after the character actor's Oscar® winning performance as an anti-fascist in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine (1943). Lukas had earlier achieved some success in early talkies as a cosmopolitan leading man , but his supporting parts as sympathetic figures or as roués, in films such as Little Women (1933) and Dodsworth (1936), were more customary for him, and he wisely divided his time between movies and the Broadway stage.
As the pair begin their trek back to Paris by train, the captor and prisoner are compelled to pick their way through the French countryside after the French Underground bombs a bridge in their path. After 100 French hostages are threatened with death unless the saboteurs come forward, the wily Picard offers Lukas a bargain that might serve the interests of France, poetic justice, and the condemned man, who prefers a firing squad to the guillotine. Posing as the saboteur, Flynn suggests to Bonet that he turn himself in, surrendering his "fairly worthless life" for that of a French hero and saving many innocent civilian lives. All that Picard wants in exchange are a few days of freedom before the Nazi deadline passes; a prospect that is far more appealing to the gambler in Flynn's character, especially since he would like to tarry for awhile with an innocent young French country girl (Jean Sullivan) before accepting his fate.
Understandably skeptical, Lukas' character hesitates before taking a chance on the word of the criminal, whose sincerity seems so highly unlikely. Indeed, Raoul Walsh develops considerable tension during these sequences, as audiences could never be entirely sure if Flynn's restless conscience and cynicism could be transformed through exposure to the injustice of French life under the Nazis or the rather subdued love offered by Jean Sullivan as an innocent French country girl who broadens Flynn's world view a bit more. The comely Sullivan, a former UCLA student who was making her film debut in Uncertain Glory, was at her winsome best in the film when her wide-eyed purity of emotion and devotion to God and country were seen as a spur to the worldly criminal's awareness of his impact on others.
Uncertain Glory also touched on the uneasy balance between French citizens and their conquerors, showing instances when characters make personal choices that reveal their true worth, even showing some of the collaboration that existed in France as well as the compromises that survival required under the Nazis. In one example, a Frenchwoman (played by the exemplary Lucile Watson, who specialized in formidable dowager parts), betrays her avowed French loyalty when her son is under a death threat, demonstrating the frailty of human beings when faced with the moral choices involved in everyday living under the Nazis.
Uncertain Glory arrived in movie theaters just weeks before D-Day began Europe's liberation, but, unlike the raucous combat adventures shown in previous World War II collaborations between director Raoul Walsh and Errol Flynn, such as Desperate Journey (1942) and Northern Pursuit (1943), Uncertain Glory took the normally extroverted Flynn persona in a different direction that audiences and critics were not expecting. While this movie appears to have made a modest profit for Warner Brothers, Uncertain Glory received a tepid or sarcastic response from most critics, who were struck by the fact that the film's opening premise bore a striking resemblance to The Imposter (1944), an American-made Jean Gabin film about a criminal whose liberation from death in a prison and his former life also begins precisely at the moment of a convenient air raid.
Writing in The New York Times and The Pittsburgh Press respectively, both Bosley Crowther and Kaspar Monahan saw a movie formula emerging, based on viewing Passage to Marseilles (1944), The Imposter and the Flynn picture, as "once again the movies come up with the idea that the worst criminal in times of war is likely to turn noble and give up his life in behalf of his country." To the influential Crowther, Flynn remained "his boyish self, as usual, and quite remote from a faithful criminal type" while "Director Raoul Walsh has keyed it to a subdued, suspenseful pace which is suggestive of explosive tension, even if it never explodes." Other critics at the time also found that the film had a promising if underdeveloped premise, but scant attention was paid to the efforts by Flynn to attempt a fresh character. Most felt that his innate charm and inability to mask that "he is a dashing sort of fellow who plays the villain only to tease the sober-sided detective" played by Lukas. Time magazine claimed that Uncertain Glory "indulges Warner Bros.' pet delusion that Errol Flynn may play the hero, but that he is even more appealing as a heel."
What laurels were handed out for the film were awarded to Paul Lukas and for the banter between Flynn and the policeman, leading up to what was described as an "ethical problem...solved and the picture ended in what readers of A Tale of Two Cities will recognize as a brisk burst of Sydney Carton." Seen today, this Hollywood product avoids addressing the moral complexities of French life under the Vichy government and the thin line between duty and collaboration for the French, but Uncertain Glory does offer some emotional respite for the viewer, as it may have for the star, whose character struggled to believe that, as his character says, "there is a time in a man's life when he can find something bigger than himself and be ready to die for it.
Producer: Robert Buckner
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Max Brand; Laszlo Vadnay (screenplay and original story), Joe May (original story)
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Film Editing: George Amy
Cast: Errol Flynn (Jean Picard), Paul Lukas (Inspector Marcel Bonet), Lucile Watson (Mme. Maret), Faye Emerson (Louise), James Flavin (Captain of Mobile Guard), Douglas Dumbrille (Police Commissioner LaFarge), Dennis Hoey (Father Le Clerc), Sheldon Leonard (Henri Duval), Odette Myrtil (Mme. Bonet), Francis Pierlot (Father La Borde - Prison Priest), Jean Sullivan (Marianne).
BW-103m. Closed Captioning
by Moira Finnie
Crowther, Bosley, Uncertain Glory, April 8, 1944, The New York Times.
Flynn, Errol, (with Earl Conrad), My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Buccaneer Books, 1983.
Herzberg, Bob, Shooting Scripts: From Pulp Westerns to Film, McFarland, 2005.
Leonard, Sheldon, And the Show Goes On: Broadway and Hollywood Adventures, Hal Leonard Corp., 1995.
McNulty, Thomas, Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, McFarland, 2004.
Monahan, Kaspar, "Errol Flynn Playing Criminal at Penn," The Pittsburgh Press, May 12, 1944.
"Even Getting Jilted Is an Improvement," Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Feb. 23, 1944.
"Cinema: The New Pictures, Apr. 17, 1944," Time Magazine, Monday, April 17, 1944.
Walsh, Raoul, Each Man in His Time: The Life Story of a Director, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974.