Passport to Destiny


1h 3m 1944
Passport to Destiny

Brief Synopsis

A British war widow travels to Berlin to assassinate Hitler.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dangerous Journey, Passport to Adventure
Genre
Comedy
Drama
War
Release Date
Jan 1944
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 25 Feb 1944
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 3m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

London scrubwoman Ella Muggins reminisces about her late husband, Sergeant Major Albert Muggins, a spinner of tall tales. Then while cleaning the attic one day, Ella opens a trunk and finds the magic eye that her husband claimed would protect its bearer from all harm. Ella remains skeptical about the powers of the eye until it "saves her life" during an air raid. Convinced that the eye will render her invincible, Ella decides to go to Berlin and assassinate Hitler. Carrying her washbucket, Ella stows away onboard a ship bound for the continent. Forced to abandon ship when the vessel is attacked by German bombers, Ella and the crew board a lifeboat and paddle across the English Channel. When they land, German soldiers arrest the crew, but Ella hides in the bottom of the boat and escapes capture. Posing as a deaf and dumb cleaning woman, Ella scrubs her way across the continent to Germany. On a train bound for Berlin, she overhears a conversation between Franz Von Weber, a German officer, and his uncle Frederick Hausmeister. When Frederick warns Franz, a member of the underground, that his sweetheart Grete has been imprisoned for her political activities, Franz vows to free her. Upon arriving in Berlin, Ella follows Hitler's guards to his headquarters and, posing as a deaf and dumb charwoman, she wins the sympathy of the officers and is awarded a job. When Ella overhears Karl Dietrich, the German commandant, discussing Grete's imprisonment in the Mobic jail, she passes the information to Franz by writing the words "Grete-Mobic" with a bar of soap on the floor. Curious, Franz waits for Ella to leave work that day, and when he hears her singing, he approaches her. Ella informs Franz that his sweetheart is being held at the Mobic jail and gives him her magic eye for protection, imploring him to return it to her later that night. At the prison, Franz orders that Grete be released into his custody, and Dietrich instructs his men to comply. Hoping that Franz will lead them to other members of the underground, Dietrich orders him followed. The soldiers trail him to Ella's room, where he asks her to use the magic eye to secure some travel permits. After Franz arranges for his uncle to pick up the permits at headquarters, Ella borrows his gun to shoot Hitler. The next day, Ella is watched by Dietrich and Lord George Haw Haw, a British traitor who has been broadcasting German propaganda into England. After stealing the permits, Ella passes them to Frederick, who is promptly arrested by the gestapo. To trap Ella, Dietrich removes the guards from Hitler's door, luring her into his office. Inside the office, Ella rehearses her plan to kill Hitler, which is overheard on the intercom by Dietrich. When Lord Haw Haw enters the office to beg Ella to help him escape from Germany, Dietrich appears and confronts them. After Dietrich's men disarm Ella, she is taken to his office for questioning. There she is joined by Frederick, Franz and Grete, who have also been arrested. After confiscating Ella's lucky eye, Dietrich begins to interrogate Franz. Taunting Ella about the silly superstitions of the English, Dietrich contemptously returns the eye. At that moment, British bombers attack. In the raid, Frederick is killed, but Ella, Franz and Grete escape and speed to the airport, where Franz hijacks a plane and flies them to London. Ella is hailed as a hero and is interviewed by the press. Asked by the reporters where she found the magic eye, Ella takes them to the attic, and when she opens the trunk, she discovers a box full of eyes.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dangerous Journey, Passport to Adventure
Genre
Comedy
Drama
War
Release Date
Jan 1944
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 25 Feb 1944
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 3m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Passport to Destiny


Can a magic glass eye save the world from the evil wrought by the Nazis? Not bloody likely - at least not outside the world portrayed in Ray McCarey's whimsical wartime parable Passport to Destiny (1944). Elsa Lanchester plays a lowly London cleaning woman who, believing she's protected by a lucky charm that once belonged to her late husband, treks to Berlin to put a bullet in Der Fuehrer and end all this bothersome war business once and for all. The glass eye, of course, isn't really what's protecting her. The overarching idea behind the picture is that bravery is what counts: Facing adversity with fearlessness is the only way to conquer it.

Passport to Destiny is a strange little curio, a low-budget what-if fantasy. It's unusual in that it's one of Lanchester's few starring roles. The actress, born in London in 1902, first appeared onstage at the age of 20. She'd trained as a dancer with Isadora Duncan, and as a young woman she established a musical dance club, did some modeling, ran a children's theater, and published a magazine (although she was its only contributor). Lanchester also ran an after-hours cabaret called The Cave of Harmony, which was frequented by British literary luminaries like Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh, as well as by the film director James Whale, who was working in London at the time (and who would later help shape Lanchester's most famous role in the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein.)

Vibrant, saucy and clearly intelligent, Lanchester was a sparkling figure in the London entertainment scene of the 1920s. The English novelist and journalist Arnold Bennett described this young entertainer and bon vivant as "very young, with a lovely complexion, a wonderful shock of red hair and a rather queerly blunted nose . . . full of virginal inventiveness and distinction." By the late 1920s, she was working almost exclusively as a film actress, and when she married actor and director Charles Laughton, in 1929, she was better known than he was. The two came to Hollywood together for the first time in 1932, though Lanchester would not settle permanently there until 1939. And though the union between Laughton and Lanchester was fraught with significant problems and potential deal-breakers - he was a homosexual, and his career success eventually eclipsed hers - the two remained married until his death in 1962.

In Hollywood, Lanchester - that stunning, now iconic turn in Bride of Frankenstein aside - appeared mostly in small character roles, in pictures like George Cukor's 1935 David Copperfield. Passport to Destiny gave her the rare chance to show off her comic gifts, and hints at her background as a dancer as well - Lanchester moves through the picture with remarkable agility and grace, as if it were a dance role as much as a comic one. Lanchester's feisty charwoman, Ella Muggins, may come from humble origins, but by the time she makes it to Berlin, and to Gestapo headquarters, masquerading as a deaf-mute (the better to overhear Nazi secrets), her self-confidence and bravery are already well-proven. She thinks she's safe because she has that glass eye in her possession - the alleged magic of this talisman is explained in an early scene, as Ella recounts some of the wilder adventures of her late husband to a few of her fellow charwoman friends. (When she points to a picture of the fellow hanging above the mantelpiece, we see a pompous, uniformed caricature of Laughton himself.) Lanchester's Ella, with her scrub brush and washbucket in tow, performs several unassuming but heroic deeds, and she's always a joy to watch, hitching up her skirts as she sashays nonchalantly out of a Nazi pooh-bah's office or expressing both dismay and wonder at finding herself in an airplane for the first time. The Nazis in Passport to Destiny aren't comic-book villains; if anything, they're strangely reasonable, even overtly accommodating. But realism, of course, isn't the point here. Passport to Destiny is a showcase for Lanchester's myriad gifts, and a reminder that she was much more than the wife of one famous man - and one famous monster.

Producer: Herman Schlom
Director: Ray McCarey
Screenplay: Muriel Roy Bolton, Val Burton
Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie
Music: Roy Webb
Film Editing: Robert Swink
Cast: Elsa Lanchester (Ella), Gordon Oliver (Franz), Lenore Aubert (Grete), Lionel Royce (Dietrich), Gavin Muir (Lord Haw Haw), Lloyd Corrigan (Professor Walthers)
BW-65m.

By Stephanie Zacharek
Passport To Destiny

Passport to Destiny

Can a magic glass eye save the world from the evil wrought by the Nazis? Not bloody likely - at least not outside the world portrayed in Ray McCarey's whimsical wartime parable Passport to Destiny (1944). Elsa Lanchester plays a lowly London cleaning woman who, believing she's protected by a lucky charm that once belonged to her late husband, treks to Berlin to put a bullet in Der Fuehrer and end all this bothersome war business once and for all. The glass eye, of course, isn't really what's protecting her. The overarching idea behind the picture is that bravery is what counts: Facing adversity with fearlessness is the only way to conquer it. Passport to Destiny is a strange little curio, a low-budget what-if fantasy. It's unusual in that it's one of Lanchester's few starring roles. The actress, born in London in 1902, first appeared onstage at the age of 20. She'd trained as a dancer with Isadora Duncan, and as a young woman she established a musical dance club, did some modeling, ran a children's theater, and published a magazine (although she was its only contributor). Lanchester also ran an after-hours cabaret called The Cave of Harmony, which was frequented by British literary luminaries like Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh, as well as by the film director James Whale, who was working in London at the time (and who would later help shape Lanchester's most famous role in the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein.) Vibrant, saucy and clearly intelligent, Lanchester was a sparkling figure in the London entertainment scene of the 1920s. The English novelist and journalist Arnold Bennett described this young entertainer and bon vivant as "very young, with a lovely complexion, a wonderful shock of red hair and a rather queerly blunted nose . . . full of virginal inventiveness and distinction." By the late 1920s, she was working almost exclusively as a film actress, and when she married actor and director Charles Laughton, in 1929, she was better known than he was. The two came to Hollywood together for the first time in 1932, though Lanchester would not settle permanently there until 1939. And though the union between Laughton and Lanchester was fraught with significant problems and potential deal-breakers - he was a homosexual, and his career success eventually eclipsed hers - the two remained married until his death in 1962. In Hollywood, Lanchester - that stunning, now iconic turn in Bride of Frankenstein aside - appeared mostly in small character roles, in pictures like George Cukor's 1935 David Copperfield. Passport to Destiny gave her the rare chance to show off her comic gifts, and hints at her background as a dancer as well - Lanchester moves through the picture with remarkable agility and grace, as if it were a dance role as much as a comic one. Lanchester's feisty charwoman, Ella Muggins, may come from humble origins, but by the time she makes it to Berlin, and to Gestapo headquarters, masquerading as a deaf-mute (the better to overhear Nazi secrets), her self-confidence and bravery are already well-proven. She thinks she's safe because she has that glass eye in her possession - the alleged magic of this talisman is explained in an early scene, as Ella recounts some of the wilder adventures of her late husband to a few of her fellow charwoman friends. (When she points to a picture of the fellow hanging above the mantelpiece, we see a pompous, uniformed caricature of Laughton himself.) Lanchester's Ella, with her scrub brush and washbucket in tow, performs several unassuming but heroic deeds, and she's always a joy to watch, hitching up her skirts as she sashays nonchalantly out of a Nazi pooh-bah's office or expressing both dismay and wonder at finding herself in an airplane for the first time. The Nazis in Passport to Destiny aren't comic-book villains; if anything, they're strangely reasonable, even overtly accommodating. But realism, of course, isn't the point here. Passport to Destiny is a showcase for Lanchester's myriad gifts, and a reminder that she was much more than the wife of one famous man - and one famous monster. Producer: Herman Schlom Director: Ray McCarey Screenplay: Muriel Roy Bolton, Val Burton Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie Music: Roy Webb Film Editing: Robert Swink Cast: Elsa Lanchester (Ella), Gordon Oliver (Franz), Lenore Aubert (Grete), Lionel Royce (Dietrich), Gavin Muir (Lord Haw Haw), Lloyd Corrigan (Professor Walthers) BW-65m. By Stephanie Zacharek

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of this picture were Dangerous Journey and Passport to Adventure. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was rushed into production to capitalize on the Allied forces moving into Germany. Gordon Oliver was borrowed from David O. Selznick Productions and Lenore Aubert from Samuel Goldwyn's company to appear in the film.