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[BBC Report of Leslie Howard's Death] On Saturday, July 30, I posted on Facebook the 2014 BBC report on Leslie Howard's Death ...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Programming Note

[Leslie Howard and Kay Francis in British Agent, 1934]

British Agent (1934) to air on TCM Friday, October 28, 10:45 AM EST, 7:45 AM PST [Please check your local listings]

British Agent is a film based on the autobiography of R. H. Bruce Lockhart, a member of the British Secret Service. Lockhart's book, Memoirs of a British Agent, was also said to have inspired one of the
most successful miniseries of the 1980's, Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983), starring a very young Sam Neill. British Agent was directed by the up and coming Michael Curtiz and stars Leslie Howard and the beautiful Kay Francis in a very strong role. Also appearing is Leslie Howard's good friend, William GarganCesar Romero plays Tito Del Val. The film was produced by First National Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros.

Howard plays Stephen Locke, a British Consul General assigned to the British Embassy in Moscow. On the night of the October Revolution Locke is in Petrograd and helps a beautiful woman, Elena Moura (Kay Francis), escape from a Russian soldier she has just shot. Their meeting is brief and the two go their separate ways. After Lenin's party assumes power, most of the embassies withdraw their diplomats, but Locke is one of the few left behind in PetrogradWhile waiting for word from his government on how to proceed, Locke begins a romance with Elena. Unfortunately, however, the two are on opposing political sides. Locke then becomes involved in negotiations with the new government attempting to persuade them not to form a separate peace with Germany. He is frustrated knowing that for every Russian who stops fighting Germans a German soldier is freed up to begin fighting the Allies on the Western front. But, Elena knows his real status as a private individual and not an official representative of his government and gives him away to her friends. The movie follows their on-again, off-again romance set against the turmoil of the Revolution going on around them.

[Movie Poster British Agent, 1934]

Memoirs of a British Agent was a hugely successful novel when it was released in 1932. Warners scored the movie rights and hyped the movie as the "most important dramatic event of the year." It was the most expensive movie Warners had produced up to that time. Unfortunately, the British government was not pleased as the book was basically 300 pages on how the British government had screwed up in WWI. The Brits told Warners they had better soften the storyline or else it wouldn't play in English movie houses. That capitulation is essentially why British Agent isn't rated higher by today's critics. They see the movie as a missed opportunity. Although Leonard Maltin gave the film only one and a half stars out of four, most viewers give the film at least four stars out of five on the TCM website. The movie was very popular when it was released and Leslie Howard fans will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.

[British Agent Trailer, 1934]

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