Best known for his screenplay (co-written with Frank Launder) for The Lady Vanishes, one of Hitchcock's '30s era gems, writer Sidney Gilliat also enjoyed a 30-year directing career beginning in the early '40s. Green for Danger is probably Gilliat's best known and regarded effort, and, in its lightness of touch, it feels of a piece with the aforementioned Hitchcock thriller. But, while Hitchcock never cared for whodunits, Gilliat (along with co-writer Claude Guerney) fashioned a nifty and entertaining one in Green for Danger, based on Christianna Brand's novel and using the WWII-besieged English countryside as his backdrop. The physical and psychological toll of the war informs the jaded mood of Danger's hospital staff, the interrelationships among the doctors and nurses, and even their medical ethics.
In a country hospital, a patient dies during a routine operation. The presiding Dr. Barnes (Trevor Howard) is baffled by it. It's not enough that he gets a tongue-lashing from his superiors, but his fiancée, Nurse Linley (Sally Gray), brusquely calls off their engagement and falls into the arms of the resident cad, Mr. Eden (Leo Genn). We also find Eden, for some mysterious reason, trying to talk one of the nurses -- a meek and excitable one named Sanson (Rosamund John) -- into leaving the hospital.
While Barnes, Eden, and company are scratching their heads over the operating-room death, the nurse Sister Bates (Judy Campbell) drops a bomb, saying it was no accident, and, if that weren't enough, she knows who murdered the patient. Bates' words are fraught with pain and jealousy, having earlier spied her ex-lover Eden's tryst with Linley. After her outburst, Bates is found dead too, sending the whole ward into a tizzy of panic and suspicion. The temperature thus raised, Gilliat brings in his secret weapon, Alastair Sim, to sift through this soap opera of shady motives and counter motives.
Familiar to most of us as the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge in 1951's A Christmas Carol, Sim was part of that pantheon which also included Alec Guinness and Margaret Rutherford, the great British character actors during that country's golden age of film comedy. Adept in everything from broad farce (The Belles of St. Trinian's) to more subtly comic outings like Green for Danger (and A Christmas Carol), Sim is one of those actors who are a pleasure to watch regardless of the quality of the larger material. As Inspector Cockrill, assigned to the case of the dead patient and the nurse who knew too much, Sim's performance helped create the mold of the deceptively buffoonish, shrewdly observant detective that became the genre standard in many latter-day mystery comedies (Peter Falk's Columbo comes to mind, off hand).
Gilliat and Guerney's script weaves in the requisite red herrings to throw Cockrill (and us) off at every turn. If it isn't Mr. Eden's shifty sexual politics, it's Dr. Barnes' iffy track record in the operating room, or the fact that the innocent-looking Nurse Woods (Megs Jenkins) has a Nazi stooge for a twin sister. Finally, though, it's the specter of the war that haunts Danger, namely the grief and guilt that survivors feel over the loss of loved ones. It's a poignant way to incorporate topical matters into what is otherwise an intelligently made but down-the-line mystery yarn. Gilliat's direction burnishes Danger to a fine polish, but it's Sim's adroit seriocomic performance that makes it the quintessential British murder mystery of the period.
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Monday 3rd November 1947
Distributed by: Eagle-Lion Distributors Limite
Production compaines: Individual Pictures, General Film Distributors, Eagle-Lion Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Sidney Gilliat
Producer: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder
Screenwriter: Sidney Gilliat, Claude Guerney
Starring: Leo Genn as Mr. Eden, Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill, Trevor Howard as Dr. Barnes, Sally Gray as Nurse Freddi Linley, Rosamund John as Nurse Esther Sanson, Judy Campbell as Sister Marion Bates, Megs Jenkins as Nurse Woods, Ronald Adam as Dr. White, George Woodbridge as Detective Sgt. Hendricks, John Rae as Porter, Henry Edwards as Mr. Purdy, Moore Marriott as Joseph Higgins