2 September 2019 | boblipton
How Do You Play A Legend?
Edith Cavell was the daughter of an Anglican parson. After nursing her father, she became a professional nurse, and was instrumental in establishing that profession in Belgium, For the better part of the first year of the Great War, she helped British and French soldiers cross enemy lines from Belgium into France. Eventually she was caught, tried, and sentenced to death by a military tribune. The night before her death, she said "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." Edith Cavell was shot by a firing squad on October 12, 1915.
Those are the bare facts of Miss Cavell's life. After the War, her remains were buried at Norwich Cathedral, and her day on the Anglican Calendar of Saints is October 12. There are memorials to her throughout England, the best known near Trafalgar Square.
There were four films released about her during the War. Although I have seen none of them, I don't doubt they all had a strong propaganda message. There is a message in this movie, directed by Henry Wilcox and starring Sybil Thorndike. The message is that war is a terrible machine that grinds good people in its gears.
Miss Thorndike plays Miss Cavell like an irresistible battleship. She only allows emotions to show through on a very few occasions: with wounded men, with the Anglican priest the night before her execution and, subtly, with a soldier who refuses to fire on her at her execution. She is given no backstory. She just appears, does her thing, and disappears from the film as the soldiers prepare to shoot at her. It's an interesting choice.