25 November 2005 | mail-671
A lesson in Hun diplomacy
Before her popular "London Suite" escapism of the late 40s Anna Neagle achieved early fame for her biopics - Nell Gwyn, Queen Victoria & Amy Johnson portrayed with dignity & feeling,when necessary. This was even more evident in Edith Cavell under the sincere & sympathetic direction of husband,Herbert Wilcox. Her martyrdom & heroism to both her calling & beliefs that "patriotism is not enough" was commemorated after WW1 with the erection of a famed statue in London's Charing X Road,still there, so in the film the ending was never in doubt. Wilcox repeated his 1928 "Dawn" with Sybil Thorndyke without histrionics or dramatics and a bunch of popular stars in more untypical reserved roles except George Sanders who was getting into his stride after "Lancer Spy" as the stiff,autocratic Hun determined to uphold the intransigency of the "rules of war" & expediency irrespective of pleadings of British diplomats up to the very last and the decision of the court-martial against this dignified British nurse - all of which Kubrick later reflected so vividly in "Paths Of Glory". It is interesting to compare the Hun his descendant/counterpart, the Nazi and his downfall - each had their degrees of corporate conquest & world domination whatever the cost. The basic tale of Nurse Cavell running her small Belgian underground escape route for soldiers & fliers under the noses of the enemy is narrated in brief factual episodes. The short closing scenes of her arrest,brief imprisonment,quick execution & memorial service in Westminster Abbey are moving & dignified as directed by Wilcox, a name in high regard among British filmgoers for almost 20 years irrespective of their unfortunate later bankruptcy. By this time Anna Neagle's figure & appearance as a dancer had changed noticeably since her earlier buxom parts in such as "The 3 Maxims"(Later remade as "Trapeze")doing very realistically what Betty Hutton did very realistically later for de Mille. Regrettably, many copies of this rarely seen film have deteriorated especially the sound track which can be muffled & inaudible. Happily,my video copy was taped before it reached this state.