State Secret is a 1950 British drama film directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Olga Lowe and Herbert Lom. It was made at Isleworth Studios with Italian location shooting in Trento and the Dolomites. It was released in the United States under the title The Great Manhunt.
John Marlowe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is an American surgeon visiting England when he is invited to Vosnia, a small European country speaking Vosnian, somewhat like Esperanto. He finds that he is to operate on the Vosnian dictator. The dictator dies but is replaced by a look-alike. As one of the few who know, Marlowe is hunted by the country's secret police.
Marlowe flees and seeks the help of Lisa Robinson (Glynis Johns). They blackmail smuggler Karl Theodor (Herbert Lom) into helping them. They are pursued across the country and are on the point of escaping when one of Karl's men, who is leading them in their escape across the mountains, is shot by a border guard and killed and Lisa is wounded. Marlowe could escape without her but stays.
Government minister (Minister of Health, Minister of Public Services and Minister for State Security) Colonel Galcon (Jack Hawkins) arranges a "shooting accident" for Marlowe but, as he is about to walk outside to his fate, the false dictator is heard making a live speech on the radio. Shots are heard and Marlowe goes back inside the building. Galcon confirms by telephone that the stand-in has been assassinated.
Marlowe and Galcon discuss the situation, and Galcon realises that it may be over for him. As the people have witnessed the death of the "dictator", it is no longer necessary to maintain the cover-up. Marlowe and Robinson are released and fly to freedom.
Gilliat got the idea for making the film from a newspaper article he read shortly before World War Two. He decided it would make a "chase thriller" in the style of films he had written for Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed, notably The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich.
A "Vosnian" language was constructed for the film by a linguistics expert, combining Latin and Slavic.
The star role went to Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, who had made a number of British films in the 1930s and was keen to work in the country again. His casting was announced in May 1949.
Fairbanks later said "We have definitely reached a One World status in pictures. British comedy and character acting do not seem remote to us any more."
In July it was announced that another Hollywood star would play the female lead but by August British actor Glynis Johns got the role.
Filming began in August 1949. Although there was some filming done at Isleworth Studios in London, Gilliat wanted to make as much of the film on location. There was eight weeks on location filming, in Trento and the Dolomites. Trento stood in for the fictitious capital. Filming finished by November 1949.
Fairbanks later said filming was difficult as some in Italy thought the film was anti-communist while others said it was pro-communist, and the film unit had to avoid riots.
In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote, "... this picture is just about as lively as they come, and under Mr. Gilliat's direction, it moves like an auto gaining speed ... Beautifully photographed in Italian cities and in the Italian Dolomites, the whole adventure has the eminent advantage of a sparkling Continental atmosphere. And it also has the advantage of good performance by all concerned—by Mr. Fairbanks as the kidnapped surgeon, looking a little like Eugene O'Neill; by Miss Johns, very saucy and explosive, as the music-hall girl; by Jack Hawkins as the Vosnian premier [sic], with an Oxford accent and a Nazi attitude; by Herbert Lom as the Balkan shyster and any number of others in small roles."
Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1950. It was one of five successful movies from London Films that year, the others being The Wooden Horse, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Odette and Seven Days to Noon. According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winners' at the box office in 1950 Britain were The Blue Lamp, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Annie Get Your Gun, The Wooden Horse, Treasure Island and Odette, with "runners up" being Stage Fright, White Heat, They Were Not Divided, Trio, Morning Departure, Destination Moon, Sands of Iwo Jima, Little Women, The Forsythe Saga, Father of the Bride, Neptune's Daughter, The Dancing Years, The Red Light, Rogues of Sherwood Forest, Fancy Pants, Copper Canyon, State Secret, The Cure for Love, My Foolish Heart, Stromboli, Cheaper by the Dozen, Pinky, Three Came Home, Broken Arrow and Black Rose.
State Secret was less popular in the US but Fairbanks Jr. said "I thought I did my best work ever; Sidney really kept the pot boiling."
|Darsteller:||Douglas Fairbanks junior|
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