International Lady
(1941), 102 minutes, b&w

Basil Rathbone, Ilona Massey and George Brent

The setting is London in 1941. During a bombing raid, Tim Hanley (George Brent), a  lawyer for the American consulate, leads his neighbor, Norwegian concert singer Carla Nillson (Ilona Massey), to a swank bomb shelter in the basement of the Barkley Hotel. Carla notices that someone is following them.  Reggie Oliver (Rathbone), a music critic, joins Carla and Tim at their table. When Tim sees the man who had been following them, he confronts him and insists on going to Scotland Yard to clear the matter up. Reggie takes Carla home and arrives at Scotland Yard a few minutes later. Reggie is in reality an inspector with Scotland Yard. The Yard suspects Carla Nillson of being a spy, and was keeping an eye on Hanley because he was spending time with Carla. Sgt. Moulton followed Hanley as a ruse to get him to Scotland Yard for questioning without detention or arrest. Much to Reggie Oliver's surprise, he learns that Tim Hanley is in reality an FBI agent who has been spending time with Miss Nillson in the hope of finding evidence of her espionage.Basil Rathbone and George Brent

Scotland Yard knows that Carla has given concerts near hidden airdrones, and that shortly afterwards the airdrones were bombed and planes destroyed. The enemy is trying to break the supply of planes from America. Hanley and Oliver have the same mission: to find evidence that proves Carla Nillson is a spy. They each hope to trace through Carla Nillson the "higher-ups" who are responsible for sabotaged planes, but they don't want to work together as a team. In fact, Hanley arranges an American visa and plane ticket to New York for Carla and whisks her off to the airport, leaving Reggie Oliver waiting in his car for her outside the American consulate. 

Not to be outsmarted, Reggie catches up with Tim and Carla in Lisbon, where they have a two-hour layover. His cover is that he's been appointed special correspondent in New York. 

In New York Reggie and Tim say good-bye to Carla, who is visiting Mr. and Mrs. Grenner, a chocolate manufacturer from Switzerland. The Grenner household is a hotbed of spies, including a Colonel Wentzel of the German army (played by George Zucco) who poses as the butler Webster. 

At the FBI office, Tim introduces Reggie to Sewell (played by Clayton Moore, who later became famous as The Lone Ranger). Reggie doesn't understand a word that is said.

Hanley: This is Rah-Rah Sewell, one of our best fullbacks. Learning to be a Dick. Inspector Oliver, Scotland Yard.
Sewell: Scotland Yard -- Gee, that sort of sends me wacky. Well, the Brain said PDQ. Better breeze in.
Oliver: He talks in code, doesn't he?
George Zucco and Basil Rathbone
Webster (George Zucco) instructs the waiter.
Rathbone in disguise

A few days later, at the Grenner house, Carla gives a concert that is broadcast over the radio; she performs new music containing a hidden code.  The message in the code tells the location of cargo ships carrying airplane parts. Both Tim Hanley and Reggie Oliver are at the concert--Tim as an invited guest and Reggie disguised as a waiter. Reggie figures out that the code is in the music when he hears Grenner tell Webster to lock it up. Deftly he switches the music and passes it to Tim Hanley, who copies the code and then places the music back in the living room.

Basil Rathbone and George Brent
Oliver and Hanley trying to break the code

Back at the FBI office, Tim and Reggie learn that the bombing planes that left Canada have been forced down in Greenland due to engine trouble, and the next batch of flying fortresses are scheduled to leave on July 5th. Then Tim gets a call from Carla, inviting him to her concert July 4th. So far neither Reggie nor Tim have been able to break the code, but that night, as Carla sings, Reggie figures it out. The location of the Champlain Granary is given in the code--Reggie goes to check it out. 

Reggie Oliver at the GranaryAfter the concert Tim and Carla have a date to watch the fireworks display from the roof garden of Carla's hotel. She knows that Webster, having learned that Tim is an FBI agent, intends to shoot Tim from a neighboring rooftop. Carla realizes that she loves Tim and cannot betray him. Throwing herself in front of him to protect him, she is shot. While Carla is rushed to the hospital, Tim follows the shooter (Webster) to the Granary. Reggie is already inside observing and listening. Tim climbs in through a window on the roof and Reggie sees him. One by one they take out enemy agents. In a climactic scene Tim saves Reggie from suffocation in a flax chute and they arrest the bad guys. 

George Brent and Basil Rathbone
Tim and Reggie get the bad guys.
Rathbone, Brent and Massey
Carla recovering in hospital

A suspenseful spy drama, "International Lady" is also liberally sprinkled with humor. The exchange of slang expressions and the confusion it causes is amusing. Whenever either Hanley or Oliver says something that the other doesn't understand, the other asks "Translation?" Reggie Oliver quotes Oscar Wilde, saying, "We have everything in common with America except language."

More pictures on Page Two.

Cast

Credits

Basil Rathbone.................Reggie Oliver
George Brent........................Tim Hanley
Ilona Massey.....................Carla Nillson
Gene Lockhart.....................Mr. Grenner
George Zucco............................Webster
Francis Pierlot........................Dr. Rowan
Martin Kosleck.............................Bruner
Charles D. Brown.........................Tetlow
Marjorie Gateson..............Mrs. Grenner
Leyland Hodgson............Sgt. Moulton
Clayton Moore.............................Sewell
Gordon de Main...........................Denby
Frederick Worlock..................Sir Henry
Jack Mulhall..........................Desk Clerk
Ralph Dunn......................................Don 
Frank Dawson..............................Dawes
William Austin..........................Stranger
Anthony Kemble-Cooper.............Tony
Production Co. ..............
       Edward Small Productions
Producer............................Edward Small
Assoc. Producer.............Stanley Logan
Director................................Tim Whelan
Screenplay...............Howard Estabrook
       (based on story by Jack DeWitt,
       E. Lloyd Sheldon)
Cinematographer....................Hal Mohr 
Editors...........................William Claxton
       Grant Whytock
Musical Director................Lud Gluskin
Original Music.........Lucien Moraweck
Art Director......John DuCasse Schulze
Costume Design..........Gwen Wakeling

Released by United Artists

Images on this page and page two are from the film "International Lady," copyright Edward Small Productions.

 

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2007