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After a well known novelist, in 1916, comes home to England from war, he learns he's been declared dead. Under an alias, Richard Ashenden, Edgar Brodie's (Sir John Gielgud) sent with a small group of peers to Switzerland as a spies: their mission's to find & kill a German secret agent. They locate the wrong man & kill him. Then find the real secret agent on board a train headed to the Middle East. The German secret agent is killed when the train wrecks. During the mission (as Ashenden) he meets Elsa Carrington (Madeleine Carroll), who helps him with the mission. Afterwards, Richard & Elsa (a spy who's been posing as his wife, Mrs. Ashenden) resign & marry.
Surprise! Alfred Hitchcock directs this little known but wonderful film. Peter Lorre plays the role as the General; Robert Young plays Robert Marvin; Percy Marmont plays Caypor; Florence Kahn plays Mrs. Caypor; Charles Carson plays "R," Lilli Palmer plays Lilli, the maid (!) & Sir Alfred Hitchcock makes his traditional cameo as a man dancing in a casino nightclub.
This film is based upon the Ashenden stories written by Somerset Maugham. Maugham claimed that what inspired these stories were his experiences as an agent during war. The National Board of Review considered this film one of the best of 1936.
Needless to write to anyone who knows 20th century history, and for those who don't, this film was certainly extra timely! Considering that Adolph Hitler was already committing mass genocidal murders of non-Aryans, while Sir Winston Churchill was giving routine speeches to Parliament under Nevil Chamberlain as Prime Minister, warning Brits about Hitler and while FDR in the US did nothing until after almost the entire Pacific Navy fleet was either destroyed or severely disabled, it's remarkable that actors and writers, directors and producers were performing through the arts eyebrow-raising films such as this~