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Green for Danger (1946)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Green for Danger (1946)
35mm, black and white, 93 mins
Directed bySidney Gilliat
Production CompanyIndividual Pictures
 Independent Producers
Produced byFrank Launder, Sidney Gilliat
Screenplay bySidney Gilliat, Claude Guerney
Original novelChristianna Brand
Director of PhotographyWilkie Cooper

Cast: Sally Gray (Nurse Freddi Linley); Trevor Howard (Dr 'Barney' Barnes); Rosamund John (Nurse Esther Sanson); Alastair Sim (Inspector Cockrill); Leo Genn (Mr Eden)

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Inspector Cockrill investigates a series of murders at an emergency hospital during the Second World War.

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Adapted from a novel by Christianna Brand, one of six humorous whodunits featuring Inspector Cockrill of the Kent County Police, Green For Danger (d. Sidney Gilliat, 1947) considerably alters Brand's story and its protagonist.

Originally set in a military hospital during the Blitz in 1941, the film relocates the action to a civilian emergency hospital during the doodlebug campaign of 1944. The major changes in Gilliat and Claude Guerney's screenplay, however, were reserved for the main character. Although Launder and Gilliat made a number of thrillers over the years, Gilliat disliked whodunits, and hoped to largely remove that element from the plot, but Brand's original story was too carefully constructed to survive without it. Their solution, as Gilliat later recalled, was to "make capital of the very clich├ęs of the detective novel".

To this end they structured the screenplay so that the first third set up the mystery in a traditional fashion, though undercutting it somewhat with a wry voice-over. When Inspector Cockrill arrives, most of the viewer's assumptions, about the characters and the mystery genre, start to unravel.

They turned Cockrill into the narrator and cast the comic actor Alastair Sim in the role. The film subtly guys the whole genre, with the Inspector frequently proved wrong and even partly responsible for the last death. In one priceless scene, he smugly turns to the last page of a mystery novel to find that he has incorrectly guessed the identity of the murderer.

Green For Danger is a remarkable mixture of sly comedy and genuine thrills, with the sardonic and sarcastic humour of the protagonist providing a good counterpoint to the darkly atmospheric surroundings of the hospital - shot with considerable panache by Launder and Gilliat's regular cameraman Wilkie Cooper. This is seen at its best in the night-time sequence in which the various characters roam around the hospital grounds before one of them meets her end at the hands of a spectral murderer dressed in a surgical gown. Except for two establishing shots at the beginning of the story, the film was shot entirely inside Pinewood studios, including all the 'exteriors'. The result is probably Gilliat's most visually accomplished and controlled film as director.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. 'I know who did it!' (4:33)
2. Enter Cockrill (2:54)
3. Cockrill at work (1:55)
4. Moonlit encounter (2:27)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Cooper, Wilkie (1911-2001)
Edwards, Henry (1883-1952)
Gilliat, Sidney (1908-1994)
Howard, Trevor (1913-1988)
Launder, Frank (1906-1997)
Morris, Oswald (1915-)
Proud, Peter (1913-1989)
Sim, Alastair (1900-1976)
Launder and Gilliat