UK / 1959
Dir: Ralph Thomas
Writer: Robert Presnell Jr
Cast: Lilli Palmer, Sylvia Syms, Yvonne Mitchell, Ronald Lewis, Albert Lieven, Peter Arne, Nora Swinburne
“It is not just another war film. It is a war film with a great heart,” was how The Sunday Express described Conspiracy of Hearts. The Times said: “The screenplay by Mr Robert Presnell Jr has been well prepared, and the director, Mr Ralph Thomas, never relaxes his grip on the moments of tension.”
Set in 1943 in Italy, Mother Katharine (Lilli Palmer) and Sister Mitya (Sylvia Syms) are part of a group of nuns helping to smuggle orphaned Jewish children out of an internment camp. Their covert activities are initially aided by the camp commandant, a sympathetic Italian major (Ronald Lewis), but when he is replaced by a Nazi colonel and a lieutenant the nuns put themselves in much more danger.
A lesser known fact about the film is that the script was based on a story written by blacklisted writer Adrian Scott, one of the Hollywood Ten. Credit for the story went to Dale Pitt, but she has since confirmed that she wasn’t the author. “I fronted for Adrian,” she said. “We were friends and he asked me if I would do that for him, and I said, “Sure.” It was something that I did gladly as a favour, but I felt bad because he couldn’t have his name on it.” According to his wife, Scott “was killed by the blacklist. It was a frightening period.”