UK / 1948
Director: Anthony Asquith
Writers: Terence Rattigan, Anatole de Grunwald Based on the stage play by Terence Rattigan
Cast: Robert Donat, Cedric Hardwicke, Margaret Leighton, Basil Radford, Kathleen Harrison, Francis L Sullivan, Marie Lohr, Jack Watling
The film was based on Rattigan’s West End and Broadway stage play which, in turn, derived from a famous British Court trial, the Archer-Shee case. The case in question was that of a young naval cadet who, just prior to World War One, was expelled from Osborne, accused of having stolen a five shilling postal order. The dogged perseverance of his father and the forensic skills of Sir Edward Carson resulted in the boy’s name finally being cleared.
Robert Donat, playing the Sir Edward Carson role (here called Sir Robert Morton), acquitted himself superbly in a difficult role that was the lynch pin of the movie despite the fact that it was a relatively short part. Margaret Leighton made her screen debut in The Winslow Boy , playing the accused boy’s sister who loses her pompous fiancé when the case plunges the family into notoriety; Basil Radford is first rate as the middle-aged solicitor, Marie Lohr gives the mother a gentle credibility and Kathleen Harrison, using her archetypal cockney persona to excellent effect, gives a marvellous performance in the speech in which she describes the final triumph in court. And Neil North, as the young boy whose expulsion from Osborne triggers off the drama, handles his role with commendable authority.
The Daily Herald called it “one of the best British films in months… To Anthony Asquith, my compliments on a fine job of direction.” “It is first-class entertainment”, noted The Daily Telegraph , “the principle – the right of the individual to redress even from the Government – was never more tremendous than now. Only a clod could see this film without excitement, laughter and some slight moisture about the eyes.”