Carve Her Name With Pride

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR MOVIE PLANNER -

(1958) PG

Sun­day, 12.30pm, BBC2

‘The life that I have is all that I have. And the life that I have is yours’ – Leo Marks.

Hav­ing al­ready di­rected a se­ries of ro­bust, flag-wav­ing war movies – in a half-cen­tury-span­ning ca­reer that took in ‘women’s pic­tures’, the Swing­ing Six­ties and Bond – Lewis Gil­bert gave the genre a nudge in the right di­rec­tion with this un­ex­pected gem. It may be en­tirely de­signed to have you reach­ing for the tis­sues – punc­tu­ated as it is by Leo Marks’s sim­ple but poignant poem (above) – but Gil­bert’s tear-jerker, based on a real-life story of fe­male hero­ism is ac­tu­ally rather im­por­tant.

Over the past cou­ple of decades, women in war movies have taken an in­creas­ingly front line role, but back in the 1940s and 1950s, women were al­ways the car­ers (moth­ers, nurses, wives) or the back­room girls, with very few ex­cep­tions. Se­cret agent Vi­o­lette Szabo’s story is one of those ex­cep­tions.

Vir­ginia McKenna, in one of her most mem­o­rable roles, is Szabo, the or­di­nary An­glo-French woman in­spired to do her bit for the war ef­fort when her sol­dier hus­band is killed in North Africa – and pay­ing the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice when she is cap­tured by the Gestapo while work­ing for the Re­sis­tance be­hind en­emy lines.

The story be­hind the film

Aside from McKenna, who won a Bafta for her stoic per­for­mance, the film’s cen­tre­piece is Marks’s touch­ing 12-line verse – Vi­o­lette Szabo’s ‘poem code’.

Dur­ing the war, po­ems were is­sued to agents as a way of en­abling them to send and de­ci­pher se­cret mes­sages (where each let­ter is given a num­ber or sym­bol). In the film, Szabo chooses her poem for its per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance, but in real-life it was Marks him­self, a cryp­tog­ra­pher at the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive, who sug­gested Yours – a poem he had writ­ten in re­mem­brance of a girl­friend who had died in tragic cir­cum­stances. Marks (above) would later put his ob­vi­ous lit­er­ary tal­ents to good use by be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful play­wright and script­ing Michael Pow­ell’s now iconic se­rial-killer shocker Peep­ing Tom. Vicky Thomp­son



11.20PM, BBC1

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.