AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Tonight We Raid Calais
Alternate Title: Secret Mission
Director: John Brahm (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Apr 1943
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 25 Mar 1943
Production Date:   7 Oct--mid-Nov 1942; retakes 13 Dec--14 Dec 1942
Duration (in mins):   70
Duration (in feet):   6,313
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Annabella (Odette Bonnard)  
    John Sutton (Geoffrey Carter)  
    Lee J. Cobb (Monsieur Bonnard)  
    Beulah Bondi (Madame Bonnard)  
    Blanche Yurka (Widow Grelieu)  
    Howard Da Silva (Sergeant Conrad Block)  
    Marcel Dalio (Jacques Grandet)  
    Ann Codee (Madame Grandet)  
    Nigel de Brulier (Danton)  
    Robert Lewis (Maurice Bonnard)  
    Richard Derr (Captain)  
    Leslie Denison (Captain Baird)  
    Billy Edmunds (Bellringer)  
    Reginald Sheffield (Commander)  
    John Banner (Kurz)  
    Leslie Vincent (English pilot)  
    Robert O. Davis (Lieutenant)  
    George Lynn (Lieutenant)  
    Carmen Beretta (Daughter)  
    Eula Morgan (Daughter)  
    Jeanine Crispin (Daughter)  
    Maria Belmar (Daughter)  
    Christiane Tourneur (Madame Bouchet)  
    Max Willenz (Freville)  
    Major Fred Farrell (Old Frenchman)  
    Hans von Morhart (Braum)  
    Charles McGraw (Corporal)  
    Ernst Hausman (Young Nazi guard)  
    Arno Frey (German soldier)  
    Sven-Hugo Borg (German soldier)  
    Sam Waagenaar (German soldier)  
    Kurt Kreuger (German soldier)  
    Otto Reichow (German soldier)  
    Guy Kingsford (Bombadier)  
    Patrick O'Moore (Pilot)  
    Frederick Giermann (Sentry)  
    Louis Donath (Sentry)  
    Alfred Zeisler (Sentry)  
    Hans Wollenberger (Sentry)  

Summary: English commando Geoffrey Carter is chosen to undertake a dangerous mission to a small town near Calais, where the Germans have an important munitions factory. Carter kills two German sentries during the trip, after which he hides at the farm of Monsieur and Madame Bonnard. There Carter overhears German sergeant Conrad Block pressuring the Bonnards' pretty daughter Odette to become his "housekeeper." Odette spurns his advances, but cannot afford to be unkind to him, for he knows that she illegally keeps a goat to provide milk for her orphaned nephew. The next morning, Bonnard and Odette find Carter in the barn, but because he hides near the goat, keep his presence a secret when a German patrol searches for him. Once aware that Carter is an English commando, Odette, bitter because her brother Pierre was killed in the British attack at Oran, wishes to turn him in. Bonnard insists that they help him, however, and tells him that he can impersonate Pierre, who is known to be dead by the townspeople but not by the Germans. After being instructed in Pierre's habits, Carter goes to town, where he meets with Pierre's best friend, Jacques Grandet. Jacques works in the munitions factory and tells Carter how to distinguish it from the four phony buildings erected by the Germans to fool RAF bombers. The factory is surrounded by fields owned by Bonnard, his miserly brother Maurice, the Widow Grelieu and her three daughters, and Monsieur Danton. Carter persuades the land owners to create a fire break so that he can set a fire around the factory that night, thereby creating a target for the RAF's attack. Carter is confronted by Block, but uses Block's fraternization with Odette to get him in trouble with Commandant Hauptmann. The commandant orders Block to prove his charge that Carter is the commando, which Block does by gently persuading Madame Bonnard to show him photographs of the real Pierre. The Bonnards are arrested, and despite Odette's pleas, Bonnard remains determined to make any sacrifice necessary to defeat the Nazis. Hauptmann tells Odette that he will be lenient if she locates Carter, but after she helps to have Carter, Danton and the Grelieu women arrested, he orders that her parents be executed by a firing squad. Overwhelmed by remorse, Odette questions Maurice about Carter's plans and learns about the impending raid. Meanwhile, Carter is interrogated by Hauptmann and tells him that he planted a bomb in the factory, which causes Hauptmann to send in German soldiers to investigate and evacuate the building. Soon after, Odette arrives at the jail where Carter and the others are being held and frees them after killing Block. The conspirators then race to the fields, which they burn just in time to alert the RAF. The bombing mission is successful, especially as the factory is full of German soldiers rather than French workers. Odette rushes home to her nephew and asks Carter to take him to England. Carter, who must first rendezvous with English troops in Calais, offers to take Odette also, but she insists that she must stay and fight for her country. Carter assures her that soon he and many others like him will return, and Odette replies that many more like her will be waiting. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: John Brahm (Dir)
  Hal Herman (Asst dir)
  Robert Lewis (Dial dir)
Producer: William Goetz (Exec prod)
  AndrĂ© Daven (Prod)
Writer: Waldo Salt (Scr)
  L. Willinger (Orig story)
  Rohama Lee (Orig story)
Photography: Lucien Ballard (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Russell Spencer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Allen McNeil (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
Costumes: Billy Livingston (Cost)
Music: Emil Newman (Mus)
  Cyril J. Mockridge (Mus)
Sound: Alfred Bruzlin (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Make Up: Guy Pearce (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Roger Woog (Tech adv)
  Al Mazzola (Grip)
  Harry Brand (Dir of pub)
Stand In: Jerry Pyne (Stand-in for John Sutton)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 30/4/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12195

PCA NO: 8901
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): English
  France--History--German occupation, 1940-1945
  Soldiers
  Transformation
  Undercover operations
  World War II--Resistance movements
 
Subjects (Minor): Betrayal
  Bombing, Aerial
  Cowardice
  Executions
  Family honor
  Family relationships
  Farms
  Fires
  Germans
  Goats
  Great Britain. Air Force
  Impersonation and imposture
  Infants
  Lechery
  Munitions factories
  Patriotism
  Photographs
  Widows

Note: The working titles of this film were Project 47 , Project No. 47 and Secret Mission . The MPH review commented about the final title: "Why the film carries its current title is a mystery, however. There is no bombing of Calais." According to HR news items, former Twentieth Century-Fox secretary Rohama Lee, who is credited onscreen with original story, was to collaborate on the screenplay with Arthur Caesar, but the extent of Caesar's contribution to the completed film has not been determined. Lee received her first onscreen credit for this film. Bryan Foy was originally set as the producer of the picture, which, according to a May 1942 HR news item, was to be directed by Louis King. In Sep 1942, HR stated that Edward Ludwig would direct the picture, and that as a result of being assigned other duties by the studio, Foy would be replaced by Andre Daven as the film's producer. Kenneth Gamet was then assigned to work on the screenplay, but the extent of his contribution to the finished film has not been determined.
       According to a 2 Oct 1942 HR news item, Henry Rowland was being considered for a leading role. Cast and crew information for the 1943 Twentieth Century-Fox picture Chetniks! is listed by mistake in the 9 Oct 1942 HR production chart. Tonight We Raid Calais marked the screen debut of Group Theatre actor and director Robert Lewis, who also served as the picture's dialogue director. The film was the first American production worked on by Daven, and marked the return to the screen of Annabella, who had not made a picture since the 1939 M-G-M film Bridal Suite

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   May 43   p. 175.
Box Office   3 Apr 1943.   
Daily Variety   24 Mar 43   p. 3.
Film Daily   29 Mar 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Sep 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Sep 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Oct 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Oct 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Oct 42   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Oct 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Nov 42   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Dec 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Mar 43   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   24 Mar 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   27 Mar 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   6 Mar 43   p. 1192.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Apr 43   p. 1239.
New York Times   15 Apr 43   p. 20.
Variety   31 Mar 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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