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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
An Archers Production
From: Progress of British Films, Part 1
McKenzie, Vincent & Co. Ltd. 1946
It is 1902, towards the end of the Boer War. Lieutenant Clive Candy (Roger Livesey), back on leave fom South Africa where he has won the V.C., hears that an old enemy called Kaunitz is spreading anti-British propaganda in Berlin.
In spite of the War Office who tell him to leave politics alone he goes to Berlin to expose him. There he meets an English governess, Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr), who takes him to the cafe where Kaunitz is to be found.
At the cafe, Clive knocks Kaunitz down the stairs. This leads to trouble with the German officer class who draw lots to fight a duel with him. For political purposes the British Embassy decide that Edith must be the cause of the duel.
Both Clive and Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook), who has been chosen as his opponent, are wounded. At a private nursing-home they recuperate and become friends. Clive, who had received a sword slash across his upper lip decides to grow the moustache, which is to later become the famous "Blimp" style.
Meanwhile Edith, who has visited Clive daily, falls in love with Theo and he with her. Clive gives them his blessing, and it is not until he is on his way home that he realises that he himself is in love with her.
The year is now 1918 and another and greater war is drawing to its close. Clive has won fresh military honours in Flanders.
But he is no longer the young man who nearly caused a diplomatic crisis in Berlin. He is beginning to develop the characteristics of a Blimp in more ways than by his moustache. And he is haunted by the memory of Edith, the lost ideal for which he is always searching.
At a convent, to which he has been directed for a meal, he meets nurses newly arrived from England. One in particular reminds him of Edith in appearance, but before he gets an opportunity to speak to her, they are moved on.
Back in England once more after the war, Clive seeks out the nurse who has reminded him of Edith. She is Barbara (Deborah Kerr), daughter of a wealthy Yorkshire mill-owner. They marry and move to his house in London, which is typical of his solid, immovable virtues, and on the doorstep of her new home she makes him promise never to change till the house disappears and a lake stands on the site.
Meanwhile he learns that his old friend Theo, who had been captured in France, is interned in a prisoners' camp in England. He insists on bringing him round to his house to join a dinner-party. There he tells Theo to cheer up - Britain will soon put Germany on her feet again.
They part once more - Theo back to a Germany which thinks only of revenge and Clive and Barbara in an England which chooses to forget the lessons of war.
In 1939 war has come again, on a more hideous scale than ever before.
But Clive, now an old General and grown into the personification of the "Blimp" type, is still confident that Britain can beat her ruthless enemies by using the old "fair" methods.
Theo has meanwhile returned to England two years earlier, a broken refugee from Nazi Germany. At least he has no illusions.
In the general shake-up that followed Dunkirk Clive is relieved of his command. He feels old and useless, but his friends Theo and "Johnny" (Deborah Kerr), a girl in the Mechanised Transport Corps, in whom he again sees a likeness to his beloved Edith, suggest there is still one way in which he can serve his country - The Home Guard.
Clive throws his old enthusiasm into building up the Home Guard from its make-shift beginnings into a new Army.
His first job is to command the Home Guard defending London in a battle practice against the regular Army. Unfortunately while "hostilities" are supposed to start at midnight, a young regular officer, "Spud" Wilson (James McKechnie), making use of a favourite Nazi trick, starts with his men at 6 p.m. He captures Clive in a Turkish Bath, takes possession of his defence plans and brings the manoeuvre to an untimely end.
The old General feels that his literary career [I think that should be "military career"] is over once and for all. He has been discredited by the new Army which is prepared to fight the Nazis with their own weapons.
He walks over to where his old home used to stand. It has been demolished by a bomb and the site has been turned into an emergency water-tank. The words of his wife come back to him - not to change until the house is a lake - and he realised bitterly that he has indeed not changed.
Then, headed by a band, a company of soldiers swing past, and Clive, throwing off his bitterness, squares his old shoulders and salutes with pride the new tough Army of Britain who know how to fight this war and intend to win it.
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