Odette is a 1950 British war film based on the true story of Special Operations Executive French-born agent Odette Sansom, who was captured by the Germans in 1943, condemned to death and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp to be executed. However, against all odds she survived the war and testified against the prison guards at the Hamburg Ravensbrück trials. She was awarded the George Cross in 1946; the first woman ever to receive the award, and the only woman who has been awarded it while still alive.
Anna Neagle plays Odette Sansom and Trevor Howard plays Peter Churchill, the British agent she mainly worked with and married after the war. Peter Ustinov plays their radio operator Adolphe Rabinovitch. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, who was head of the SOE's French Section, played himself in the film, as did Paddy Sproule, another FANY female SOE agent.
Anna Neagle as Odette Sansom
Trevor Howard as Captain Peter Churchill
Marius Goring as Colonel Henri (Hugo Bleicher)
Bernard Lee as Jack
Peter Ustinov as "Arnaud" (Adolphe Rabinovitch)
Maurice Buckmaster as Himself
Alfred Schieske as Camp Commandant Fritz Suhren
Gilles Quéant as Jacques
Marianne Walla as SS Wardress
Fritz Wendhausen as Colonel
The film was directed by Herbert Wilcox, and the screenplay by Warren Chetham-Strode was based on Jerrard Tickell's non-fiction book Odette: The Story of a British Agent. It was jointly produced by the husband and wife team Herbert Wilcox and Anna Neagle.
Neagle was originally reluctant to play the role so Wilcox offered it to Michele Morgan and Ingrid Bergman, both of whom turned it down. Eventually when the real Odette suggested Neagle play her, Neagle agreed.
Both Odette Sansom (by then Odette Churchill) and Peter Churchill served as technical advisors during the filming, and the film ends with a written message from Odette herself. Samson and Neagle spent considerable time in France, visiting locales associated with the story. Samson later said that Neagle "was absolutely into it. In fact it took one year after the end of the film to get back to normal, she was more upset by doing that film than I was reliving the experience." Samson said that she lobbied intensely for the film not to be made in Hollywood, for fear that it would be fictionalised, and that she was pleased by the result.
The film was the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1950. Wilcox later said it was his most profitable film.
New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said that the film portrays "a pretty punk secret agent" who "lacks the wit or caution to avoid a most obvious trap that is set for her" by Henri. Crowther wrote that "the point of the picture, so far as we can see, is to get Miss Neagle into prison, as quickly as possible, so she can suffer elaborately. And this she does, like the stalwart and noble lady-actress that she is. For the rest of the picture, Miss Neagle is tortured—and so are we."
The end of the film contains a title card saying as follows:
"It is with a sense of deep humility that I allow my personal story to be told. I am a very ordinary woman to whom a chance was given to see human beings at their best and at their worst. I knew kindness as well as cruelty, understanding as well as brutality. My comrades, who did far more than I and suffered far more profoundly, are not here to speak. It is to their memory that this film has been made and I would like it to be a window through which may be seen those very gallant women with whom I had the honour to serve."