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Olivia de Havilland,
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A Canadian commercial pilot sees a telecast in London of an interview with Sir Mark Lodden (Sir Dirk Bogarde) at his home. The Canadian is convinced that the baronet is a fraud, that he is actually a look-alike actor named Frank Welney (Sir Dirk Bogarde). The Canadian, the baronet, and the actor were all prisoners in the same German camp during the war and escaped together. One of them disappeared during the escape. Was he Sir Mark or Welney? The tabloids have a field day with the Canadian's accusations, and Lady Margaret Lodden (Olivia de Havilland) urges her husband to sue for libel and engage the distinguished barrister Sir Wilfred (Robert Morley). The long drawn-out case is made complex by the fact that Sir Mark is not quite sure of his identity. Injured in the war, he stutters on occasion and has difficulty remembering portions of his life. As the evidence sways back and forth in court, it begins to appear that Sir Mark is an impostor and the possible murderer of the missing ...Written by
In opening credits, Arthur Davey is listed as In Charge of Adminstration; no way of missing the obvious error - it takes up half the screen; of course, it should be Administration. How can such glaring errors be missed by editors. See more »
Updated to make the protagonists be World War II veterans instead of World War I, Libel made its Broadway debut in 1935 after a run in London and ran for 159 performances during the 1935-36 season. Playing the role Dirk Bogarde does here was the screen's original Dr. Frankenstein, Colin Clive.
As for Bogarde due to movie screen magic he gets to play two roles, the respected titled English Lord with American wife Olivia DeHavilland and a Canadian fellow prisoner of war who was a traveling player and who looks like him. Worse than that, we see in flashback how he envied him.
Into their happy lives intrudes another former POW Paul Massie who knew both men in the camp and makes the startling accusation that the one stole the identity of the other who died during the war. This indeed is a case of Libel and one for the courts to straighten out.
Bringing the suit on Bogarde's behalf is Robert Morley and defending Massie is Wilfrid Hyde-White, they make a fine pair of antagonists. What is the truth, for that you have to watch Libel.
Though Olivia is first billed, the film clearly belongs to Dirk Bogarde who delivers a fine poignant performance of a man tortured by doubt, there are things tucked away in his mind that he prefers not dealing with. Olivia gets her innings in when even she starts to doubt the identity of the man she's been married to.
This film also gives we Yanks a chance to see Richard Dimbleby who was a combination of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, that kind of trusted voice of the British Empire for the BBC. In fact Dimbleby is hosting Bogarde and DeHavilland on a tour of their mansion when Massie spots them on a bar television and sets everything in motion.
Libel holds up very well today it could probably be easily remade for something like the Iraq or Afghan war in about 15 years time.
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