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Orders to Kill

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Title: Orders to Kill  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 1958 in film, Anthony Asquith, Eddie Albert, BAFTA Award for Best Film, Lionel Jeffries, James Robertson Justice, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Paul Dehn, Irene Worth, Paul Massie
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Orders to Kill

Orders to Kill
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan
Written by Paul Dehn
George St. George
Donald C. Downes (original story)
Starring Eddie Albert
Paul Massie
Lillian Gish
James Robertson Justice
Irene Worth
Philip Bond
Leslie French
John Crawford
Music by Benjamin Frankel
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Editing by Gordon Hales
Distributed by British Lion Film Corporation (U.K.)
United Motion Pictures Organization (U.S.)
Release date(s) 1958
Running time 93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Orders to Kill was a 1958 British wartime drama film. It starred Paul Massie, Eddie Albert and Lillian Gish. It was directed by Anthony Asquith based on a story by Donald C. Downes.

Plot summary

A young American bomber pilot Gene Summers (Paul Massie) is selected by Maj. Kimball (John Crawford) to go on a mission to Nazi-occupied Paris and there kill a man believed to be a double agent working in the French Resistance. He is picked because of his fluency in French and military experience. Summers receives rigorous training by his handler Maj. MacMahon (Eddie Albert) and a British Naval Commander (James Robertson Justice). Summers is enthusiastic, and remembers all of the information he needs by setting his instructions to melodies of childhood songs.

Arriving in France, Summers meets his contact, Leonie (Irene Worth), a seamstress working for the Resistance. Leonie gives Summers more information about the man he is to assassinate. Upon meeting Marcel Lafitte (Leslie French), the man he is to kill, Summers has second thoughts. Lafitte is a gentle henpecked husband, who dotes on his cat "Mimieux." Summers begins to feel that the man may not be guilty.

Summers runs back to Leonie who rebukes him for his foolish error in weakening his mission and returning to her, a dangerous combination. Leonie points out to Summers that he dropped hundreds of bombs on people while he was a pilot. Summers protests, as he understands the difference between killing a lot of people and one person up close. "When I dropped bombas I wasn't there at the other end." Leonie apologizes for her curt behavior and explains to him that her son was killed in the War.

His confidence regained, Summers prepared to kill Lafitte. Summers first cracks a blunt object over the man's head, but the killing is botched. Lafitte is not dead, and staggering over to the young man, asks him, "Why?" Summers kills Lafitte with a pair of scissors. In a panic, Summers steals money off of Lafitte's table to make the scene look like a robbery.

Narrowly escaping the Gestapo, Summers hides the money in a cemetery, and tries to contact Leonie, but it is too late. The Nazis have captured her. Racked with guilt, Summers goes off into the night, not to be heard of again.

Several months later, after Paris has been liberated, Maj. MacMahon is giving the newly promoted Colonel Kimball a tour of the now liberated Paris and informs Colonel Kimball that Summers is in a military hospital. After the assassination, Summers became a drunkard, using the money he stole from Lafitte to pay for his addiction. Summers finds out that Leonie was killed by the Nazis after her capture and at first, the Major and the Colonel try to convince him that Lafitte was guilty. However, Summers learns from MacMahon that Lafitte was innocent after all.

In the final scene of the film, Summers leaves the hospital and for the first time, visits Lafitte's wife and daughter, who are now impoverished. Unable to tell them the truth, Summers tells them both that Lafitte was one of their best agents in the Resistance, and offers them the small compensation of his own back pay.

Production details

The famous silent movie actress Lilian Gish plays the pilot's mother. The film was based on an original story by Downes. He was an important OSS officer involved in numerous operations during the war, according to histories of the era. He became a writer after the war. The novel "Orders to Kill" by Downes was written after the film was shot.

The film won three BAFTA film awards[1] and was entered into the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.[2]


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Britmovie
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