“You know what I am to you? An international complication.”
A WWII resistance fighter (Merle Oberon) has an affair with an unsuspecting German major (Carl Esmond), and is able to pass on vital information to the Norwegian underground. When Esmond’s superior becomes suspicious, however, a British agent (Brian Aherne) — formerly Oberon’s lover — is sent to assassinate Esmond.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Brian Aherne Films
- Dorothy Arzner Films
- Merle Oberon Films
- Resistance Fighters
- World War II
This rather pedestrian wartime melodrama is primarily notable as director Dorothy Arzner’s final feature film, yet it offers little that’s new or different to the genre; as noted so succinctly in the New York Times‘ original review, “Although the film does maintain a measure of suspense quite steadily, its authors and director have failed to stamp it with any distinction or depth of conviction to lift it above the level of a dozen similar mediocre war films.” Oberon is generally fine — and appropriately beautiful (if unconvincing as a Norwegian) — in the leading role (though she doesn’t know how to mime piano-playing for the life of her!):
Faring slightly better is Brian Aherne as her British lover, who at least brings some welcome energy to the proceedings.
While one knows that all will (or should) work out in the end, there are at least a few tension-filled moments along the way — ultimately, however, First Comes Courage remains resolutely “ordinary”, and will only be of real interest to die-hard Arzner fans.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Brian Aherne as Captain Lowell
- Fine cinematography
No; I suspect the only reason this film is listed in Peary’s book is because it was directed by Arzner.