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The Silver Fleet U rating

A Dutch shipbuilder fakes collaboration with the Germans to hide his patriotic activities, in this Powell and Pressburger-produced followup to ...One of our Aircraft is Missing.

War 1943 85 mins

Director: Gordon Wellesley and Vernon Sewell


Following the success of Powell and Pressburger's "...One of our Aircraft is Missing" (1942), the pair put their name to another story of plucky Dutch resistance. The Silver Fleet (d. Vernon Sewell, 1943) was the first film released under the banner of The Archers, and the first in which Powell and Pressburger acted only as producers, although, consistent with the tradition of joint authorship, the screenplay and direction was co-credited to Vernon Sewell and Gordon Wellesley. At the same time, Powell was busy directing The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) on an adjacent stage at Denham. The Silver Fleet was inspired by a true story of war: a German U-boat, hijacked by a Dutch crew and gifted to the English navy. As such it provided an opportunity to refuel patriotism in the face of a seemingly interminable war and almost unbearable civilian hardship.

Ralph Richardson stars alongside Googie Withers, who was given her first big break in in ...One of our Aircraft is Missing. Rounding out the top-drawer cast was Esmond Knight as Von Schiller. Knight was totally blind in the film, having lost his sight in the war, though his exceptional acting skills and Sewell's direction conceal the fact from the audience. It is a sobering reminder of how many creatives were simultaneously serving in the war. Although The Silver Fleet is overshadowed in history and reputation by the more lavish Colonel Blimp, the film is more than competent. It has an elegant script, crisp direction and cinematographer Erwin Hillier (later to work with Powell and Pressburger) achieves wonderful effects and textures. [Ann Ogidi]