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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1959 Theatrical Poster
Directed byAnthony Asquith
Written byAnatole de Grunwald
Karl Tunberg
Based onLibel!
1934 play
by Edward Wooll
Produced byAnatole de Grunwald
StarringDirk Bogarde
Olivia de Havilland
Paul Massie
Robert Morley
Wilfrid Hyde-White
CinematographyRobert Krasker
Edited byFrank Clarke
Music byBenjamin Frankel
De Grunwald Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 23 October 1959 (1959-10-23)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,170,000[1]

Libel is a 1959 British drama film[2][3] starring Olivia de Havilland, Dirk Bogarde, Paul Massie, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Robert Morley. The film's screenplay was written by Anatole de Grunwald and Karl Tunberg from a 1935 play of the same name by Edward Wooll.[4]

The film's location shots include Longleat House, Wiltshire (fictionalised as Ingworth House) and London.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • What is Defamation, Slander, & Libel - Quick Lessons - Episode # 3
  • Libel - Feature Clip
  • Libel (1959) - Dirk Bogarde testifies on the stand



While travelling in London, Canadian World War II veteran pilot Jeffrey Buckenham sees baronet Sir Mark Sebastian Loddon on television leading a tour of his ancestral home in England. Buckenham recalls that he was held in a POW camp in Germany with Loddon, whom the Germans captured during the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. Buckenham is convinced that Loddon is Frank Wellney, a British actor. Wellney and Loddon shared a POW hut in 1945 and bore a striking resemblance to each other.

Buckenham confronts Loddon and, with encouragement from Loddon's scheming cousin Gerald Loddon, writes to a tabloid newspaper, claiming that Wellney is posing as Loddon. In response, Loddon sues Buckenham and the newspaper for libel, although his memory is affected by his wartime trauma.

During the libel trial, Buckenham and Loddon tell their versions of wartime imprisonment and their escape. Buckenham had liked Loddon and despised Wellney. In spring 1945, the three prisoners escaped their POW camp and headed toward the Dutch border, seeking advancing Allied forces. Loddon wore his British army uniform and Wellney disguised himself in civilian clothes. One night, having gone without food for days, Buckenham left Loddon and Wellney alone to steal food from a farm. As Buckenham returned, he heard shots. In the mist, he witnessed one man in a British uniform lying on the ground, apparently dead, and another fleeing in civilian clothes. Buckenham believed that he had witnessed Wellney fleeing the scene of Loddon's murder.

During the trial, Lodden is found to be missing part of his right index finger, as had Wellney, and Loddon claims it to be the result of gunfire. Loddon also does not appear to have a childhood scar on his leg. Wellney's hair was prematurely grey, as is Loddon's. Buckenham recounts how Wellney often asked Loddon about his personal life during their imprisonment, and Loddon even joked that Wellney could be mistaken for him. As evidence mounts, even Loddon's loyal wife Margaret begins to doubt her husband's identity.

Defence barrister Hubert Foxley produces a courtroom surprise, revealing that the uniformed man that Buckenham had seen did not die. Although the man is alive, his face is horribly disfigured, his right arm has been amputated and he has become deranged. He has been living in a German asylum since the war, known simply as "Number Fifteen," his bed number. When Foxley brings the man into the courtroom, the man and Loddon recognise each other and Loddon's memory starts to return.

In desperation, Loddon's barrister calls Margaret to the stand, but she testifies that she now believes her husband to be Wellney, the impostor, implying that "Number Fifteen" is the real Loddon. Later, Margaret confronts her husband, who desperately walks the night trying to remember more. Seeing his reflection in a canal unlocks his memories. Wellney did try to kill him while his back was turned, but Loddon saw Wellney's reflection in the water and won their ensuing fight. He remembers beating Wellney harshly with a farm tool before switching their clothes and fleeing.

In court, Loddon remembers a medallion hidden in his jacket lining that Margaret had given him in 1939 before he left for France. By proving that the medallion had been in Wellney's possession all the time, Loddon wins the libel case and Margaret realizes that her husband is whom she had thought that he was. Buckenham and Loddon also reconcile, although Buckenham and the newspaper must pay damages.


Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $245,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $925,000 in other markets, resulting in a profit of $10,000.[1]

Awards and honours

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (A. W. Watkins).[6]

The film was nominated by the American Film Institute for inclusion in its 10 Top 10 list in the category of courtroom drama.[7]


The Broadway play, which had starred Colin Clive, was adapted for radio in 1941 and 1943 using the original references to World War. Ronald Colman played the leading role in a one-hour 13 January 1941 CBS Lux Radio Theatre broadcast with Otto Kruger and Frances Robinson.[8] On 15 March 1943, Colman and Kruger reprised their roles for a second Lux Radio Theatre broadcast.[9] The role of an amnesiac World War I veteran had similarities to Colman's part in the 1942 hit Random Harvest.[10]

A 1938 BBC television production[11] featured actor Wyndham Goldie.


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ Variety film review; 21 October 1959, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; 24 October 1959, page 170.
  4. ^ Libel!, written by Edward Wooll and directed by Anthony Asquith, played on Broadway for 159 performances in 1935-1936. ​Libel​ at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ Reel Streets
  6. ^ "The 32nd Academy Awards (1960) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  7. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ "Ronald Colman, Otto Kruger Co-Star in Radio Theater". Toledo Blade (Ohio). 13 January 1941. p. 4 (Peach Section). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Monday Programs". Toledo Blade (Ohio). 15 March 1943. p. 4 (Peach Section). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Libel" on Lux Radio Theater; 13 January 1941; at Internet Archive: Overview [1] and Recording [2]
  11. ^ "Libel" (TV) 1938 Internet Movie Database

External links

This page was last edited on 11 April 2024, at 21:54
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