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School for Secrets

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

School for Secrets
"School for Secrets" (1946).jpg
British quad poster
Directed byPeter Ustinov
Produced byGeorge H. Brown
Peter Ustinov
Screenplay byPeter Ustinov
StarringRalph Richardson
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
7 November 1946 (London) (UK)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

School for Secrets (also known as Secret Flight) is a 1946 British black-and-white film written and directed by Peter Ustinov and starring Ralph Richardson. In leading supporting roles were David Tomlinson, Raymond Huntley, Finlay Currie, Richard Attenborough, John Laurie and Michael Hordern.[1] Based on a 1942 RAF training film for would-be 'boffins' and developed with the full cooperation of the Air Ministry, the film celebrates the discovery of radar, its discoverers and the enabling culture.[2][3]


School for Secrets tells the story of the "boffins" - research scientists - who discovered and developed radar and helped avoid the German invasion of Britain in 1940. Five scientists, led by Professor Heatherville (Ralph Richardson), are brought together to work in secrecy and under pressure to develop the device. Their dedication disrupts their family lives as they are forced to sacrifice everything to make a breakthrough. Their success is illustrated by the effect radar has on the fighting abilities of the RAF over the skies of Britain in the summer and autumn months of 1940. However, Germany is also planning its own radar capability and British commandos are dispatched to strike a German installation. The scientists complete their work just in time for the D-Day.


The film only represent events and characters in the most general way. It ostensibly celebrates the boffins, but C.P. Snow and the RAF come out of it well, particularly in the terms of recruitment, leadership, the 'Sunday Soviets' and more generally collaboration between scientists of different backgrounds, between boffins and the services, and between the more technical officers and the more familiar 'officer and gentleman' types. The boffins with technically relevant specialities are represented as having technocratic tendencies, requiring careful handling. Solly Zuckermann is represented as a key character. As a zoologist he is a respected scientist who shares the initial ignorance of the RAF on electronics, and thus provides a vital bridge between cultures. Reference is made to his previous work on 'the social life of monkeys and apes'.[4] The difference between German and British practice is well illustrated, where open bickering is more productive than sullen compliance.[2] It is such aspects, rather than historical or technical details, that the film strives to put across.


Critical reception

TV Guide wrote, "as would be expected from young writer-director Ustinov (he was 25 years old at the time), a nice sense of humour is integrated into the proceedings, a refreshing change from the deadly serious propaganda films that dominated the screen at the time. Unfortunately, portions of School for Secrets are too talky and tend to drag on past the point of interest, but the action scenes are excitingly handled and manage to keep the narrative aloft",[5] while Britmovie called the film a "sprightly melodrama. With its starry cast of character actor and witty dialogue, Ustinov focuses more on the diverse characters than scientific advances."[6]


  1. ^ "School for Secrets". BFI. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b O'Neill, Esther (October 2006). "BRITISH WORLD WAR TWO FILMS 1945-65: CATHARSIS OR NATIONAL REGENERATION?". Thesis. University of Central Lancashire: 77, 78. S2CID 140789641. Retrieved 23 August 2020. The RAF has gained a reputation during the last few years, not only of being a brilliant warlike organisation, but also of inventing a new language. Among the lesser known words which appeared in the welter of "prangs", "scrambles" and "wizards", was the world "boffin", meaning scientist. Once upon a time a Puffin, a bird with a mournful cry, got crossed with a Baffin, an obsolete service aircraft. Their offspring was a Boffin. This bird bursts with weird and sometimes inopportune ideas, but possesses staggering inventiveness. Its ideas, like its eggs, are conical and unbreakable. You push the unwanted ones away and they just roll back. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Spicer, Andrew (25 July 2003). Typical Men. ISBN 9781860649318.
  4. ^ Zuckerman, S. (27 December 1933). "The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes". Philosophy. 8 (30): 245–246. doi:10.1017/S003181910006277X – via PhilPapers.
  5. ^ "School For Secrets". TV Guide.
  6. ^ "School for Secrets".

External links

This page was last edited on 18 June 2021, at 13:42
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