Madeleine Goddard (Vivien Leigh) has just returned to Stockholm from Paris, where she made a trip just to buy dresses. It is 1918, spring — the perfect time to refresh the stock in Madeleine’s clothing shop.
But Madeleine hasn’t bought the dresses for her own business. She’s actually a spy, and hidden within the gowns are notes on Allied troop movements, sewn into the patterns. She will be delivering these messages to her German contacts. She’s considered one of the best spies the Germans have.
But just as with her purchase of dresses, Madeleine has ulterior motives in her spy activities. The Germans aren’t the only folks she’s working with. She’s actually a double agent, spying for French officials to discover the identity of the new German secret service leader in Stockholm.
Baron Karl Von Marwitz (Conrad Veidt) is the man she’s after, and things get complicated for both agents when they find themselves attracted to one another.
Victor Saville directs Dark Journey, a tale of espionage and romance in the age of the Great War. The film’s screenplay was written by Lajos Bíró, assisted in scenario and dialogue by Arthur Wimperis.
Madeleine’s world is one of glamour and excitement. She spends her days buying gorgeous gowns and carrying out spy-ring communications, her nights at elegant clubs, with dancing and top-notch, multi-course meals. But with such excitement comes a healthy dose of danger, a dash of paranoia which seems to be felt by Madeleine as it is felt in the audience — she’s just better at hiding it! As a double agent, Madeleine has no trouble keeping her composure and suppressing any fear she may have. It is essential to carrying out her missions and to saving her own life.
Vivien Leigh was the perfect choice for Madeleine. To be a double agent would take a lot of courage and confidence. These are both traits that Leigh displays in heaps as Dark Journey‘s leading lady. Beyond that, she’s just such a wonderful screen presence, capturing the viewer’s attention and emotion every second she appears on screen. She gives a gripping, haunting performance.
Vivien’s love interest, Conrad Veidt, is an interesting bit of casting. I, of course, know him best for his ghoulish character in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and as such would expect to have trouble rooting for him as a romantic leading man. He and Leigh pull the romance off quite well, though.
It’s not as swoon-worthy as some of Leigh’s other screen pairings, but the romance feels like an interesting complement to the spy drama and thrills rather than dragging down the plot at all, as it easily could have. The two share a few genuinely incredible scenes. (See: *SPOILER ALERT* Karl’s revelation that he knows Madeleine’s true identity, and knows that she’s been playing the Germans for three years *END SPOILER*)
The film walks the line between several genres much more successfully than most which attempt such a blend of intrigue, suspense, and romance. This, of course, is thanks not only to those stellar lead performances but to a wonderfully-written script, which packs a few twists.
I had a hunch I’d enjoy Dark Journey since I typically like Vivien Leigh’s films, and after watching, I regret waiting so long to make time for a viewing of the film! This is definitely one that I will add to my rotation of classic re-watches, along with other Vivien favorites like Waterloo Bridge. In fact, though I’d need a few re-watches to affirm it, I think it’s safe to say that Madeleine Goddard will be added to my list of favorite Vivien roles. The score: 5/5!