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The Film That Brought Out the King and Queen of England

ON THIS DAY 1950, the King and Queen of England attended a most unusual event—the world premier of a British film opening at The Plaza Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. As one would expect, security was tight as thousands tried to catch a glimpse of royalty and stars.

The King and Queen are in the limousine just arriving at the theater's awning.

The King and Queen arriving at the premier.

Naturally, all of England was eager to know what kind of movie would draw their majesties from Buckingham Palace. But this was no ordinary film. It was called "Odette," and was a movie to honor Odette Sansom, the World War II SOE heroine who had fallen in love with her commanding officer, Captain Peter Churchill, had been captured and tortured by the Nazis, but never talked and even told the Germans that she, not Peter, was the leader of their circuit.

Her efforts saved the lives of countless agents, and she was awarded the George Cross—Britain's second highest honor—by the king in 1946. And to the delight of every newspaper and tabloid in England, Odette and Peter married the following year.

World premier of Odette, June 6, 1950.

In the film, Anne Neagle played the role of Odette, with Trevor Howard as Peter Churchill, Peter Ustinov as Arnaud, their radio operator, and Marius Goring as Hugo Bleicher, the German secret policeman who chased and arrested them.

The Queen greeting Odette Churchill (left), and Anne Neagle (right).

One of the movie's promotional posters highlighted the danger of being an SOE courier, as Odette was.

For the entire story, catch my upcoming release, CODE NAME LISE: The True Story of the Spy Who Became World War II's Most Highly Decorated Woman (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, Jan. 15, 2019). Pre-order here.

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