First Comes Courage

First Comes Courage is a 1943 American war film, the final film directed by Dorothy Arzner, one of the few female directors in Hollywood at the time. The film was based on the 1943 novel Commandos by Elliott Arnold, adapted by George Sklar, with a screenplay by Melvin Levy and Lewis Meltzer. It stars Merle Oberon and Brian Aherne.

First Comes Courage
theatrical poster
Directed byDorothy Arzner
Charles Vidor (uncredited)
Produced byHarry Joe Brown
Written byGeorge Sklar (adaptation)
Melvin Levy
Lewis Meltzer
Based onCommandos, novel by
Elliott Arnold
StarringMerle Oberon
Brian Aherne
Music byErnst Toch
CinematographyJoseph Walker
Edited byViola Lawrence
Release date
  • July 29, 1943 (1943-07-29)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States


Nicole Larsen (Merle Oberon) is a member of the Norwegian resistance in a small town, about to marry the Nazi commandant (Carl Esmond). When his superiors begin to suspect her, the Allies land an assassin to kill him: her former lover, Capt. Allan Lowe (Brian Aherne).



First Comes Courage had the working title of "Attack by Night".[1] The film was originally to have been set in France, but was changed to Norway because of the public's interest at the time in the occupation of that country.[1]

When director Dorothy Arzner had an attack of pleurisy, she was replaced by Charles Vidor.[1] The film would turn out to be Arzner's final film.[2]

Some scenes were filmed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, with military units providing extras for the scenes of the commando attack.[1]

Oberon and Aherne had played the leads in Beloved Enemy in 1936, with David Niven in a large supporting role. By 1943, when this early film about commandos was produced, Niven (according to his memoir "The Moon' a Balloon") was an actual commando fighting in World War II.


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