The Next of Kin

The Next of Kin, also known as Next of Kin, is a 1942 Second World War propaganda film produced by Ealing Studios.[2] The film was originally commissioned by the British War Office as a training film to promote the government message that "Careless talk costs lives". After being taken on by Ealing Studios, the project was expanded and given a successful commercial release.[3] After the war and up until at least the mid 1960s, services in British Commonwealth countries continued to use The Next of Kin as part of security training. The film's title is derived from the phrase "the next of kin have been informed" as used by radio announcers when reporting on the loss of personnel in action.[4]

The Next of Kin
Directed byThorold Dickinson
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byBasil Bartlett
Thorold Dickinson
John Dighton
Angus MacPhail
StarringMervyn Johns
Nova Pilbeam
Reginald Tate
John Chandos
Stephen Murray
Jack Hawkins
Music byWilliam Walton
CinematographyErnest Palmer
Edited byRay Pitt
Distributed byEaling Studios
Release date
15 May 1942[1]
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


In preparing for a secret raid on a German-held French coastal village. a British security officer (Reginald Tate) is chosen to monitor activities in England among army personnel of the 95th Infantry as well as civilians with whom they mingle. At the same time, German intelligence send Agents 23 (Mervyn Johns) and 16 (John Chandos) to England to obtain information from sources including conversations overheard in pubs, railway stations, shops and other public places. Agent 16 is caught, but 23 reaches his contact, Mr Barratt (Stephen Murray), a bookseller at Westport, who assigns him the job of infiltrating an ordnance depot. After he helps an ATS driver (Thora Hird) with a punctured tire, she invites him to a dance. There, he learns the unit has top priority for special equipment. Agent 23 makes it his task to find out why.

In the meantime, Barratt forces his employee, Dutch refugee Beppie Leemans (Nova Pilbeam), to discover the activities of the 95th. She informs him that the 95th Unit is expecting to receive aerial photographs. Barratt sends Agent 23 to London to obtain the photographs. When Leemans realises the seriousness of what she has done, she stabs Barratt to death, but 23 returns unexpectedly and knocks her out. He then turns on the gas and makes it look like a murder–suicide. An agent manages to steal the briefcase containing an aerial negative, carelessly left unattended at a cafe by a wing commander. The officer believes his briefcase was taken by mistake and is relieved when it is returned to the cafe (after a photograph is developed). The photograph is smuggled to German intelligence and used to identify the 95th's objective. As a result, the Germans mobilize to ambush the 95's commando raid on the French coast.

The raid is carried out and deemed successful, albeit with heavy losses. The film concludes back in England, as we observe two careless talkers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) on a train, as they are monitored by Agent 23, who is seen taking notes.


Release and alternate American version

On 15 May 1942, the film opened at the Pavilion Cinema in London.[1] The length of this version ran one hour and 42 minutes. However, in the United States, the movie opened in New York City at the Rialto Theater almost a year later, on 5 May 1943.[5] On the advice of film mogul David O. Selznick, who believed American audiences might get the impression that Britain was overrun with spies,[6] Next of Kin's director, Thorold Dickinson, made drastic cuts to the film's original running time, while adding two short excerpts from a J. Edgar Hoover speech as a framing device for a new running time of about 75 minutes. This truncated version of the film was used exclusively for its American release. It is also the version released on DVD in America by Alpha Video.


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