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Film / Libel

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Libel is a 1959 drama film directed by Anthony Asquith, adapted from Edward Wooll's 1934 play of the same name.

Sir Mark Loddon (Dirk Bogarde) is an English baronet, living a contented life in the country with his American wife Margaret (Olivia de Havilland). One day he's visited at his country estate by a Canadian officer and World War II veteran, Jeffrey Buckingham (Paul Messie). Buckingham served time with Loddon in the same German POW camp before they made their escape in 1945, along with a third officer, Frank Wellney. Buckingham has a shocking allegation: the Mark Loddon living the life of an English country gent actually is Frank Wellney, who murdered the real Mark Loddon during the escape and then took his identity. When Buckingham goes public with his accusations, Loddon sues for libel. But there's one problem: Loddon has PTSD from the war, and can't remember very well...


  • Contrived Coincidence: Of all the things the BBC could have shown when Jeffrey Buckingham walks into a pub, they choose to show a program filmed in the mansion where his old war buddy Mark Loddon lives.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: "Read all about it! Get today's paper!" The sign next to the vendor says "LIBEL TRIAL SENSATION."
  • Flashback: An extended flashback shows Jeffrey, Mark, and Frank in a POW camp together, and then their escape.
  • Gossipy Hens: The old lady carping about the news outside the church, the day the story about Mark runs. She hypocritically simpers about how much she sympathizes when Mark and Margaret show up.
  • Identical Stranger: Mark and the mysterious Frank look just like each other (and both are played by Dirk Bogarde).
  • Kubrick Stare: How a seething Jeffrey looks at Mark/Frank after seeing him for the first time in five years.
  • Land Poor: Mark ruefully observes that the only way he can afford to live in his enormous mansion is by letting tour groups come in on the weekend.
  • Memento MacGuffin: How Mark finally proves he's the real Mark, once he remembers: the medallion which Margaret gave to him before the war, which he hid in his coat, and which he produces from the coat for the court.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The extremely forgiving Mark and Margaret leave the courtroom together.
  • Paparazzi: The first Margaret hears about the story is from paparazzi who intrude into the house and take pictures of her son without permission.
  • Plot Hole: Why did Mark switch uniforms with Frank after Frank attacked him?
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Mark has suffered some trauma from his war experience and his five years in captivity. He can't remember the war very well, which is highly plot-relevant.
  • Sleeping Single: British films weren't subject to The Hays Code but for some reasonnote  they still have Sir Mark and Lady Loddon sleeping in separate single beds.