SECRET COMMAND (1944) is a thoroughly enjoyable WWII "homefront thriller" starring Pat O'Brien and Carole Landis.
O'Brien plays Sam Gallagher, who hasn't seen his brother Jeff (Chester Morris) in years. Sam had supposedly been a European foreign correspondent when he dropped all contact with Jeff and one-time sweetheart Lee (Ruth Warrick), not even replying when their mother died.
Unbeknownst to Jeff, Sam works in U.S. intelligence and had spent time in a Nazi prison camp before escaping. He now has a secret assignment at the California shipyard where Jeff is a supervisor, trying to stop the expected sabotage attempt on a U.S. aircraft carrier.
Sam's deep cover as an ordinary shipyard worker includes a home with a pretty wife, Jill (Carole Landis, on loan from Fox), who is actually another agent and not his wife at all, plus a pair of European war orphans (Carol Nugent and Richard Lyon) posing as their children.
I found this Columbia movie to be an especially strong film of its type. It didn't have a big budget, but it had a good cast and a well-done script; in addition to the leads, the film features the fine character actors Wallace Ford, Tom Tully, and Barton MacLane. Morris and Warrick don't have a great deal of screen time, especially once his character is injured, but they make impressions at the outset.
The only niggling negative thought I had was that the Gallagher "children" don't seem to have been told that their new "family" is a temporary setup. They love having a Daddy and a Mommy, and it seemed rather cruel that the "agency" was just going to find them new homes when the mission was completed. No one will be surprised, however, that that does not end up being an issue. Whew!
Richard Lyon, who plays young Paul, would go on to play Irene Dunne's son Louis in ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946). He died in Wales last October.
Carol Nugent, who plays little Joan, had a long film career which included playing Lillie Gilbreth in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) and BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952). She was married to Nick Adams before he passed away in 1968 and has since remarried. Her sister Judy, another one-time child actress, was married to the son of actor Dub Taylor and was the mother-in-law of June Lockhart's daughter Anne, so there are many Nugent family connections to the film industry.
That's Dusty Anderson (A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS) as the wisecracking cabbie who drives O'Brien home. The cast also includes Howard Freeman, Frank Sully, Matt McHugh, Frank Fenton, and Mary Gordon.
SECRET COMMAND was directed by Eddie Sutherland and shot by Franz Planer. It runs 82 minutes.
There's an official Carole Landis site created by her niece which has more photos from this film. According to the site, O'Brien was friends with Landis and requested her as his costar; they would also team with director Sutherland in HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME (1945). O'Brien and Landis have very nice chemistry, to the extent that it never crossed my mind while watching that O'Brien was around two decades her senior!
I saw this film thanks to Turner Classic Movies.