The W Plan

The W Plan

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Victor Saville[1]
Marjorie Gaffney[1]
Produced by Victor Saville
Screenplay by Victor Saville
Miles Malleson
Frank Launder
Based on the novel, The W Plan
by Graham Seton[2]
Starring Brian Aherne
Madeleine Carroll
Gibb McLaughlin
Gordon Harker
Music by John Reynders[1]
Cinematography René Guissart[1]
Freddie Young[1]
Edited by Maclean Rogers[1]
Distributed by Wardour Films (United Kingdom)[1]
RKO Radio Pictures (USA)[3]
Release dates
  • 15 June 1930 (1930-06-15) (United Kingdom)[1]
  • 15 March 1931 (1931-03-15) (US)[4]
Running time
87-105 minutes[4]
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The W Plan is a 1930 British spy film produced and directed by Victor Saville, from a screenplay which he also co-wrote with Miles Malleson and Frank Launder, based on the novel of the same name by Graham Seton. It starred Brian Aherne, Madeleine Carroll, Gibb McLaughlin, and Gordon Harker. When this film was released in the United States, Aherne was appearing in The Barretts of Wimpole Street on Broadway, and receiving praise for his performance as Robert Browning. The film was a critical success, but did not do well at the box office.


Colonel Duncan Grant (Brian Aherne) is a British officer during World War I. When the British high command get wind of a German plan, titled The W Plan, from the lips of a dying German officer, Major Ulrich Muller (George Merritt), they send Grant behind enemy lines to learn the details. After successfully being dropped by airplane near the German town of Essen, where he makes his way to home of the dead German who was responsible for the plan. Grant is chosen because he speaks fluent German, having spent a significant amount of time in Germany prior to outbreak of hostilities. While in Essen, he runs into an old girlfriend, Rose Hartmann (Madeleine Carroll). When he and Rose go to a nearby café, he is approached by German officers and asked for his papers. While he has the documents taken from Muller, the Germans become suspicious, and Grant has to make a quick getaway. Unfortunately, the plane he is supposed to meet with to make his escape is shot down, after which Grant is arrested for desertion.

When he is about to be shot, he is instead sent to the very project he had been sent to Germany to learn about, The W Plan. It consists of a very elaborate series of underground works which are being dug beneath the British controlled territory, in order to collapse their lines. Grant succeeds in destroying a vital portion of the German underpinnings, and makes his escape back to British territory. The film ends with the allusion that he will meet up with Rose in Switzerland in the coming days.


(Cast list as per BFI database)[1]


While it did not do well at the US box office,[3] it did receive critical acclaim. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times gave it a very positive review, applauding the acting of Aherne and Madeleine Carroll, and calling the picture, "... an exciting and splendidly staged English espionage melodrama," and the "... most satisfactory production sent over here from the Elstree Studios."[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "The W Plan". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 18 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 Hall, Mordaunt (23 March 1931). "The W Plan: For King and Country". New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  3. 1 2 Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 34. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  4. 1 2 "The W Plan". Retrieved 18 August 2014.
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