An English officer fights a duel with a German, and they become friends even though their nations are enemies.
In an exercise British troops led by Lt. Spud Wilson (James McKechnie) invade a Turkish bath. General Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) says the war starts at midnight and tries to thrash Wilson for starting early. Candy goes back forty years and asks Col. Betteridge if he can go to Berlin to counter German propaganda about the Boer War. He says no, but Candy goes anyway. Candy attends the theater with Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr), who teaches English to Germans. Candy was a prisoner with Kaunitz, and they quarrel over the choice of music. Candy knocks out Kaunitz and insults his regiment, which challenges him to a duel. Candy and Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook) duel with sabers while Edith waits outside. She learns that Candy was wounded and visits him weekly. Theo is also recovering, and they play cards. As Candy packs to go, Theo tells him that he loves Edith. Candy congratulates him and says he was never engaged to Edith. In London, Candy takes Edith's sister to the theater.
After years of big-game hunting, Candy is in the first world war. He questions prisoners about Theo and dynamite but refuses to use German methods. Candy sees a nurse who looks like Edith, and he learns that Germany has surrendered. He finds the nurse by sponsoring a fund-raising ball for all the nurses in the area. Barbara Wynne (Deborah Kerr) tells Candy that she is marrying him in order to join the army and see the world, and she likes his house. At an outdoor concert the prisoner Theo refuses to speak to Candy, but Theo calls him from Victoria Station. Candy picks up Theo and brings him back to a banquet of English dignitaries. Theo is pessimistic about his defeated country, but the English say they want to be friends. Candy says, "We'll soon have Germany on her feet again."
In late 1939 Theo comes to England because he dislikes Nazis, but he is detained for security reasons. Theo tells of his past in Germany and of his English wife who died in 1935. Candy comes in and stands surety for Theo. At home Candy admits that he was in love with Edith and says he never got over it. Theo sees that his driver Angela (Deborah Kerr) also looks like Edith. Candy's radio broadcast is cancelled, and Theo tells Angela why they rejected it. Candy reads a letter and says he has been retired again. Theo tells Candy that his mistake is in refusing to fight the Nazis by their own methods. Angela advises Candy to change and urges him to join the home guard. His servant Murdoch says he joined the home guard, and his death is soon reported. Candy teaches and commands the home guard. An exercise is to begin at midnight. Lt. Wilson kisses Angela and says they will capture Candy early. She knocks him out and tries to warn Candy, but Wilson keeps Candy a prisoner until morning. Candy tells Theo and Angela that he will not get Wilson into trouble but invites him to dinner, recalling how well Col. Bettinger treated him when he was young.
Winston Churchill tried to get this movie banned because
he feared the portrayal based on the cartoon character Col. Blimp
would damage morale. By depicting the friendship of a sympathetic
German character who opposes the Nazis and an English officer
with a sense of honor the film raises the ethical question of
how far a nation should lower its moral standards in confronting
a powerful and ruthless enemy.