Yarn [from a novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall], dedicated to the Fighting French, unwinds in a series of flashbacks, as related by a French liaison officer (Claude Rains) to an American newspaperman (John Loder), who seeks background for a story dealing with activities of these Frenchmen who are fighting, and flying, on the side of the Allies. Rains goes back many months in the telling, when a ship he was on picked up a group of men in a lifeboat in the Atlantic. The survivors admit, when pressed, that they are escaped prisoners from Devil’s Island, who wish to return to France to fight for their country.
After the rescue, the freighter settles down to its normal routine, continuing back to Marseille, its destination, only to be disturbed again when the wireless crackles with the news of French surrender to the Nazis. The captain of the ship (Victor Francen) secretly orders its course changed toward England, but not before the fascist wireless operator radios the ship’s position to a German patrol bomber.
Humphrey Bogart, as Matrac, a journalist whose opposition to the appeasers at the time of Munich resulted in his conviction on a trumped up charge of murder and treason and his banishment to Devil’s Island, gives a forthright performance as one of the escaped convicts rescued by the freighter.
But the best job of all is done by Rains. Not only does he have the biggest part in the picture, but he captures practically all the acting honors in a film filled with good acting.