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The Heart of the Matter (1953)

Approved | | Drama | 8 February 1954 (USA)
An unhappily married British security officer stationed in Sierra Leone during World War II falls in love with a young Austrian woman and starts an affair. He soon starts feeling guilty.


Lesley Storm (adapted by), Ian Dalrymple (script)
Nominated for 4 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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The Heart of the Matter (TV Mini-Series 1983)
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Major Scobie is a British official in an African colony during WWII. Both he and his wife are devout Catholics, and thoroughly unhappy. When he starts an affair with a young girl and then breaks the law to hide it, he's consumed by guilt.

Stars: Jack Hedley, Erica Rogers, Manfred Seipold


Complete credited cast:
Trevor Howard ... Harry Scobie
Elizabeth Allan ... Louise Scobie
Maria Schell ... Helen Rolt
Denholm Elliott ... Wilson
Peter Finch ... Father Rank
Gérard Oury ... Yusef (as Gerard Oury)
George Coulouris ... Portuguese Captain
Michael Hordern ... Commissioner


An unhappily married British security officer stationed in Sierra Leone during World War II falls in love with a young Austrian woman and starts an affair. He soon starts feeling guilty.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

africa | based on novel | See All (2) »


The instant...when a man must choose! Which woman? Which code? Which life?




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

8 February 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Herz aller Dinge See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The novel, from which this movie was adapted, drew upon author Graham Greene's wartime experiences in Sierra Leone, where he was employed by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: FREETOWN, 1942. See more »


Version of Das Herz aller Dinge (1971) See more »


Pende Jetty
Arranged by Edric Connor
See more »

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User Reviews

Inner Demons
10 February 2019 | by spookyrat1See all my reviews

Adapted from one of Graham Greene's "Big 4" "Catholic novels", The Heart of the Matter is notable for its excellent production standards. In an example of literacy audiences differing from those of the cinema, the film is generally accepted as being a commercial failure, I would suggest due to its rather bleak and depressing storyline.

The acting is first class with Trevor Howard excelling as Scobie, the principled expatriate Catholic police officer serving in Sierra Leone. Enmeshed in a loveless marriage with an adulterous wife, he still attempts to do the right thing by all parties, including his wife's smarmy lover Wilson (a fine young Denholm Elliot), as well as do his job professionally, though aware he is to be passed over for promotion for a younger officer. Both his faith and desires however are tested mightily after meeting the young refugee Helen.

The black and white cinematography shot by the great Jack Hildyard on location in Sierra Leone is superb, as is the indigenous, largely percussive soundtrack.

The storyline does parallel much of Greene's life, as he served in Sierra Leone during World War 2, not for the police, but the nascent MI6. The self-confessed "Catholic agnostic", in creating the character of Harry Scobie, forms a template mirroring his own inner torments and depressions, whilst trying to adjust his life to established institutions such as lasting marriage to one person and living one's life according to Catholic doctrines.

Though quite a literal and respectable adaption from Greene's book, this is also arguably the root reason for the film's failure to win much of an audience, apart from those with a fair awareness and interest in Catholicism. Unlike some of Greene's other work embracing aspects of espionage mystery and suspense, this film pretty much eschews any thought of embellishing the story with a police procedural. It serves almost solely as a psychological examination of Scobie's inner demons and challenges. Both the narrative and its conclusion can best be described as unrelentingly harsh and cheerless.

Unsurprisingly, as such, it was never a film likely to gather a large audience, despite its its many production virtues.

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