Code Name: The White Mouse
October 10, 2014 3:09 PM   Subscribe

 
And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.

I love you.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:20 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


When she dropped into the Auvergne, her parachute snagged on a tree. The agent who met her simpered that he hoped all trees could bear such beautiful fruit. ‘Don’t give me that French s**t,’ she snapped back.

And she fought FOR the French. I wish someone had a list of things she said to Germans while "disposing" of them.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:26 PM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


I wish someone had a list of things she said to Germans while "disposing" of them.

Probably not much since she was doing things like killing sentries with her bare hands while on covert sabotage missions. That kind of one-liner belongs only in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.

Incidentally, her husband sounds pretty tough too, from her description of his death at the hands of the Gestapo: "They tortured him. And his father said to him, 'They'll release you if you tell them where Nancy has gone.' And he said, 'Papa, laisse-moi tranquille'."
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The agent who met her simpered that he hoped all trees could bear such beautiful fruit.

To be fair, the French did write the book on seduction - it's just that the chapter on Lines For Use In Parachuting Mishap Scenarios is pretty thin.
posted by sobarel at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


What an amazing, wonderful woman.
posted by VikingSword at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2014


That's actually part of a longer explanation about her unbending policy of being faithful to her husband. So it probably would not have mattered how he tried to hit on her. She likely would have been just as cheeky and rejecting.
posted by Michele in California at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wasn't suggesting he was in with a shout! Just amazed someone would try such a lame line, in such inappropriate circumstances, and with a woman who could clearly have kicked his arse across the Ardennes and back.
posted by sobarel at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2014


WHY IS THIS WOMAN NOT A MOVIE
posted by Sara C. at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


And, to clarify, I mean a badass action movie, not Charlotte Gray, which is a fine film don't get me wrong, but I'm definitely not talking about one of those stuffy cerebral Oscar Bait films. I want action sequences.
posted by Sara C. at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


How have I never heard of this woman?
posted by brundlefly at 4:31 PM on October 10, 2014


I want to go back in time and Boston marriage marry her, and if I can't marry her, than I want to stand around twirling my hair around my finger and giggling and making admiring comments while she beats up Nazis, and then when she's done beating up Nazis, I want to provide her with tea and booze and whatever else she requires. I'm in love with her, is what I'm saying.

Failing that, I would like a TV show and/or movie about her. Like, multiple TV shows and movies.
posted by yasaman at 4:52 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just from the photo, I don't think she was blisteringly sexy or glamorous. Why does she have to be, to be the incredible person she was?
posted by oneironaut at 4:56 PM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Blistering sexiness and glamour are not necessarily reflected in photographs.
posted by brundlefly at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Failing that, I would like a TV show and/or movie about her.

Here's hoping Agent Carter takes some cues from her.
posted by brundlefly at 5:03 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


DERAILING TO TELL YOU ALL HOW EXCITED I AM FOR AGENT CARTER
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The "blisteringly sexy" copy comes from the Daily Mail which is obsessed - ob-sodding-sessed - with women's appearances. And was also, lest we forget, pretty pro-fascism in the 1930s.
posted by sobarel at 5:15 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Or maybe she was a sociopath. You know, the love of killing and whatnot.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:24 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


What an amazing person.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2014


If you don't think a parachuting, Nazi-killing, machine-gun wielding, cigar smoking, badass French lady is sexy as hell, I don't even know. I don't even know.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:30 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Or maybe she was a sociopath. You know, the love of killing and whatnot.

Seriously. I don't really care whose throat you are tearing out. It might even be right. It's still fucked and I am not going to coo over it. That's disgusting actually.
posted by grobstein at 7:27 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


There was an Australian TV mini-series made about her.
posted by Coaticass at 10:23 PM on October 10, 2014


grobstein, it was war, against the Nazis, you know this, right?
posted by marienbad at 10:37 PM on October 10, 2014


Exactly how do you go about killing a soldier with your bare hands (especially when you are probably a lot weaker)?

A karate chop to the neck apparently:

"They'd taught this judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE, and I practised away at it. But this was the only time I used it -- whack -- and it killed him all right. I was really surprised."

That sounds ... fishy to me. Like an action movie cliche. (e.g. that effortless twisting the head killmove you see in everything.)
posted by dgaicun at 11:05 PM on October 10, 2014


badass French lady
She was born in New Zealand, and moved to Australia aged 2. She wasn't French.
posted by Megami at 2:05 AM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I felt Charlotte Gray was quite watchable, contrary to the overall critical response, apparently, although a bit limp at times compared to what it was trying to depict. Note that the RT audience score is 63%, quite a bit higher than the critical score (and the Metacritic audience score is 8.1, also quite decent -- e.g. Gone Girl's score right now is 8.3). So give it a whirl, but be prepared for a sort of airport-read approach.

dgaicun, the so-called rabbit punch is in the US Army hand-to-hand combat training manual. It's dangerous enough to be banned in any sort of sanctioned boxing or MMA.

Naturally, the French cinema in particular produced a number of great films about the Occupation and Resistance, in particular the Jean-Pierre Melville classic Army of Shadows. (There's a newer film called Army of Crime that covers some of the same territory, but focusing on the use of skilled criminals as disposable human weapons. It's a decent thriller, but just that.) I also recommend 13 Rue Madeleine, which is about a counterintelligence operation to smoke out a double agent. Carve Her Name with Pride is a 1950s film about Violette Szabo, another resistance agent, which I haven't seen.

In a similar vein I recommend the fun/inaccurate The Train, which was about a real incident where the resistance tried to scotch a Nazi art appropriation from Paris, and the very sober documentary The Rape of Europa, which is the counterpart to the leaden and less-art-focused-than-you'd-expect Monuments Men.
posted by dhartung at 2:10 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


> "Or maybe she was a sociopath. You know, the love of killing and whatnot."

As pacifist a person as I usually am ...

She worked as a journalist in Vienna in the 1930's and saw the Nazis killing Jews in the streets. She spent the first half of the war smuggling refugees out of occupied France. She spent the second half leading a force of 7,000 partisans against a force of 22,000 SS -- the paramilitary branch of the German forces that ran the concentration camps and death squads which together slaughtered literally millions of noncombatants. While she was doing so, the Gestapo tortured and killed her husband.

If anyone can ever say that they had a reasonable justification for their wartime actions, that list would include Nancy God-Damn Wake.
posted by kyrademon at 4:48 AM on October 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


If she killed nazis with her bear-hands, I would watch that movie!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:46 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


There has been at least one movie about her life: Nancy Wake. I have not seen it. I have no clue if it is any good.

Re the remarks about her looks: I have talked before on MeFi about how so many people these days have their perspective warped by the omnipresence of modern film and photography. Given that the photos from that era are black and white, not "retouched"/photoshopped and people were a lot less knowledgeable back then about how to play to the camera, I think she looks incredibly good.

Also, I don't think blisteringly sexy has to refer to just her looks. The very people who hired her did not expect her to last because of her reputation as a party girl. She liked to smoke, drink and apparently got married to a well-off man in part for his ability to support her indulgent lifestyle. The stuff I have read gives me the impression she consciously and intentionally used her looks and reputation as a party girl who married well as cover for a lot of her activities. She accomplished a lot in part because no one took her seriously as a threat.

As for the criticisms she was a sociopath:
In 1933, as a reporter for Hearst, Nancy Wake was on assignment in Vienna. Wake witnessed the early persecution of Jews and other minorities.

"The stormtroopers had tied the Jewish people up to massive wheels," Wake later recounted. "They were rolling the wheels along, and the stormtroopers were whipping the Jews. I stood there and thought, 'I don't know what I'll do about it, but if I can do anything one day, I'll do it.' And I always had that picture in my mind, all through the war."

Nancy Wake - Heroine of World War 2 (this might actually be a new link, not included in my fpp -- I was just googling for the quote)
Sociopaths typically lack a conscience. I think you would basically have to be a sociopath to witness that firsthand and not want to kill a few people with your bare hands. If you have a conscience and care at all about other people, I can't imagine witnessing that firsthand under circumstances where you can do nothing about it and not carrying that for years as a deep burning desire to DO SOMETHING about it.

As pointed out above, she began by just smuggling people out of France. This became a kind of slippery slope and she got more and more involved in the resistance. But, initially, she got all dolled up in high heels and silk stockings, donning her party girl/dilettante personae, and escorted downed soldiers to safety. That hardly sounds like a blood-thirsty sociopath.

Plus, in spite of the headline, my reading suggests she killed a Nazi with her bare hands only once. It makes a great headline, but I haven't read anything that really indicates this was something she did a lot of. Maybe someone who knows more than I do can cast some light on that?

Last, I will note that after posting my fpp, I read on one of the links above (the one with photos of her medals, iirc) that she was the most decorated woman of WWII. I kind of wish I had read that sooner and been able to include it in the fpp.
posted by Michele in California at 9:34 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


grobstein, it was war, against the Nazis, you know this, right?

Yeah, this presumably justifies her actions. All kinds of horrors can be called for in desperate circumstances.

But that's not what I'm talking about. And I'm not trying to call out a post about an interesting person who was brave and did good.

I'm talking about the attitude we take 70(!) years later. Should we celebrate violence, even justified violence, as cool and sexy? I tend to think not. It's better to find a way to celebrate war heroism that isn't a celebration of brutality. That's all.
posted by grobstein at 9:42 AM on October 11, 2014


Hmm.. I just finished watching the Charlotte Gray movie. It's not as bad as the reviews might indicate, and the reviews were bad. But it's not very good. The only thing that saves the movie is Cate Blanchett. I could just watch her for hours, even if the director made her dye her hair mousy brown and treats her like a soap opera actress.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


sobarel: The "blisteringly sexy" copy comes from the Daily Mail which is obsessed - ob-sodding-sessed - with women's appearances. And was also, lest we forget, pretty pro-fascism in the 1930s.

Wrong wrongity-wrong wrong. The "blisteringly sexy" comes from her personal aura; she once got a marriage proposal from a male power coupler, and an indecent proposal from a female water pipe extension.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:14 PM on October 12, 2014


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