Produced for London Films by Alexander Korda and Erich Pommer, ‘Fire over England’ is the first of three films that paired both Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh together, it is also credited with being the film in which both stars fell in love with each other. Also starring Raymond Massey as King Philip of Spain, Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth I of England and in a small uncredited role as Hillary Vane is James Mason who at that time was still a relative unknown. When Korda came to re-release the film some seven years later Mason was a box office star for rival studio Gainsborough and so Korda released a new trailer that implied that Mason was one of the major stars of the film.
The film deals with Olivier who having been captured by the Spanish and then escaping from Spain returning to England and accepting a mission to go undercover to the Spanish court of King Philip in order to find out the names of those Englishmen who are in league with the Spanish King. But Philip is an untrusting man and has Olivier arrested, but with help Olivier escapes once again from Spain just as the Spanish Armada is about to be launched against England.
The role of Cynthia, played by Vivien Leigh was instrumental in the actresses gaining the part of Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939). During a screening of ‘Fire over England’ the brother of David O. Selznick, Myron, a talent agent, suggested Leigh for the part of Scarlett and after a number of screen tests she won the part.