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Although it's based on the real-life World War II exploits of Eddie Chapman, a British spy, Terence Young's Triple Cross (1966) seems a great deal like an early James Bond picture. This only makes sense since Young preceded his work on the film by directing Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). Producer Jacques-Paul Bertrand intended for Young to infuse Chapman's story with a certain debonair flair, and the two men stacked the deck in their favor by casting the casually suave Christopher Plummer as Chapman. Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard, Romy Schneider and Gert Frobe (the title villain of Goldfinger, 1964) fill out the supporting roles.
Plummer's Chapman is a relatively amoral safecracker who is jailed on a remote island that's taken over by the Germans during the War. He eventually convinces the Third Reich to let him spy for them. But he turns the tables when he informs the British of his activities, thus becoming a double agent. Plummer infuses Chapman with an enviable arrogance, even when he's trying to put one over on Hitler's minions. His adventures aren't particularly believable, even if they're based on fact, but they're fun to watch.
Given his past exploits, Chapman, strangely enough, was still living when Triple Cross was being filmed, and Young badly wanted him as his technical advisor. However, French authorities wouldn't allow Chapman into the country because, for reasons that were never really ascertained, he had once kidnapped the sultan of Morocco.
In his autobiography, In Spite of Myself, Christopher Plummer makes the film shoot for Triple Cross sound more like a luxurious vacation than work. He was absolutely smitten with Young, his family, and their good friend, Lady Annie Orr-Lewis, who, Plummer recalled, constantly carried a Shih Tzu who she referred to as "My Little Sh*t." He also appreciated being housed at the old George V hotel because its long bar always featured a string of high-class call girls of various nationalities.
Initially, however, it seemed as if the Triple Cross production would never get off the ground. "The first news I received on arrival," Plummer wrote, "was that the film had been cancelled - that the backers had not only reneged on the deal but had been thrown in jail. This sort of thing I learned was to be occasionally expected on a Terry Young film. He would try to make deals with anyone no matter how untrustworthy, living on the edge as he did, but always cunningly managed to get things fixed in the long run. The online producer told me, 'Just stay close to the hotel - eat and drink all you want. It'll be covered, I promise.'"
Sure enough, after a week, a mysterious woman named Madame Gouin fronted the needed money. From there, it was well-appointed train journeys for Plummer, with 90-minute lunch breaks during the shoot, an unheard of luxury on most movies. "With Terry as maestro," he wrote, "the life surrounding the work was just as important if not more so, and everything and everyone involved had to be attractive. Terry was a beauty snob, may God rest his soul!"
Director: Terence Young
Producer: Jacques-Paul Bertrand
Screenplay: Rene Hardy (based on the book The Eddie Chapman Story by Frank Owen)
Editor: Roger Dwyre
Cinematographer: Henri Alekan
Music: Georges Garvarentz
Art Direction: Rene Renoux, Tony Roman
Sound: Jacques Lebreton
Makeup: Marie-Madeleine Paris
Cast: Christopher Plummer (Eddie Chapman), Romy Schneider (The Countess), Trevor Howard (Freddie Young), Gert Frobe (Col. Steinhager), Claudine Auger (Paulette), Yul Brynner (Baron Von Grunen), Georges Lycan (Leo), Jess Hahn (Commander Braid).
by Paul Tatara