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The Magnificent Fraud

The Magnificent Fraud(1939)

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On New Year's Eve, on board an airplane bound for the small South American of San Cristobal, are Harrison Todd and his fiancée, Claire Hill, chaperoned by her aunt, Geraldine "Jerry" Genet. Todd is a banker, entrusted with finalizing a $10,000,000 American loan to the government of San Cristobal, which is headed by Don Miguel Esteban Alvarado, known as "El Toro." Meanwhile, inside the Cafe Cristobal, the evening's revels are reaching a crescendo as the dancer Carmelita performs until she grows jealous over the attentions of Sam Barr to a blonde at his table. Barr, a native of Chicago, is the President's right hand man, but his toast to Alvarado is interrupted by an explosion at the presidential palace which fatally injures Alvarado. Barr goes to the bedside of the dying Alvarado, and promises to insure that he will be succeeded by Dr. Luis Virgo, and not Mendietta Garcia or General Pablo Hernandez Gomez, the Ministers of Finance and War. To insure an American loan, Barr sends for Jules La Croix, an actor whose performance as Cyrano and Napoleon was part of the show at the Cafe Cristobal. Barr convinces Garcia and Hernandez to agree to have La Croix imitate Alvarado until Todd finalizes the loan. La Croix observes Alvarado before he dies, and then imitates him in a speech to sooth the worried crowd, proving that their president is only wounded. The next morning, Claire and Todd arrive, and Jerry reveals that she was once Alvarado's mistress when she sang in the opera in Spain. To maintain his ruse, La Croix renews his romance with Jerry, and Barr becomes attracted to Claire. Duval of the French Surete, who had been about to arrest La Croix for a politician's murder committed in France seven years before, informs Virgo that he is suspicious that La Croix is impersonating Alvarado. La Croix agrees to sign the loan at the great ball to celebrate Alvarado's 69th birthday and his thirtieth anniversary as president. Before the ball, however, Hernandez orders Barr arrested, hoping to force La Croix to resign and designate the General to succeed him. While the crowd still believes him to be Alvarado, La Croix names Dr. Virgo to follow him, and denounces Garcia and Hernandez as traitors. This prompts Hernandez to shoot La Croix, and in the melee, Hernandez is also killed. Jerry reveals to the dying actor that she knew he was a fraud, but loved him anyway. Claire rushes to the jail just as Ruiz, Hernandez's henchman, plans to kill Barr, but it was Santiago, Alvarado's assassin, who is shot instead. Barr is then freed and joins Claire in admiring a statue of Alvarado newly erected to celebrate his thirty years as president. Barr tells Duval that the body of La Croix belongs not to France but to San Cristobal, the actor's adopted country, for which he gave his life.