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Television Spy

Television Spy(1939)

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In Stanhaven, New York, under the patronage of irascible, wheelchair bound radio magnate James Llewellyn, inventor Douglas Cameron discovers a television broadcaster that will carry waves farther than the standard fifty-mile limit by making them follow the curvature of the earth. While demonstrating his interoffice communications system to his business manager, Llewellyn catches his avaricious cousins scheming to have him declared incompetent so they can get their hands on his money. After weeks of work in a secret laboratory with his assistant, Dick Randolph, Cameron perfects the instrument and plans to turn it over to the United States government as a military secret. However, their plans go awry when an international spy ring headed by Reni Vonich, an old friend of Llewellyn, learns of the discovery and induces Llewellyn's butler, Frome, and his former business partner, Burton Lawson, to steal the design and develop their own set. Over the next few months, Cameron and Randolph successfully increase the distance to which they are able to broadcast from New York, finally reaching Cleveland, Chicago and then Kansas City. While they are awaiting a signal from Salt Lake City, Frome drugs Llewellyn. A broadcast from Lawson's California ranch then appears on Cameron's New York set, and Cameron is able to communicate with Lawson's daughter Gwen and sees his own blueprints on a desk in the picture. The connection fades almost immediately, and no one believes Cameron's story. Gwen then tells Reni that she saw someone on the television set who said that the blueprints were his. Reni sends a telegram to Llewellyn from Lawson asking him to tune in at noon, New York time, for a broadcast from California. Lawson finally realizes that Reni is the head of a spy ring that plans to sell the plans to a European country. Frome agrees to kill Lawson and Gwen for Reni, for an additional $10,000, while Cameron tries to solve the crime from New York and deduces that someone in the Llewellyn household must have betrayed him. To trap the thief, Llewellyn then tells his relatives he has an innovation in the safe, hoping someone will take the bait. The trick works, and Llewellyn discovers that the spy is Frome when an in-house monitor shows the butler opening the safe. Lawson tunes in and tells Llewellyn that he and Gwen are being held hostage, but fails to say where they are. Reni and her accomplice, Boris, scheme to doublecross their European liaison, Carl Venner, who plans to meet them in Paris the next day. Reni and Boris visit Llewellyn, claiming that they made a legitimate purchase of a television tube, which they later learned had been stolen. The relatives then catch Boris planting dynamite in the house. In Glenby, California, Lawson broadcasts a call for help. At the same time, in New York, Reni pulls a gun on Llewellyn, but the relatives enter with guns and dispose of the dynamite. Remarkably, Llewellyn rises out of his wheelchair and calls the police. In Glenby, the Lawsons are being forced by Reni's lackey, Forbes, to dismantle the equipment, but when Lawson offers Forbes diamonds from his house safe, Forbes releases them in exchange for the combination. The police arrive and gun down the escaping spies. The sheriff then broadcasts to Llewellyn that the Lawsons are safe, and all leave Gwen and Cameron alone to privately broadcast their love.