Cast & Crew
In Vienna, Austria, Karen Manelli, the American wife of concert pianist Claude Manelli, receives a telegram from her old friend, Jack Mortimer, saying that he will be arriving in Vienna that night. The possessive Claude intercepts the telegram and confronts her, but pleads that he wants her to stay with him and promises to be a better husband. After leaving the house to rehearse for a New Year's Eve concert that night, Claude is no longer able to suppress his anger and drives his large, expensive car recklessly, narrowly missing a taxi driven by Toni Sponer. Toni is furious when he drops off the cab for his co-worker Heinth, but their friend Marie warns him not to call the police as he has had no papers since the war and will be thrown in jail for driving illegally. The fatalistic Toni, whose father was a prominent professor and spent many years in America, tells Marie that jail might not be too bad. Late that afternoon, with the help of her faithful maid, Mrs. Fraser, Karen sneaks past Kruger, Claude's conniving manager, and leaves their house to meet Jack at a local hotel. Because Heinth is too drunk to drive, Toni takes his evening shift, and when Jack arrives at the train station, he hires Toni's taxi and asks to be driven to the airline office. Meanwhile, Kruger has discovered that Karen left the house and informs Claude. Too upset to continue his rehearsal, Claude says that he wants to rest before his performance, then secretly leaves the concert hall and drives to the train station. He sees Jack enter Toni's taxi and follows them in his car. At the airline office, Jack asks to have the tickets for Karen and himself delivered to his hotel, then walks back to the taxi and asks Toni to retrieve a suitcase left at the counter. While Toni is inside, Claude, who wrongly assumes that Jack and Karen are in love, leaves his car, sneaks around the taxi and shoots Jack through the back window. Because jackhammers are working on the street, the shot is not heard, thus enabling Claude to drive away. His car is observed by Toni, who is surprised to see it again. Toni gets into the taxi and drives for a few blocks, but senses that something is wrong when his passenger does not respond to questions. When Toni discovers that Jack is dead, he tries to inform a policeman, but traffic is heavy, and the preoccupied officer orders Toni to move along. Toni later calls the police from a crowded bar, but when the policeman asks his name, Toni hangs up. Thinking that the American passport and money in Jack's pockets will offer him a way out of his predicament, Toni drives the body to a deserted area beneath a bridge, takes Jack's suitcase, wallet, coat and hat, then leaves. After having his picture taken and arranging for a doctoring of Jack's passport, Toni writes a note to the police, telling them where they can find the body. He then goes to see Marie, worrying her by saying that he will be leaving Vienna that night. Next, Toni checks into Jack's hotel. As he registers as Jack Mortimer, Karen observes him and determines to find out who the impostor is. She knocks on the door of his room and pretends to be looking for someone else, then confronts him, demanding to know who he is. His story of being a friend of Jack falls apart, and when Karen suddenly realizes that Jack may be dead, she runs off. A few minutes later, the police, accompanied by Karen, take Toni to the police station. Toni, who is now dressed like an American and speaks perfect English, remains calm and shows the police inspector the doctored passport. After receiving a telephone call, the inspector takes both Toni and Karen to the concert hall, where Claude greets them. To Toni's surprise, Claude apologizes to him for the inconvenience and explains that Karen is ill and has run off before and concocted fantasies. The inspector, who is a fan of Claude, then allows Toni to leave. On the sidewalk outside the theater, Toni is surprised to again see the car he encountered twice that afternoon. When Toni goes back to the hotel to collect his airline tickets, he learns that the clerk had given them to Karen earlier. Just as Toni starts to panic, the bellboy hands him a message from Karen, asking to meet him. Karen tells him that Jack was Claude's best man; therefore, if he hid the fact that Toni was an imposter, it must be because he himself killed Jack. Although skeptical at first, Toni admits that she is right and the pair goes to Marie's apartment to hide until it is time to leave for the airport. Unknown to them, a woman has gone to the police to complain that her fur was stained by blood in Heinth's taxi. Heinth has no idea how the blood got there, but under pressure, reveals that Toni had driven for him earlier that evening. The police then arrive at Heinth and Toni's apartment, but Marie helps Karen and Toni get away, then tells the police she has been drinking alone all night because Toni stood her up. As Karen and Toni hide while waiting to go to the airport, Karen tells him about Claude's insane jealousy and her need to get away from him. Meanwhile, Kruger, who knows what has happened, advises Claude to let her go, as she no longer loves him, but Claude cannot be dissuaded and takes Kruger with him to the airport. Just before their flight is to leave, Karen and Toni nervously check in and are about to board when an official tells Karen that she must first update a vaccination certificate. When she and Toni arrive at the nurse's station, Claude and Kruger are there. Toni calls Claude a murderer, then Claude sends Kruger for the police inspector. As their flight is announced, a defeated Karen implores Toni to save himself. Under the watchful eyes of Claude and the inspector, Toni approaches the plane, but at the last moment turns back, then tells the inspector that he is an imposter, responsible for aiding Claude, who murdered Jack Mortimer. Although Claude laughs off the accusation, Toni says that he can prove Claude knew he was an impostor by opening Jack's suitcase, which contains a picture of Jack, Claude and Karen. Claude then runs onto the tarmac, but is arrested by the police. Later, Toni assures Karen that he will only serve a few months in prison, and she can now go home to America. Karen says that she will be staying, then takes a cigarette from Toni as they gaze at the departing plane.
E. Von Jordan
As the vengeful husband, a famous concert pianist, Francis Lederer is probably the best-known name in the cast from his appearances in Pandora's Box (1929) opposite Louise Brooks, Midnight (1939) with Claudette Colbert, and The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944). He is co-starred with two American-born actors, Joan Camden as the wife and Don Buka as the cab driver, and a number of Austrian actors.
The most recognizable name in the credits, though, belongs to its producer. Turhan Bey was born in Vienna to a Turkish father and a Czech-Jewish mother and came to Hollywood in the early 1940s. Suave, possessed of a mellifluous voice and what was usually known as "Eurasian" good looks, he first played villains and men of mystery, then teamed with other "exotics," such as Maria Montez and Sabu, in Technicolor adventure pictures. Like many darkly attractive, foreign-born actors who spoke with noticeable accents, he was cast in a range of ethnic types, from Arab to Latin, Russian, and ancient Greek. His highest-profile role was as Katharine Hepburn's husband (both of them Chinese!) in Dragon Seed (1944). When his career faded after the war, he returned to Vienna and pursued his other talents to become a successful fashion photographer. Stolen Identity, made shortly after his last Hollywood feature, Prisoners of the Casbah (1953), is his only non-acting film credit. He returned to acting in the 1990s for a couple of minor feature films and a handful of television appearances.
Director Gunther Fritsch, working from Robert Hill's adaptation of Alexander Lernet-Holenia's novel, kept things moving swiftly and with suspense. Cinematographer Helmut Ashley even managed to use his shadowy black-and-white photography to give Vienna a touch of what it displayed in Carol Reed's acclaimed Austrian-set thriller The Third Man (1949). Hill followed his work here with the screenplay for the Joan Crawford potboiler Female on the Beach (1955).
This was the last film score composed by Richard Hageman, an Academy Award winner for his work on Stagecoach (1939). He was nominated for five other film scores. He also appeared occasionally on screen, including an uncredited bit as a saloon pianist in Stagecoach and director John Ford's 3 Godfathers (1948).
Stolen Identity is the English-language version of another Austrian film, Abenteuer in Wien/Adventures in Vienna (1952). The earlier film was not produced by Bey.
The poster for the film touted a performance of Schumann's Concerto in A Minor by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Bey's producer credit is printed on the poster as large as the names of the cast.
Director: Gunther Fritsch
Producer: Turhan Bey
Screenplay: Robert Hill, based on Alexander Lernet-Holenia's novel
Cinematography: Helmut Ashley
Production Design: J. Jonsdorff
Original Music: Richard Hageman
Cast: Donald Buka (Toni Spooner), Joan Camden (Karen Manelli), Francis Lederer (Claude Manelli), Adrienne Gessner (Mrs. Fraser), Inge Konradi (Marie)
By Rob Nixon
The film's working title was I Was Jack Mortimer. The opening credits contain the following written statement, that appears just before the producing and directing credits: "This picture was photographed in Vienna, Austria at 'Wien-Film' studios in cooperation with Schoenbrunn Films." The viewed print had a title card that read "Trans-Globe Films," the film's original North American distributor. The The Exhibitor review indicated that the film was an "Ainsworth-Nathanson" production, but Helen Ainsworth was the distributor. Sam Nathanson was an executive with the company. The The Exhibitor review incorrently includes John/Jack Mortimer in the cast, but "Jack Mortimer" was merely the name of the character portrayed by Donald Buka.
Stolen Identity was the first producing credit for actor Turhan Bey. As noted in a Variety article in late April 1952, there were two versions of the film shot simultaneously, one in German and one in English. The German-language version was directed by E. E. Reinert and co-starred Gustav Froelich and Cornell Borchers. Francis Lederer portrayed "Claude Manelli" in both versions. The Variety article noted that the film was the first film to be made by partners Bey and Elisabeth Dickinson but that financial problems had forced the partners to scuttle plans for additional films. Dickinson is not mentioned in the onscreen credits. In a modern interview, Bey elaborated that he never produced another film.
According to a January 1953 news item in Daily Variety, distributor Nat Levine sued Bey, Werner Kreide and Trans-Globe Films, Inc., charging that he had "a set deal with an undisclosed distrib[utor] who offered a $50,000 advance" for the film. Levine charged that the parties named in the suit had refused to pay him a previously arranged $5,000 fee for arranging to release the film. According to the April 1952 Variety article, Trans-Globe had "already broken up on the financial rocks." The disposition of the 1953 suit has not been found.