Cast & Crew
In 1944, in a northern Italian village, American OSS officers Captain Webster "Web" Carey and his compatriot, Frank, hear their lookout, Mario, singing "Mona Lisa," the signal warning that German troops are near. Web and Frank escape to their hideout in an island palazzo, where Web's Italian girl friend, Giulia de Cresci, allows them to operate from a secret basement, which contains the treasures of her wealthy family. When Nazi soldiers invade the house, both Frank and Web are shot. Before Web becomes unconscious, he hears Giulia scream, followed by a gunshot. Four years later in New York, Web sees one of the de Cresci family paintings for sale in a gallery, and learns that the painting was smuggled out of Switzerland. Believing that the smuggler must be the same person who betrayed him to the Nazis, Web leaves his fiancée and returns to the Italian village to avenge Giulia's death. At the palazzo, however, he finds that Giulia is alive and married to Baron Rocco de Greffi. Giulia's brother Carlo, who was reported missing during the war, is also reunited with Giulia and her grandmother, Countess Francesca de Cresci, and all claim to know nothing of the painting. Web is snubbed by the villagers who once protected him because, on the eve of his capture, the Nazis shot twenty-eight villagers in retribution, and Mario was beaten to death by villagers who believed him to be the traitor. Mario's father Luigi now begs an indifferent Web to find the real traitor, as he is sure Mario was innocent. When Giulia comes to see Web in his hotel room, he learns that after his capture, she and her grandmother were imprisoned in a concentration camp, and that her grandmother told her that he was dead. Web and Giulia part friends, and he plans to leave Italy until Luigi is murdered in front of his hotel room door and the murder weapon is revealed to be Frank's old OSS knife. After the countess prevents the villagers from stoning Web to death, he seeks more information from Mario's wife Serafina. Serafina and her son Pietro have been snubbed by villagers since the war because of Mario's presumed betrayal, and she now believes that Giulia's family cut a deal with the Nazis in order to spare their family, and now work with the black market. Giulia later insists on accompanying Web to Milan so he can further investigate Serafina's claims. After several hours in the city, they finally locate Manfredo Acuto, an art dealer and acrobatics trainer, who reluctantly admits to having smuggled the de Cresci painting out of Italy, but denies any involvement in Luigi's murder. When Manfredo goes into another room, he is murdered by an unseen assailant. Giulia and Web then escape and return separately to the village, where a blind musician who feels kindly toward Web helps him elude police by playing "Mona Lisa" on his accordian as a warning. To Web's surprise, Rocco takes him to the palazzo where Giulia, pressured by her family, nervously confesses to being the traitor. Pietro, meanwhile, has overheard a conversation between Rocco and Web in which Rocco named Giulia as the traitor, and he and Serafina arouse the villagers to lynch her. As the villagers converge on the palazzo, Rocco, Carlo and their friend Giovanni take Web to his former hiding place, ostensibly to help him escape. Web finds many of the family paintings still there and confronts Rocco, who confesses that it was the countess who betrayed the Americans: After she learns that Carlo has been arrested by the Nazis, she contacts Rocco in Switzerland, who makes a deal with the Nazis to exchange Web for Carlo. Rocco now says he smuggled the paintings out of the country to finance his career as a politician, which would be hurt if it was known that he consorted with Nazis. He also admits to having contracted Giovanni to murder Luigi and Acuto to cover his tracks. After a struggle between Web, Giovanni and Rocco, Giovanni accidentally kills Rocco, and Web then kills Giovanni. Web emerges from the basement in time to save Giulia from the mob, and Giulia's and Serafina's names are cleared after he exposes Rocco as the traitor. However, Web keeps the countess's betrayal a secret, believing that her guilt will serve as her penance. Before Web turns himself in to the police, he gives Giulia the St. Christopher's medal that he wore during the war, asking her to send for him when she is ready to reunite.
George J. Lewis
Hector V. Sarno
Sergio De Karlo
Thomas Browne Henry
King, A Dog
Luigi P. Alliati
John [a.] Anderson
Mary Kay Dodson
John F. Seitz
Captain Carey U.S.A. - Alan Ladd in CAPTAIN CAREY, US.A. - Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Two of the Ladd-Maibaum films prefigure the later 007 outings. 1946's O.S.S. is a sober espionage adventure about an American agent operating in Nazi-held France. The wartime Office of Strategic Services was the precursor to our modern C.I.A. Four years later the team returned to espionage escapism with the patriotic-sounding Captain Carey, U.S.A. (UK title: After Midnight). The surprisingly complex tale concerns an O.S.S. agent who returns to Italy after the war on a mission of vengeance. By 1950 the primary threat in spy thrillers had already shifted from enemy Nazis to a new set of Cold War foes. American movies stopped reminding audiences that unpunished war criminals were still at large. The RKO picture Cornered was rewritten to tone down the claim that Nazi cadres were active in South America.
This postwar thriller largely restricts its politics to a personal betrayal. O.S.S. Captain Web Carey (Ladd) and his radioman Frank (Paul Lees) are forwarding secret information to the U.S. Army from a picturesque palace on an island in German-held Northern Italy. Helping them is Web's lover Giulia de Cresci (Wanda Hendrix), whose family owns the island. But someone betrays the team and Web is the only survivor of a Nazi raid. Three years later Web is still trying to forget. At a Manhattan art dealer he discovers that someone - possibly the unknown informer -- is selling art treasures from a hidden room in the palazzo that only he and Giulia knew about. Carey returns to Italy determined to track down and kill the informer, and is troubled to find that the locals blame him for a Nazi massacre of 28 villagers. But he then receives an even bigger shock: Giulia is still alive and married to the aristocratic Barone Graffi (Francis Lederer). Thoroughly disillusioned, Captain Carey is about to leave when a murder occurs in his hotel. The peculiar attitudes of Giulia's mother Countess de Cresci (Celia Lovsky) and Doctor Lunati (Joseph Calleia) convince the ex-espionage agent that there's more to the mystery than meets the eye.
Who informed on the O.S.S. team that night, and caused the death of 28 villagers? Alan Ladd's star appeal is undiminished in this mystery thriller set in a beautiful locale, with more than its share of intrigue and personal jeopardy. The actual mystery is the weak link: when events suggest that Wanda Hendrix's Giulia was the informer, we remain unconvinced. Ladd and Hendrix make a handsome couple, even if Ladd's impassive demeanor inhibits their romantic chemistry. Absolutely adorable in her early pictures Confidential Agent and Nora Prentiss, Ms. Hendrix saw her career crumble after a failed marriage to the unstable war hero/actor Audie Murphy. Actor Francis Lederer is a German transplant still most famous for his role opposite Louise Brooks in the silent classic Pandora's Box. His suave Baron Graffi, an ambitious politician, has a good alibi -- he spent the last year of the war in Switzerland. Adding a bit of old-world sadness is the talented Celia Lovsky, whose worn face may be hiding malice, or just the effects of cruel compromise. After helping to promote Peter Lorre to director Fritz Lang in the late 1920s, Lovsky accompanied the actor to America, where they eventually married. Only after their divorce years later did she embark on a busy career as a Hollywood character actress.
Writer Robert Theoren is now best remembered for providing the original story idea for Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like it Hot. He received story and writing credits on films by Douglas Sirk (Summer Storm) and Joseph Losey (The Prowler). Testifying to Theoren's screenwriting skill is the fact that Captain Carey's tangle of betrayals and cover-ups does not leave the audience in utter confusion.
The strongest stylistic stamp on Captain Carey is that of Mitchell Leisen, a legendary director of glamorous Paramount dramas and comedies. Leisen develops the clue of the mystery painting in a way that would remind the 1950 audience of real Nazi thefts of art from occupied territories. Although director Leisen is sometimes unfairly described as a director of décor, the film delivers an exciting fight scene at the finish. His skill with actors shows in the intelligent, nicely paced confrontations between Carey and Lederer's Count, with the cynical doctor and the secretive Countess looking on.
Director Leisen preferred to work in the controlled environment of the studio, on ornate interior sets. Going against the late-'40s vogue for location shooting, Captain Carey uses miniatures, mattes and rear-projection to depict a mountainous district of Northern Italy. The special effect illusions aren't bad and the cinematography by John F. Seitz is always attractive, but audiences in 1950 were becoming accustomed to more naturalistic locations. The supporting actors and bit players also come straight from Hollywood Central Casting. A major subplot involves a bitter widow whose husband was falsely accused as the informer, and murdered by his own neighbors. We're intrigued to see her son played by Rusty (Russ) Tamblyn, but in no way does the athletic child actor pass as Italian.
Fairly obscure today, Captain Carey, U.S.A. is remembered almost exclusively for its introduction of the pop ballad Mona Lisa, which soon became a #1 radio hit for Nat King Cole. Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, the tune won the Oscar for Best Original Song of 1950, besting Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo from Disney's Cinderella. In the film an Italian partisan sings the tune to warn the American agents when a German patrol is near. A nice twist occurs when Web Carey returns three years later. The only 'friendly' local in the village is a blind musician, who plays the old resistance 'warning' signal on his accordion.
Olive Films' Blu-ray disc of Captain Carey, U.S.A. presents this finely crafted Mitchell Leisen thriller in a crisp HD transfer. The soundtrack is also quite clean. No extras are included. A standard DVD disc of the film is being released concurrently.
For more information about Carey Carey, U.S.A., visit Olive Films. To order Captain Carey, U.S.A., go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Captain Carey U.S.A. - Alan Ladd in CAPTAIN CAREY, US.A. - Directed by Mitchell Leisen
This film opens with the following narrated foreword: "In 1944, German troops occupying Northern Italy hunted day and night for American OSS men, dropped by parachute to spy and sabotage. This is the story of Captain Carey, USA, and the gallant Italian partisans who risked their lives to save him." The working title of this film was After Midnight. Martha Albrand's novel No Surrender was reissued in 1950 as After Midnight. The story was first published in Saturday Evening Post between 18 July and September 5, 1942. According to a Los Angeles Times news item, Lewis Allen was originally slated to direct. A radio drama version of the film was presented on Lux Radio Theatre on February 2, 1950, featuring Charlton Heston as "Webster Carey." Wanda Hendrix recreated her film role for the radio broadcast. The song "Mona Lisa" won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Song, and was later made famous by singer Nat King Cole.