Espionage Agent


1h 23m 1939
Espionage Agent

Brief Synopsis

American spies try to steal Nazi secrets from a moving train.

Film Details

Also Known As
Career Man
Genre
Spy
Release Date
Sep 30, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 23 Sep 1939
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

As war flares in North Africa, the U.S. consulate in Tangiers is flooded with Americans desperate to return home. Among them is Brenda Ballard, who has obtained a forged passport in exchange for her services on behalf of German espionage. Brenda meets Barry Corvall, an attache at the consulate, when she staggers into his office and faints. Barry, who is returning to Washington to attend foreign service school, becomes infatuated by Brenda, and when the two sail for America on the same boat, he falls in love with her. Although Barry proposes night after night, Brenda refuses to marry him because she knows that he comes from a family of career diplomats and her past would destroy his future. In Washington, Barry completes his studies, and upon passing his examinations, he is assigned to the Paris consulate. Against his mother's wishes, Barry finally becomes engaged to Brenda, and on the eve of their marriage, Karl Muller, a German spy, appears and orders Brenda to steal some secret plans. Compelled by Muller's demands, Brenda confesses her past to Barry, thus forcing him to resign from the foreign service. Realizing that the U.S. has no defense against spies like Muller, Barry determines to expose the workings of the espionage ring. He and Brenda decide to risk their lives by going to Geneva to infiltrate the ring. There, Brenda convinces Paul Strawn, one of the spies, that she and Barry are willing to sell U.S. military and industrial secrets. Discovering the location of the spies's headquarters, Barry eavesdrops on a meeting and learns of their plans to spread national disaster throughout America. Realizing that he needs evidence to convince Congress, Barry and Brenda try to flush the spies out of their headquarters with the plans. Their scheme backfires, however, and Rader, the head of the ring, takes Brenda hostage aboard a train bound for Germany. Barry follows and rescues Brenda, and after securing the plans, they make a daring escape by plane. In Washington, Barry uses his evidence to convince the government of the necessity to combat espionage in the U.S.

Cast

Joel Mccrea

Barry Corvall

Brenda Marshall

Brenda Ballard

Jeffrey Lynn

Lowell Warrington

George Bancroft

Dudley Garrett

Stanley Ridges

Hamilton Peyton

James Stephenson

Dr. Rader

Howard Hickman

Walter Forbes

Martin Kosleck

Mr. Mullen

Nana Bryant

Mrs. Corvall

Davis Roberts

Paul Strawn

Hans Von Twardowsky

Dr. Helm

Lucien Prival

Decker

Addison Richards

Bruce Corvall

Edwin Stanley

Secretary of State

Granville Bates

Phineas T. O'Grady

Grace Hayle

Mrs. O'Grady

Egon Brecher

Larsch

Emmet Vogan

Instructor

Willy Kaufman

Straubel

John Voight

Heinrick

William Hopper

Student

Glen Langan

Student

Lionel Royce

Hoffmeyer

Henry Victor

First foreign official

Lloyd Ingraham

Woodrow Wilson

Chris Martin

Tunisian guard

Stuart Holmes

American

Al Lloyd

American

Eddie Graham

American

Sally Sage

American

John Harron

American

Fern Barry

American

Alice Connors

American

Louis Adlon

Youth

Vera Lewis

Militant woman

Robert Middlemass

Lantern-jawed man

Dorothy Vaughan

Stout woman

Sidney Bracy

Steward

Alex Melesh

Headwaiter

George Irving

Elderly official

Selmer Jackson

Instructor

William Worthington

Instructor

John Hamilton

Code room instructor

Eddie Acuff

Taxi driver

Rolf Lindau

Foreign agent

Winifred Harris

Lady Ashford

Frederick Lindsley

Announcer

Hans Schumm

Second foreign official

William Vaughn

Third foreign official

George Davis

Swiss gendarme

Ferdinand Schumann-heink

Conductor

Frederick Giermann

First foreign officer

Lester Scharff

Second foreign officer

Henry Von Zynda

Guard

Jean De Briac

Waiter

Nella Walker

Mrs. Peyton

Billy Mcclain

Man servant

Fred Vogeding

Arno Frey

Sarah Edwards

Mary Forbes

Loia Cheaney

Lottie Williams

Sven Borg

Chris Frank

Film Details

Also Known As
Career Man
Genre
Spy
Release Date
Sep 30, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 23 Sep 1939
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Espionage Agent


Although the United States in the late 1930s was officially outside the conflicts then heating up in Europe and Asia, drums had already begun beating in Hollywood against Nazi Germany. Of all the studios, the socially conscious Warner Bros. led the pack, coming out with what is considered the first anti-Nazi feature, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, in April 1939, more than four months before Hitler's invasion of Poland officially started World War II. The Edward G. Robinson film was a significant hit, so the studio decided to follow it up with more propaganda pictures. Three weeks before Warners released Espionage Agent (1939), France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, making the picture particularly timely.

Joel McCrea plays the scion of a family of career diplomats, an attaché at the U.S. consulate in Tangiers. There he meets Brenda Marshall, an American desperate to flee war-torn North Africa with a forged passport obtained in exchange for spy services on behalf of Germany. The two fall in love, but her past forces him to resign from foreign service. The two then work together to expose a vast espionage ring working within the States.

Warners took a bold step in making Espionage Agent as well as the earlier Robinson piece. Most studios at the time, still dependent on lucrative foreign markets, didn't want to alienate other governments and risk having their pictures banned. The film was released one day after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act of 1939, a bill he pushed through Congress, against isolationist wishes, that maintained official neutrality while allowing for the "cash and carry" sale of munitions to countries fighting against the Axis powers. Anticipating this move and recognizing the importance of American manufacturing to the war effort, the screenwriters (among them novelist James Hilton, who contributed additional dialogue uncredited) had the Nazi spy ring working to disable the industrial capabilities of the U.S. (a theme that would be taken up again in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942), after America's entry into the war).

The working title of Espionage Agent was the far less provocative and exciting "Career Man." This was Brenda Marshall's first credited screen role. She had a promising start at Warners with roles opposite Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940), John Garfield in East of the River (1940), and James Cagney in Captains of the Clouds (1942). She married William Holden in 1941 and made only a handful of pictures before retiring in 1950.

Future TV Superman George Reeves has a small uncredited part as secretary to Lowell Warrington, played by Jeffrey Lynn.

Less than a year after the release of Espionage Agent, Joel McCrea would be fighting enemy agents on screen once again as the star of Alfred Hitchcock's wartime thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940).

Espionage Agent was shot by the innovative and much respected Charles Rosher, winner (shared with Karl Struss) of the first Academy Award for cinematography for F.W. Murnau's beautiful silent classic Sunrise (1927). Rosher would win another Oscar® several years later for The Yearling (1946). His first film was Life of Villa (1912), a documentary about the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. One story that circulated around Hollywood at the time was that Villa insisted Rosher film the funeral of a friend. The service lasted three days, and although Rosher had run out of film a half day into it, according to the story, he pretended to keep filming for fear of being shot.

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay: Warren Duff, Michael Fessier, Frank Donoghue; story by Robert Buckner
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Editing: Ralph Dawson
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch
Cast: Joel McCrea (Barry Corvall), Brenda Marshall (Brenda Ballard), Jeffrey Lynn (Lowell Warrington), George Bancroft (Dudley Garrett), Stanley Ridges (Hamilton Peyton).
BW-84m. Closed Captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Espionage Agent

Espionage Agent

Although the United States in the late 1930s was officially outside the conflicts then heating up in Europe and Asia, drums had already begun beating in Hollywood against Nazi Germany. Of all the studios, the socially conscious Warner Bros. led the pack, coming out with what is considered the first anti-Nazi feature, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, in April 1939, more than four months before Hitler's invasion of Poland officially started World War II. The Edward G. Robinson film was a significant hit, so the studio decided to follow it up with more propaganda pictures. Three weeks before Warners released Espionage Agent (1939), France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, making the picture particularly timely. Joel McCrea plays the scion of a family of career diplomats, an attaché at the U.S. consulate in Tangiers. There he meets Brenda Marshall, an American desperate to flee war-torn North Africa with a forged passport obtained in exchange for spy services on behalf of Germany. The two fall in love, but her past forces him to resign from foreign service. The two then work together to expose a vast espionage ring working within the States. Warners took a bold step in making Espionage Agent as well as the earlier Robinson piece. Most studios at the time, still dependent on lucrative foreign markets, didn't want to alienate other governments and risk having their pictures banned. The film was released one day after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act of 1939, a bill he pushed through Congress, against isolationist wishes, that maintained official neutrality while allowing for the "cash and carry" sale of munitions to countries fighting against the Axis powers. Anticipating this move and recognizing the importance of American manufacturing to the war effort, the screenwriters (among them novelist James Hilton, who contributed additional dialogue uncredited) had the Nazi spy ring working to disable the industrial capabilities of the U.S. (a theme that would be taken up again in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942), after America's entry into the war). The working title of Espionage Agent was the far less provocative and exciting "Career Man." This was Brenda Marshall's first credited screen role. She had a promising start at Warners with roles opposite Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940), John Garfield in East of the River (1940), and James Cagney in Captains of the Clouds (1942). She married William Holden in 1941 and made only a handful of pictures before retiring in 1950. Future TV Superman George Reeves has a small uncredited part as secretary to Lowell Warrington, played by Jeffrey Lynn. Less than a year after the release of Espionage Agent, Joel McCrea would be fighting enemy agents on screen once again as the star of Alfred Hitchcock's wartime thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940). Espionage Agent was shot by the innovative and much respected Charles Rosher, winner (shared with Karl Struss) of the first Academy Award for cinematography for F.W. Murnau's beautiful silent classic Sunrise (1927). Rosher would win another Oscar® several years later for The Yearling (1946). His first film was Life of Villa (1912), a documentary about the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. One story that circulated around Hollywood at the time was that Villa insisted Rosher film the funeral of a friend. The service lasted three days, and although Rosher had run out of film a half day into it, according to the story, he pretended to keep filming for fear of being shot. Director: Lloyd Bacon Producer: Hal B. Wallis Screenplay: Warren Duff, Michael Fessier, Frank Donoghue; story by Robert Buckner Cinematography: Charles Rosher Editing: Ralph Dawson Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl Original Music: Adolph Deutsch Cast: Joel McCrea (Barry Corvall), Brenda Marshall (Brenda Ballard), Jeffrey Lynn (Lowell Warrington), George Bancroft (Dudley Garrett), Stanley Ridges (Hamilton Peyton). BW-84m. Closed Captioning. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this picture was Career Man, and it marked Brenda Marshall's screen debut. Although the character played by Martin Kosleck is credited onscreen as "Mr. Mullen," he is called "Mueller" throughout the film. In an early draft of the Screen Achievements Bulletin, James Hilton was credited with screenplay, but this was later changed to additional dialogue. Reviews compared the picture to Confessions of a Nazi Spy because of its expose about espionage.