Lancer Spy


1h 24m 1937

Brief Synopsis

An Englishman impersonates an imprisoned German officer and "returns" to Germany to become a national hero. A female German spy is assigned to check him out but falls in love with him.

Film Details

Also Known As
Life of a Lancer Spy
Release Date
Oct 8, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Lancer Spy by Marthe McKenna (London, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,600ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

On a plane leaving London, Colonel Fenwick tells his daughter the story of a man on the plane who once meant more to England than anyone else alive. The colonel explains that in 1917, when deadlocked battle fronts forced each side to turn to espionage, British Naval Officer Lieutenant Michael Bruce, was called upon to impersonate Baron Kurt Von Rohbach, a captured German officer of the famed Imperial Lancer Guards. After Bruce says goodbye to his wife and daughter, who thereafter believe him to be lost at sea, Colonel Fenwick of British Intelligence arranges for Bruce, as Von Rohbach, to escape. In Berlin, German General Von Meinhardi gives Bruce a hero's welcome to boost morale. German intelligence officer Lieut. Col. Gottfried Hollen and Major Sigfried Gruning suspect that Bruce is an impostor and, eager to discredit Von Meinhardi, send dancer Dolores Daria to seduce him. Bruce subsequently duels over Dolores, and after Dolores reports that she has learned nothing, Hollen sets a trap by telling Bruce of a spy planted in the British Admiralty. Knowing that Bruce is not the baron, Dolores, who has nevertheless fallen in love with him, warns him that informing the British about the spy will give Hollen proof of Bruce's espionage. After Gruning shows Hollen a newspaper photograph and article reporting that Bruce has been lost at sea, Hollen arranges for Bruce's home in Norfolk to be robbed. With samples of Bruce's handwriting, Hollen tries to inform Von Meinhardi, but the general, after a meal with Dolores and Bruce, has a heart attack. Bruce, with Von Meinhardi's keys, locates the West Front battle plans and, with the help of Dolores and a tailor working for the British, escapes as a train porter to Switzerland. Colonel Fenwick finishes his story about Bruce by telling his daughter that the plans became the greatest factor in England's victory, and he surmises that Bruce is traveling to Berlin to pay an annual visit to the grave of Dolores, who was executed.

Film Details

Also Known As
Life of a Lancer Spy
Release Date
Oct 8, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Lancer Spy by Marthe McKenna (London, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,600ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Life of a Lancer Spy. It was copyrighted under the title The Lancer Spy. According to a Los Angeles Examiner news item, the novel was purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox when it was in galley proofs. Los Angeles Examiner states that the author, Marthe McKenna, was a Belgian spy for the Allies during the war, and that the tentative cast included Gregory Ratoff, who subsequently directed the film, as the head man behind German lines, Michael Whalen, J. Edward Bromberg and Frances Drake. In an undated manuscript in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, McKenna calls this book a "sequel to My Master Spy." This was Ratoff's first film as a director. According to Motion Picture Herald, Ratoff also assisted in writing and adapting the story. At the end of the film a title card reads "This picture has introduced to you a new Twentieth Century-Fox screen personality. Mr. George Sanders." Sanders had appeared in minor roles in other films before this. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Darryl Zanuck signed French stage and screen actress Germaine Aussey to a term contract in February 1937. A March 25, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Aussey would likely debut in Lancer Spy. She is listed for the role of "Fraulein Daria Sunnel" in the first draft continuity, dated April 16, 1937, in the Produced Scripts Collection, and her name appears in the Hollywood Reporter production charts until 7 Jun, when Dolores Del Rio's name replaces hers. It is likely that Aussey was replaced by Del Rio during the shooting. According to modern sources, Aussey did not appear in any American films. According to the first draft continuity, John Bleifer was cast as a Swiss spy, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also at UCLA, Colin Clive was originally cast in the role of a colonel, but after a couple of days of work, he had to leave because of illness. Also, according to the legal records, Leonid Kinskey was verbally engaged for a role for which he was instructed to have his hair cut. According to the first draft continuity, Kinskey's role was to be "Mueller, the batman." When Fritz Feld was later cast in that role, Kinskey was paid $500, one week's salary, because he went ahead and had his hair cut for the role. According to a Los Angeles Times news item, Joseph Schildkraut received a long-term contract with the studio as the result of this film. The film was previewed in Los Angeles on September 29, 1937 when it was 78 minutes, according to Daily Variety. A Motion Picture Herald review of the preview lists Yvonne Severn rather than Joan Carol as "Elizabeth Bruce." According to this review, at the end of the film, Gruning identifies himself as a French spy, and Bruce escapes by disguising himself as Von Meinhardi. He then returns to his wife and daughter,and he is commended by the government.