Television Spy


58m 1939

Film Details

Also Known As
The World on Parade
Release Date
Oct 20, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

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.

Film Details

Also Known As
The World on Parade
Release Date
Oct 20, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Quotes

Trivia

The iconoscope was a real device, invented by Vladimir K. Zworykin, which was the most commonly used television camera tube at the time that this film was made.

Notes

This film was originally titled The World on Parade. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of this film were shot on location in Chatsworth, CA in mid-June 1939. It is unclear from the film whether "Llewellyn" was faking his paralysis, or experienced a miraculous recovery. Canadian-born Edward Dmytryk, who had been an editor at Paramount prior to directing this film, refers to Television Spy as his "first picture," although he directed the independent film The Hawk in 1935 and filled in as director for Million Dollar Legs in April 1939. In June 1939, he signed a new contract with Paramount and became a U.S. citizen. Dmytryk recounts that while on location at a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, Paramount contract director Louis King had been assigned to remain on location in case Dmytryk needed assistance. After the first day's dailies were approved by Harold Hurley, referred to by Dmytryk as "Paramount's top B-picture executive," King left the production. The Variety review states, "Under Edward Dmytryk's direction, the screenplay May move slowly, but it avoids the absurdity that goes along with the average film crack at television." The review also says that the film's "best field will be male audiences, predominantly the younger lads, because gadgets, electrons and megacycles, etc., are useless as ingredients for femme entertainment." The Hollywood Reporter review states, "Edward Dmytryk makes his bow as director...and shows great promise." The review also states that the film's writers "have taken advantage of the fact that the technicalities of Television are Greek to audiences..." According to a Hollywood Reporter news item on June 10, 1939, Maxwell Smith, a television expert from the California Institute of Technology, was hired as technical advisor on this film. Variety, commenting on the "wireless romancing" of "Douglas" and "Gwen," states, "Henry never gets closer to Miss Barrett than 3,000 miles....That rates as a new one in closeups, even for Hollywood." Hollywood Reporter states, "Boy meets girl, but only by airwaves, and they fall in love via same route."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1939