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Mata Hari (1931)

Passed  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  26 December 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 2,244 users  
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A semi-fictionalized account of the life of Mata Hari, an exotic dancer who was accused of spying for Germany during World War I.




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Complete credited cast:
Lt. Alexis Rosanoff
General Serge Shubin
C. Henry Gordon ...
Karen Morley ...
Blanche Friderici ...
Sister Angelica (as Blanche Frederici)
Edmund Breese ...
Sister Genevieve
The Cook-Spy


During World War I, Mata Hari is a German spy, working in Paris. She has already seduced the Russian general Shubin, and has now set her eyes on lieutenant Rosanov, a young up-and-coming officer. In order to get her hand on secret documents in his possession, she spends a night with him. But the secret police is on to her, only waiting to get enough evidence to arrest her. Written by Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

spy | mata hari | russian | german | dancer | See All (42) »


The most dangerous spy of all time, See more »


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

26 December 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mata-Hari  »

Box Office


$558,000 (estimated)


$931,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Though the title character was real, the events in the film are mostly fictional. See more »


Lt. Alexis Rosanoff: What's the matter, Mata?
See more »


Referenced in MGM Parade: Episode #1.1 (1955) See more »


Tango des Amours
Music by Jack Milton
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User Reviews

What's the Mata with Hari?
8 July 2012 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

MATA HARI (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1931), directed by George Fitzmaurice, is more of a showcase for Greta Garbo in the title role rather than a biographical study on the legendary female spy of World War I. Having already played a lady spy in the silent melodrama, THE MYSTERIOUS LADY (MGM, 1928), this particular stature and situations that occurred are nothing new here. By contrast, from fictional to actual character portrayed, this is a somewhat improved story overall, scripted by Benjamin Glazer and Leo Birinski, and highlighted by interesting casting of Mexican actor, Ramon Rovarro, in support.

Opening title: "In 1917, war-ridden France dealt summarily with traitors and spies." Traitors and spies are demonstrated in the opening scene as DuBois (C. Henry Gordon), chief of the spy bureau, gives orders at the firing squad the execution of three traitors, the third being a condemned man (Mischa Auer) refusing to reveal any information about a notorious woman, Mata Hari, who happens to be a great threat to France. Mata Hari, a spy working under secret orders for Adriani (Lewis Stone), is known for hypnotizing and seducing military officials for secretive information, and DuBois's mission is to gather enough evidence to have her arrested and executed. DuBois suspects General Serge Shubin (Lionel Barrymore) to be involved with Mata Hari, but, too, is unsuccessful in gathering evidence against him as well. After getting together with his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Romanoff (Ramon Novarro) of the Russian Interior Air Corps, Serge invites him to come to the café and watch an exotic dancer perform. The dancer is Mata Hari (Greta Garbo). Although Serge is romantically involved with Mata Hari, Alexis becomes interested and soon involved with her, causing friction on their friendship after Alexis finds Mata Hari alone in Serge's apartment. Her seductive ways has Alexis falling under her spell again, enough lose the important documents entrusted to him meant for the Prime Minister over to Mata Hari. After Alexis becomes blinded in an airplane accident, Mata Hari, realizing her love for Alexis, puts herself in great danger for betraying Adriani, committing murder and having DuBois hot on her trail.

The screen version, reportedly loosely based on Mata Hari herself, is no doubt tailor made for Garbo's talents as well as MGM's answer to Marlene Dietrich's fictional World War seductive female spy of X-27 in DISHONORED (Paramount, 1931). Faster paced than her previous early sound efforts (1930-31), Garbo appears much more relaxed in the role and very much accustomed to the new medium of "talking pictures" by this point. MGM reliables of Lionel Barrymore and Lewis Stone (both of whom became standard players in many Garbo films over the years) add to the amiable support, along with the Mexican-born Novarro playing a Russian pilot. Somehow Novarro does better than expected, without making any attempt speaking with a Russian accent. Being the only pairing of Garbo and Novarro, MATA HARI turns out to be the only Novarro film produced during his MGM sound years (1929-1934) to have any distinction. His mustache, dark hair and fleecing eyes in one scene come as a reminder of another popular MGM leading man, John Gilbert, who might have tackled the role of Alexis had it not been for his lack of successful box office appeal he once earned in the mid twenties. Others in fine support are Karen Morley playing Carlotta, the dark-haired spy working under orders of Adriani; Alec B. Francis as Major Caron; Blanche Frederici and Helen Jerome-Eddy briefly appearing as Nuns; Frank Reicher as the Cook/Spy; and Edmund Breese (The Warden).

Notable scenes worth mentioning include Mata Hari getting Alexis to make passionate love to her. Before he does, she alluringly talks him into proving his love for her by turning out the continuous burning candle of the Holy Lamp of Madonna (a patron saint to guard him from evil); and the stalking of Mata Hari by Jacque, a club-footed giant (face unseen).

Of the many major MGM feature film releases of 1931, this and THE CHAMP starring Wallace Beery were once notable exceptions as those to have continued revivals on broadcast television in the New York City area through the mid to late 1980s before making its way to cable television, notably Turner Network Television (1988-92) and Turner Classic Movies (1994-present). Distributed on video cassette and later to DVD, MATA HARI continues to become one of the most notable and worthwhile Greta Garbo films, along with "Queen Christina"(1933), "Anna Karenina"(1935), "Camille" (1936) and "Ninotchka" (1939) all of which she was born to play. As much as the Novarro films from this period are virtually forgotten to today's generation, his legend rests simply on his silent screen performances of both BEN-HUR (1925) and THE STUDENT PRINCE (1927), along with the one notable movie where he was "just wild about Hari." (***1/2)

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