Gail Loveless, a spy known as Operator 13 working for the Union and Federal cause during the Civil War, posing as a Confederate woman named Anne Claybourne, meets and falls in love with Confederate Captain Jack Galliard. Dusguised as an octoroom maid at a Confedarate military ball, she learns and relays secrets to the Union forces that are devastating to the Rebel cause. Assigned to the case to track down and kill the spy maid, Galliard learns she is also the woman he loves, but proceeds with his assignment. He captures her but is in danger of being captured himself as Federal forces are approaching. Gail/Anne saves him and they part to wait until peace comes to resume their romance. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although Curly Howard of The Three Stooges played the part of a Confederate Soldier in this film, most of his part was cut prior to release. However, he can still be seen briefly in one sequence. See more »
When Gail takes an oath, she raises her right arm in the traditional manner, but in the next shot, it has turned into a salute. See more »
Let's understand one thing before talking about Operator 13. It is a Cosmopolitan Picture meaning it is a Marion Davies film first and foremost. And it's the kind of film that William Randolph Hearst wanted her to be seen it, as he saw her, the brave little heroine, in this case during the Civil War.
Operator 13 is the kind of story that would have been popular on stage at the turn of the last century. It's also the kind of story that Cecil B. DeMille would have found appealing to do. I'm guessing that Hearst and DeMille would never have worked in tandem on any project given their egos.
Marion is an actress and in the beginning of the story as the north is badly defeated at the second battle of Bull Run, Davies is appearing on stage in a play with one John Wilkes Booth. She's recruited by Union spy-master Allan Pinkerton played by Sidney Toler to accompany Katherine Alexander playing Union Spy Pauline Cushman as her octoroon maid. The term 'octoroon' was used back in the day to describe a person who was 1/8 black and has deservedly fallen out of fashion.
Of course the various black stereotypes are present in force in Operator 13, however in Marion's case it can be forgiven somewhat as she is a spy on a mission and disguising herself. You might remember that in Going Hollywood she did the same thing to avoid the attention of Fifi D'Orsay.
One person she does attract the attention of is Confederate Major Gary Cooper who is intrigued by her. Later on not in disguise, Davies is sent on another mission and she meets up again with Cooper. Once again he's suspicious, but by that time they're in love.
If some of this sounds familiar you might recognize certain plot elements from MGM's later success, the musical The Firefly which starred Allan Jones and Jeanette MacDonald. That story is also about two rival espionage agents during the Peninsular War.
In fact Operator 13 almost qualifies for a musical. Between the songs that Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn wrote, and the traditional Civil War era melodies sung by Davies, a campfire chorus and the Mills Brothers a lot of songs are packed into the 85 minute running time of the film.
Operator 13 was old fashioned even in 1934. However the battle scenes are done quite well and director Richard Boleslawski does make the characters somewhat interesting.
And apparently managed to work within the parameters of W.R. Hearst.
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