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Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)

 -  Drama | War  -  6 May 1939 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 842 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 5 critic

FBI agent Ed Renard investigates the pre-War espionage activities of the German-American Bund.

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(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) on IMDb 6.8/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Edward Renard
...
Schneider
...
Schlager
...
Dr. Kassell
Henry O'Neill ...
Attorney Kellogg
Dorothy Tree ...
Hilda Kleinhauer
Lya Lys ...
Erika Wolf
Grace Stafford ...
Mrs. Schneider
James Stephenson ...
British Military Intelligence Agent
Hedwiga Reicher ...
Mrs. Kassell (as Celia Sibelius)
Joe Sawyer ...
Werner Renz
Sig Ruman ...
Krogman (as Sig Rumann)
Lionel Royce ...
Hintze
Henry Victor ...
Wildebrandt
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ...
Helldorf (as Hans von Twardowski)
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Storyline

Prior to the United States entry into World War II, Nazi spies try to steal American military secrets. Among those whose passions are roused is Kurt Schneider who was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the US Army. Schneider is not very bright and is easily swayed by the oratory of Dr. Karl Kassel, a prominent physician who is eventually made the head of the Nazi spy ring. When Schneider's contact is arrested in Scotland, the US military asks the FBI to root out the spies. Agent Edward Renard is put in charge of the case and they methodically arrest all who have been spying. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

spy | nazi | fbi | german american | espionage | See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

6 May 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Confessions of a Nazi Spy  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the book "The Films of World War II" by Joe Morella, Edward Z. Epstein and John Griggs, "While this Warner Bros. film was not as sensational as its advance publicity led audiences of the day to expect, it was, nevertheless, the first out-and-out anti-Nazi film from a major American studio . . . [it] made its point by sticking closely to the facts of a real-life spy trial which had involved high officials in the [German Third] Reich as well as their American operatives . . . This film was instrumental in bringing about the 'Hollywood war-mongering' charges. Actors and producers received murder threats. American-based German officials screamed 'conspiracy!' and the film was subsequently banned by countries who feared offending Germany. In the United States, however, it was a popular success, prompting other studios to hurry production of more anti-Hitler films." See more »

Goofs

According to the film the spies are allegedly working for "German Naval Intelligence." In reality no such agency ever existed. The Abwehr was the joint intelligence service that coordinated foreign espionage for the entire German military. Before and during most of WWII the Abwehr was headed by an Admiral (Wilhelm Canaris.) Also, Canaris and Himmler, the head of the SS, detested one another and would never have cooperated as shown in the film (the producers may not have known this in 1939.) See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: Some months ago, various persons appeared in the federal courts of New York City and the Panama Canal Zone, charged with the crime of espionage against the armed forces of the United States. Called to the witness stand, they swore to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God". The story brought out at those trials is stranger than fiction, revealing the existence of a vast spy ring operating against the naval, military, and air forces of the United...
See more »

Connections

Featured in Warner at War (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

German National Anthem (Das Lied der Deutschen)
(1797) (uncredited)
Music by Joseph Haydn
Played at the New York Bund rally
Reprised at the rally in Stuttgart, Germany
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Nothing Subtle in this film's message
7 November 2005 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Confessions of a Nazi Spy was made anticipating the fact that American involvement in World War II was inevitable so it is better to know thy enemy. Based on FBI files, Confessions of a Nazi Spy was a story about both the German American Bund and its links to the Nazi regime and the espionage and sabotage it tried to do.

The film is done in a documentary style, more popular over at 20th Century Fox than at Warner Brothers, with films like The House on 92nd Street and Calling Northside 777 as examples of the style.

The Nazis shown here are straight up villains be they respected physician Paul Lukas or disgruntled plebeian Francis Lederer. I think Lederer modeled his character on Bruno Hauptmann, the Lindbergh baby kidnapper and maybe the most unpopular man in America at one point. Hauptmann's appearance and voice were in newsreels to study and isn't it ironic that the man he wronged became a spokesman for appeasement.

On the other hand Edward G. Robinson is quite the stand up hero as the FBI agent investigating the Bund. Robinson was one of the bigger anti-Nazi activists in Hollywood and was proud to be included in what he considered a very important message.

No subtlety used in this film. For those not interested in the anti Nazi message, Confessions of a Nazi Spy does succeed on the entertainment level as well. But I will say that playing America the Beautiful over the end credits was a bit much even for audiences in 1939.


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