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The Magnificent Fraud (1939)

In this lively programmer a con man hires a character actor to masqueraded as the recently assassinated dictator of a tiny Latin American country so he can bilk an arriving American ambassador out of his fortune.



(story), | 1 more credit »


Credited cast:
Jules LaCroix / President Alvarado
Sam Barr
Mme. Geraldine Genet
Claire Hill
Harrison Todd
Dr. Luis Virgo
General Pablo Hernandez
Mendietta Garcia
Robert Middlemass ...
Dr. Diaz
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Señora Moreno (scenes deleted)


In this lively programmer a con man hires a character actor to masqueraded as the recently assassinated dictator of a tiny Latin American country so he can bilk an arriving American ambassador out of his fortune.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

latin america | See All (1) »







Release Date:

6 November 1939 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Caviar for His Excellency  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


Remade as Moon Over Parador (1988) See more »

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User Reviews

A Political Great Impersonation
16 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In 1914 E. Philips Openheim wrote a classic spy thriller (a timely one too) about evil agents of Wilhelmine Germany plotting to place a mole in English high society. The plot begins in Africa, where a German aristocrat (and spy) named Leopold Von Ragenstein is on safari, and meets an worn out, drunken English aristocrat named Sir Everard Dominey. Dominey has very high connections in society to social and political leaders in England, and has access through them to major military and diplomatic secrets. Von Ragenstein notices that he and Dominey look very similar in appearance. The German decides to invite the Englishman on the safari, and kill him safely away from notice in the jungle, and then take over the Englishman's identity and use it to feed plenty of information to the Germans. The novel follows the return of Sir Everard, and the issue which perplexes everyone (English and German) is who has returned: Sir Everard or Baron Leopold.

The Oppenheim novel was made into a film starring Ralph Bellamy. It is not the first novel about twins changing places (Mark Twain's THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER dealt with the same situation), nor the first showing how politics might be affected. Is such a situation possible? Probably not. Somewhere along the line the impostor would make a major error (forgetting some critical fact the real person knows, or acting somewhat oddly).

This film takes the idea of Oppenheim's novel (and of Twain's earlier novel, for that matter), and puts it into a political switch. Instead of an important aristocrat replaced by a spy, it is an actor who replaces a great statesman to complete that statesman's policy.

Akim Tamiroff plays actor Jules Lacroix who is performing before President Alvarado of a Latin American country (also Tamiroff). Alvarado has been giving an honest government to the country, and has made a treaty he is negotiating a keystone to his policy. But he has made many enemies, and is fatally injured during the performance by a bomb. Before he dies he talks to the show's impresario, a friend of his named Sam Barr (Lloyd Nolan). Alvarado notices how much Lacroix looks like him. He begs Barr and Lacroix to have the latter replace him so to complete the negotiations as Alvarado. They agree.

So word is spread that it was Lacroix who was killed, and the President was wounded. There are a few problems. Robert Warwick plays General Hernandez. He and Frank Reicher (Mandietta Garcia) have been two of the leading figures of the administration, but neither really were favoring Alvarado's reforms. They are playing along "for awhile", but expect that Lacroix will announce that he is too ill to continue in office and will advise that Warwick get the Presidency. They are nervous that if word of the actual death of Alvarado comes out the public will want the Presidency to be given to Dr. Luis Virgo (George Zucco, curiously enough) who has worked closely with Alvarado on the reforms.

So the situation has the nervous Tamiroff being steadied by Lloyd Nolan, as he navigates between his ego (he loves this - the part of a lifetime), his fears (he knows he is a target of assassins), his sense of duty (he comes to loath the selfish Warwick and Reicher), and his desires (he finds an old flame - Mary Boland - who knows it's Jules and not the President who is alive). Nolan too has to fight the revolutionaries and hold off Warwick and Reicher.

If the story is far fetched, it is also well told and acted. It's conclusion may seem a little melodramatic, but the last moments on screen between Boland and Tamiroff are actually quite moving. I would give the film a "7" out of "10".

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