IMDb > While America Sleeps (1939)

While America Sleeps (1939) More at IMDbPro »


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Karl Kamb (screenplay)
Karl Kamb (story)
View company contact information for While America Sleeps on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
15 April 1939 (USA) See more »
An episode in the "Crime Does Not Pay" series. Dave Miller, an aircraft plant worker, is actually selling secret bomber plans to foreign agents... See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Too preachy and too hard to believe. See more (2 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Dick Purcell ... Dave Miller (as Richard G. Purcell)
Lenita Lane ... Mary Miller
Egon Brecher ... Klaus
Frederick Vogeding ... Spy Chief (as Fred Vogeding)

Roland Varno ... Spy Henchman
Richard Lane ... Agent Carmichael
Paul Stanton ... Arthur A. Sears
Steve Pendleton ... George (as Gaylord Pendleton)
Charles Trowbridge ... Barton

Robert Winkler ... Bill Miller

John Hamilton ... Chief of Intelligence
Phillip Terry ... MGM Crime Reporter
Richard Tucker ... Air Force Colonel
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ralph Dunn ... Factory Foreman (uncredited)

Chuck Hamilton ... Police Driver (uncredited) (archive footage)
Charles Murphy ... Foreman (uncredited)
Bob Reeves ... Policeman (uncredited)

Directed by
Fred Zinnemann 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Karl Kamb  screenplay
Karl Kamb  story

Produced by
Jack Chertok .... producer
Cinematography by
Paul Vogel 
Film Editing by
Ralph Goldstein  (as Ralph E. Goldstein)
Music Department
William Axt .... composer: stock music (uncredited)
David Snell .... composer: stock music (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Crime Does Not Pay No. 22: While America Sleeps" - USA (series title)
See more »
21 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


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Too preachy and too hard to believe., 19 November 2013
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

The Crime Does Not Pay series of shorts from MGM were exceptionally made and highly entertaining films. However, the quality began to slip a bit during the war, as instead of entertaining, the films seem more concerned with preaching to the audiences about Americanism, spies and the like. While the US wouldn't enter WWII for two more years, you can clearly see in "While America Sleeps" that the film is preparing for that eventuality--even though no nations or nationalities are mentioned. It seemed clear to me that the filmmakers were worried about Nazi aggression but since the studios were compelled by laws (ridiculous ones at that) to remain neutral.

This film stars Dick Purcell--the same guy who later gained fame in serials playing the first Captain America. However, in this case, he's a jerk who hates America--or at least he's too selfish to care. He works for an aircraft manufacturer and is illegally photographing plans and sending them on to 'the enemy'. Naturally he's caught but instead of arresting him, government agents set a trap--ultimately proving that crime, particularly treason, does not pay.

There isn't a whole lot of subtlety to this one. It's preachy and brow-beats the audience--which is exactly what the series hadn't been doing up until this one. Unfortunately, as the war progressed, more and more of these films would be devoted to similar topics--forgetting their original style and purpose. Fair at best.

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