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Part of the MGM Crime Does Not Pay series, Don't Talk is supposed to
serve as a stern warning to not be talking too freely about your work
in war related industries. In this case some nasty Axis saboteurs are
operating out of both a beauty shop and a hash house.
In this rather dated short personally I liked Gloria Holden as the waitress who listens for information from the factory workers at a tool& dye plant and passes it on to her superiors. But intrepid FBI agent Barry Nelson is definitely on to her and eventually catches on to how she passes the information. Quite clever really.
This Oscar nominated short subject is part of the propaganda the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover encouraged the film industry to make. Funny thing is that they did do a good job in preventing sabotage which was more of a threat then folks would admit today. And Hoover's historic reputation would be in great shape if he had retired in 1945.
"Don't Talk" is a wartime propaganda film that was nominated for the
Oscar for best short. Surprisingly, it holds up very well
today--despite its strong message for the folks at home.
This film is about industrial espionage--Axis attempts to sabotage war supplies being trucked across America. I am not sure how serious a problem this really was during the war. Other than a French cruise ship deliberately sunk in New York harbor, I am really don't know if enemy agents had infiltrated our defense plans. BUT, just in case, films like this were made--made to dramatize the work of the FBI as well as to drive home the need to keep quiet about secret government work.
The reasons why it still holds up well are production values, fine acting and a taut script. So, even though the war is long past, these factors work together to help make a fine short. Well worth seeing--and you can see it for free at archive.org--a site linked to IMDb for many of its films.
Don't Talk (1942)
*** (out of 4)
Oscar-nominated short from MGM's Crime Does Not Pay series. This story centers around a Communist group who are spying through people simply going to a deli or beauty salon. The spies are working at these type of places and listening to people talk about their jobs, which is how information is spread around and various objects destroyed by these groups. This film comes off more like a WW2 propaganda film than an entry in the series but either way the movie works fairly well. The story itself, asking people not to talk, seems a bit far fetched today but I'm really not sure how it would have been taken back in the day. This wasn't the only short to deal with people talking too much as we also had Mr. Blabbermouth!, which was released the same year as this film and it too received an Oscar nomination. We also get some nice performances from a familiar cast including Barry Nelson as an FBI agent and Gloria Holden, from Dracula's Daughter, as a waitress doing some of the spying. There's some nice shoot outs at the end as well.
"Don't Talk" is a Warners short film that exists as little more than a
curiosity piece today, and is an example of the kind of ridiculous
propaganda that movie studios at the time were feeding the American
people in order to keep morale up for the war.
This forgettable film revolves around the plans of a Communist group planted within the United States to carry out terrorist attacks through their contacts at a war ammunitions plant. The moral of the story is that the American people have to be vigilant and on the lookout for subversive behavior -- in other words, when our country is at war, everyone is a soldier in that war. Sound familiar?
What this movie proves is that things haven't changed all that much in the intervening years.
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