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Documentary-style prologue follows training of O.S.S. agents for WWII work behind enemy lines. One of the group is a German "mole;" leaders Gibson and Sharkey are aware of this and scheme to feed him false info about the invasion of Europe, while the real agents go to France to find a secret V-2 rocket depot. But the German spy outsmarts them and rejoins his people knowing too much; Bob Sharkey takes the risk of going in after him. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
When Cagney is driven from the french Mayors office, he is driven in a right hand drive car, the only countries in Europe to drive on the left are the UK and Ireland (and in the period Sweden also, who switched to the right in 1962). While it is of course possible to find a few RHD cars in France it's more likely the only European car the film makers had was a British one. See more »
Prologue, shown printed in a book: No single story could ever pay full tribute to the accomplishments of the U.S. Army Intelligence in World War II. Working secretly behind enemy lines, in close cooperation with our Allies, its brilliant work was an acknowledged factor in the final victory. The page turns to reveal: In order to obtain the maximum of realism and authenticity, all the exterior and interior settings in this Motion Picture were photographed in the field - - and, whenever possible, at the actual locations. See more »
It gets off to a terrible start. An off-screen narrator, in a strict, authoritarian tone, announces to us lowly viewers that the film is a "tribute to the accomplishments by the U.S. Army Intelligence in WWII". Beyond this dreadful introduction, however, a credible story about American espionage, wrapped in a high quality cinematic package, provides viewers with a worthwhile payoff.
Bob Sharkey (James Cagney) trains young men and women to be American secret agents. These "077 candidates" go through tough physical and mental tests. Candidates who succeed are then sent on military intelligence assignments overseas. But one of those being trained by Sharkey is a German mole, working for Hitler.
In the film's first half, Sharkey finds the mole. The second half plot follows Sharkey's efforts both to deactivate the mole, and to find a man named Duclois, the builder of a German rocket depot, a facility constructed to launch bombs against England, and located in Nazi-occupied France. The mole, headquartered in an imposing building at 13 Rue Madeleine in the French port city of Le Havre, cleverly makes Sharkey's double mission difficult. And the film ends with a riveting climax that is surprisingly realistic for a 1940's film.
Cagney gives a really good performance. The film's screenplay allows for sufficient character development, unusual for WWII films. And with tight editing, the plot zips along at a fast pace, covering a lot of story material, so that viewers need to pay attention or risk missing important plot details.
Except for that awful prologue, everything about "13 Rue Madeleine" is high quality: the costumes, the dialogue, the B&W cinematography, and especially the acting and the editing. Director Henry Hathaway even uses authentic locales, further elevating the film's overall quality.
As a WWII espionage thriller, I cannot think of a better film than "13 Rue Madeleine".
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