|Index||6 reviews in total|
The Office of Strategic Services was formed when Franklin Roosevelt
decided once and for all we needed a separate intelligence organization
if in fact we were going into World War II. And in the postwar era we
needed one to compete with both friends and enemies who had been at
this for centuries more than we had.
During the war the cloak of secrecy was firmly wrapped around the OSS, but after VJ Day a whole bunch of films came out about some of their behind the lines spy missions. The best of these films were Cloak and Dagger, 13 Rue Madeleine and OSS.
This film follows the training and then the missions in occupied France of a team of OSS operatives, code-named Applejack and their controller. The controller is Patric Knowles and the operatives are Alan Ladd, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Don Beddoe, and Richard Benedict.
It's a tough dirty job with a chance of survival not real great, but this team does its job. Geraldine Fitzgerald engages in a little Mata Hari activity with a German colonel played by John Hoyt and proves quite the temptress.
Actor Joseph Crehan plays William J. Donovan briefly in the beginning of the film. Donovan, a Republican, was named by President Roosevelt to organize and head the new agency. He had a colorful career both in peace and war and was previously played by George Brent in Warner Brothers, Fighting 69th. He's worthy of a biographical film himself and I wonder why none has ever been done before.
Alan Ladd is his stalwart best. Heroics he does, but they are believable heroics. One of his best films from his Paramount era period.
This film, shot soon after WWII's conclusion, starts out in a
semi-documentary fashion, with that time period's usual background
commentary, this time applied to the nascent stages of the O.S.S. and
how its development would enhance the war effort. However, as the core
unit gets trained, it shifts to a pretty decent spy drama, with Alan
Ladd and Ms. Fitzgerald taking the leads in their unit's task, which
inherently was to supply the Allies with German armored division
positions and to facilitate the explosion of a railroad tunnel which
had been providing the Germans with their main conduit for battle
Ladd's gender-biased character doesn't like the fact that he has to work with a woman on such a trying mission, but Ms. Fitz's character isn't falling for his hype, and she soon shows her mettle by performing her assigned tasks more than adequately. It is in this dialog between our two major protagonists that we see just how well our stars (and writers/director) handled their roles. Crisp, articulate dialog sets the pace for their encounters, which was coupled with an intelligent story line, whose development was duly enhanced by the supporting actors as well.
But as my summary title indicates, our "hero" isn't really the prototypical war hero you were used to seeing in movies of that era. Our man Ladd is asked to perform one more task by his CO and he "bites the guy's head off" with a "why me?" diatribe reminiscent of a film more ensconced in the anti-war movies of the 60's-70's. It is Ladd at his vitriolic best, barking at the CO to get somebody else, but the CO has to finally give him an official order, to which Ladd reluctantly assents. This scene ever so realistically shows the reactions of a real human soldier as opposed to some sort of Hollywood hero fabrication.
Other moments of pathos and reality occur, especially between "Sparky" and the unit's radio operator. John Hoyt's fine contribution as the German colonel also merits mentioning.
Although it may not rank amongst your all time favorites list, watch it anyway and if you don't have at least a small well of tears at the film's conclusion... Just maybe "she could have been a girl from around the corner!"
Alan Ladd (John Martin) is trained as an OSS agent and sent on an
assignment in France with a team of 3 others. Their leader Don Beddoe
(Gates) is killed early on and Ladd is put in charge. The mission is to
blow up a bridge and report back on German troop numbers and movements.
Their boss Patric Knowles (Commander Brady) then flies into France to
tell Ladd that he has one more mission to complete.
This spy story is a bit long but it holds the interest well enough. The main bulk of the film takes place in France and by the end of the film only one of Ladd's group remains alive - we watch them get caught one by one. You can see how the film is going to end from about halfway through when Geraldine Fitzgerald (Elaine) tells Ladd not to come back to save her life if he feels that she is in danger. I felt that she was just as strong a character as he was in the lead role. There are some good moments during the film, eg, when Beddoe gets caught at a cafe and signals to Fitzgerald to leave.
Overall, despite the length of it, the film is made up of entertaining segments, and I enjoyed watching it the second time more than the first.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This Paramount Studio's production stars Alan Ladd, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gloria Saunders, Don Beddoe, Richard Benedict, Harold Vermilyea, Richard Webb and John Hoyt. The film is based on the activities of several agents of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the C.I.A.
The film starts with O.S.S. trainee Alan Ladd being sent to infiltrate an American plant. Ladd manages to lift the blueprint he is after but is nabbed while trying to get away. He is grabbed up by the F.B.I. and given a round of third degree. The session ends when Ladd is released to a Government official. Ladd is then taken back to O.S.S. headquarters to discuss what he did wrong.
With the upcoming D-Day Invasion of France happening soon, the training is cut short. Ladd and several others are shipped off to England for final briefings. Ladd, Richard Benedict and Don Beddoe are joined the last member of the team, Geraldine Fitzgerald.
The group will be dropped into France to make contact with the French underground. They are to gather info on German troop movements. Their main mission is to blow up a vital German railway tunnel. This will slow down the German response to the D-Day landings.
The plan goes sideways right from the start. They fail to make the meeting with the French underground and agent in charge Beddoe is killed by the Germans. The group decides to continue with their mission. They finally make contact with the underground and start gathering intelligence on the Nazi bunch.
Complicating matters is local German commander. John Hoyt. Hoyt takes a fancy to Miss Fitzgerald and takes her out several times. Ladd tells her to see what info she can collect from Hoyt. Fitzgerald happens to be a sculptor of some skill, and has Hoyt sit for her as she does a bust of him.
When Hoyt offers a train ride to Normandy, she jumps at the chance. The train will go right through the tunnel they came to destroy. She makes a new bust out of plastic explosive to bring. Ladd boards the train engine with forged papers as a railway inspector. Just before the tunnel he throws out the engine crew and stops the train inside said tunnel. Fitzgerald sends Hoyt off to see why the train has stopped. Then Ladd and Fitzgerald plant the explosive "head", light the fuse and bolt. The tunnel is destroyed but Hoyt survives. (minus an eye) Fitzgerald chews out Ladd for coming back to get her.
D-Day now happens and the Germans begin their retreat across France. The trio, Ladd, Fitzgerald and Benedict join in with the civilians fleeing the fighting. Hoyt though is on their trail and has sent out flyers with their descriptions.
Ladd and Fitzgerald are soon cornered in a small village by a Gestapo type. The man, Harold Vermilyea, knows the Germans are going to lose the war. He offers to feed the pair top secret info and the like. He wants a promise not to be arrested after the war, and a large cash deposit into his Swiss bank account.
The info is soon flowing to England and the cash to the Swiss bank. The info is passed to Benedict who photographs the papers then returns them to Vermilyea. The film is then passed to Ladd and then passed for pick up by an O.S.S. aircraft. Benedict also radios the info in code. This cozy arrangement with Gestapo man Vermilyea goes south when Hoyt arrives on the scene. He has tracked Ladd and company to the area. Benedict is killed sending out a message. Vermilyea is found out and grabbed up while Ladd and Fitzgerald barely make their escape. They make it to a pickup point where they are to meet an O.S.S. plane.
Instead of a flight home and safety, the two get further orders to head for the Rhine. There they are to meet with another O.S.S. man, Richard Webb, and collect his info. Ladd is less than amused with these new instructions, he and Fitzgerald are near their breaking point. But orders are orders.
They are soon on the Rhine trying to find agent Webb. Webb, dressed as a German soldier, happens upon them. The info is passed and Webb takes off to see what else he can learn.
Ladd heads to the forest to dig up their radio. While Ladd is off making radio contact, Hoyt drives up to the house where Fitzgerald is. Fitzgerald is grabbed up and taken into custody. Hoyt plans a most painful end for Miss Fitzgerald.
The taking of Miss Fitzgerald is seen by a young boy, Bobby (Treasure Island) Driscoll. Driscoll runs to where Ladd is and tells him. Ladd is about to head back to see if he can stop Hoyt, but remembers what Fitzgerald had said. Do not come back, the job comes first. Ladd stays and makes the radio link, passing on the important info. Needless to say what happens to Miss Fitzgerald.
This is quite watchable war/ espionage film. The director was Irving Pichel. Pichel was a former actor who turned to directing. His films include. "She" "Secret Agent of Japan", "The Pied Piper", "Destination Moon", "The Moon is Down" as well as the noir, 'They Won't Believe Me" and "Quicksand".
The d of p was three time Oscar nominated and one time winner, Lionel Lindon. The "Manchurian Candidate" and "Around the World in Eighty Days" and "The Blue Dahlia" are his most famous works.
The writer here was WW2 vet, Richard Maibaum. Maibaum was best known as the writer of 13 different James Bond films, starting with Dr No.
Alan Ladd and Geraldine Fitzgerald head up a team of spies in "O.S.S.,"
a 1946 film about the Office of Strategic Services formed just before
the U.S. entered World War II. Ladd and Fitzgerald are part of a group,
trained by Patric Knowles, who then parachute into France, perform acts
of sabotage and also spy activities. One of the complications is that
the Ladd character, John Martin, is a chauvinist who believes that
"Elaine Duprez" (Fitzgerald) can't do what he considers a man's job
effectively. She proves him wrong as she flirts with a German officer
and gets to travel with him by train. The sculpture she is doing of him
contains a bomb, which she passes out the window to John and he plants.
She climbs out and the two run out of the tunnel. Eventually the two
fall in love, but it's bittersweet as they watch the rest of their team
fall prey to the Germans.
This is a pretty good film, not the most exciting thing you'll ever see, but it's heightened by the acting of Geraldine Fitzgerald and the presence of Alan Ladd. It's hard to think of Ladd as a great actor; he was very limited, but what he did, he did very well. Handsome, tough, with a no-nonsense line delivery, he was perfect starring in the noir films for which he is justifiably famous and, of course, Shane.
The attractive Patric Knowles does a good job, as does the rest of the cast. "O.S.S." is effective in that you care about the characters. There is some tension, though probably not enough, and nowhere near enough action for this kind of movie. If it were any other actors, it wouldn't be worth seeing; but given the cast, it's a decent watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's interesting to speculate what critics and publics made of this back in 1946 because it's difficult to find anything positive to say about it in 2007 (it's just aired on TV). The feeling is that Paramount contracter Ladd was being 'punished' by the studio for some real or imagined misdemeanour, something that was par for the course in the days of the 'Studio System' but maybe it was one of those projects that look good on paper but sink on the screen. Several times the screenplay takes refuge in the old 'once out of the well' gimmick; for example Fitzgerald is on a train with German Officer Paul Hoyt and a bust she sculpted of him which will be used as a bomb; the train halts, Fitzgerald gets rid of Hoyt, hands the bust to Ladd, waiting outside the train and climbs out the window to join him. Hoyt returns, realises what's going on and sets off a hue and cry. Ladd and Fitzgerald have just checked into Roach Motel and they're not gonna be checking out. Then: Cut. Another time, another place. How'd they get away? You tell me. Towards the end of the film Ladd and Fitzgerald are the only two survivors of the four that comprised 'Applejack'; Their chief, Patrick Holt, flies in supposedly to fly them out - they're about five minutes ahead of the Gestapo - but instead orders Ladd to perform another mission elsewhere. Fitzgerald opts to go with him and Holt leaves them to it. So there they are, right in the middle of East Jesus and the Gestapo can now be only two or three minutes behind. Then: Cut; we've done it again; now it's days/weeks/months later and they're miles away and in different clothes. Come on, fellas, give us some credit for intelligence. After months of rigorous training which includes not eating in the American style (cutting the food then transferring the fork to the left hand) Applejack 'leader' Don Beddoe on more or less his very first day in France makes this elementary mistake and is arrested thus allowing Ladd to assume leadership. There's absolutely NO feel of being in France and Ladd wears his 'American' suit and hat throughout. For a two-fisted 'romantic' hero Ladd does precious little in either department. Lest this sound harsh on a leading man let me say that I LIKE Ladd; I'd never accuse him of being a great actor and I can't imagine him playing Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams or playing comedy as well as Jack Lemon but within his own parameters he was a fine actor and usually gave value. In sum I feel this whole project was misguided to say the least and the least said about it the better.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|