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Synopsis for
'C'-Man (1949) More at IMDbPro »

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Customs Investigator Cliff Holden (Dean Jagger) returns from holiday to be given a new assignment by his chief, Customs Inspector Brandon (Walter Vaughn). Cliff's friend and colleague, Steve Regan, has been knifed to death in Marseilles while investigating the theft of a necklace. Its owner, Mrs Lydia Brundage (Edith Atwater) had reported it stolen in Cannes two months after insuring it in Paris with the Apex Insurance Company of New York for $325,000. Steve had tracked the thieves to Marseilles, when he was murdered. He had left no reports of his investigations, but McQueen, an investigator in the Paris office of US Customs, has checked his itinerary, and has discovered that it coincided with the movements of one Matthew Royal (Rene Paul). He also has reported that Royal has booked passage to the United States via KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on the 29th, in two days time. Brandon has arranged for Cliff to fly to Paris so that he can return on the same plane as Royal and make his acquaintance. He has been given a cover identity as William Harrah, private investigator, with an office, a telephone, and a private secretary named Helen.

At the Paris airport, Cliff meets an attractive young Dutch girl, Kathe van Bourne (Lottie Elwen), who tells him that she is flying to New York to join her fianc Joe (Walter Brooke).

Meanwhile in New York a psychotic thug, Owney Shor (Harry Landers), and his female accomplice, Birdie Alton (Jean Ellyn), break into Joe's apartment and steal Kathe's immigration papers. Joe resists, and Owney beats him to death.

On board the plane, Cliff's attempt to sit next to Royal is frustrated when Kathe exchanges seats with Royal so that she can sit with Cliff. As the plane approaches New York, Kathe goes aft to the wash room. Another passenger, alcoholic Doc Spencer (John Carradine), exchanges a meaningful glance with Royal, and follows Kathe. After a while he returns to his seat, looks back towards the washroom, then looks forward and nods to Royal. The stewardess goes into the washroom, sees something which alarms her, comes forward and fetches a crew member to the washroom, then comes forward again and leads Cliff and Doc to the washroom. Kathe is lying on the floor unconscious. The stewardess and crew member leave Doc and Cliff alone with her. The Doc tells Cliff to ask the pilot to radio ahead for an ambulance. When Cliff leaves, Doc gives Kathe an injection.

When the plane lands in New York, Royal is intercepted by an official and led away. Kathe is stretchered into an ambulance, where Owney and Birdie are waiting with the stolen immigration papers. Owney is impatient to get going, but the ambulance man tells him that they must wait for clearance from immigration, customs, and health. Royal is thoroughly searched by Brandon and one of his agents, but nothing untoward is found on him. A uniformed official approaches the ambulance. Owney shows the stolen papers, and claims that he is Kathe's fianc. The ambulance is cleared to leave, and Owney and Birdie are allowed to accompany the unconscious Kathe.

Baffled by not finding the necklace on Royal, Brandon suddenly thinks of the ambulance. His agent runs out, flags down the ambulance, and gets into the front seat with the driver. As the ambulance drives through the streets of New York, Kathe starts to regain consciousness. Owney hits the attendant on the head with a gun, knocking him out. He then holds the gun on the customs agent while Birdie undoes Kathe's head bandage, in which the necklace is hidden. The ambulance crashes, knocking out the driver and the customs agent. Owney and Birdie flee without the necklace, pursued by a police officer. Still bemused, Kathe alights from the ambulance, necklace in hand. She takes a cab to her fianc's address. Owney and Birdie hi-jack a car, and drive off..

On arriving at Joe's apartment, Kathe finds Cliff already there. He accuses her of being in league with the crooks, but her reaction to seeing Joe's body persuades him of her innocence. Through the window they see Owney and Birdie arriving. Kathe identifies them as her abductors. Cliff sends her to his place, giving her a note for his landlady, Minnie Hoffman (Adelaide Klein). Taking the necklace with her, she leaves by the fire escape and gets away in her waiting taxi. Owney breaks in and finds Cliff waiting for him peaceably. Owney disarms Cliff and takes him to Royal's place. Another thug, Augie, is there.

Royal offers Cliff half of the proceeds if he will hand over Kathe. When Cliff does not accept, Owney and Augie beat him up. To check his identity, they phone Cliff's office. Helen successfully maintains Cliff's cover. Royal releases Cliff, and returns his gun. As Cliff is about to leave, Royal receives a phone call. The caller, Karney, says "Doc Spencer slipped out of his room." Royal tells him that the Doc has probably gone to Garcia's for some liquor. Cliff overhears this conversation and leaves, felling Owney with a blow on his way out.

Cliff tours the wine bars, casually enquiring if Karney has been in. At last he finds one where the storekeeper tells him that Karney went up to the hotel. Cliff buys a bottle of Benedictine and goes across the road to the Palace Hotel. He takes a room under the name of John Smith, and learns that the desk clerk's name is Karney. Cliff goes upstairs and finds Doc drunk in one of the rooms. Cliff plies Doc with drink, asking him if he was ever in Marseilles, and if he ever heard of Matthew Royal. Drunk and befuddled, Doc admits that Royal knifed Steve. The door opens and Owney and Karney enter. Owney has a gun. Karney leaves. Owney takes Cliff's gun from him and hits him on the head, felling him. Owney and Cliff fight. Owney knocks Cliff out and then beats Doc to death for squealing.

Cliff comes to in a luxurious bed. He is watched over by a woman who introduces herself as Lydia Brundage, and says he was brought to her apartment by Royal. She says that after her necklace was stolen in Paris, Royal contacted her as an intermediary who could recover her necklace from the thieves for a quarter of a million dollars in cash. As she did not have such a sum in Paris, they arranged that he would deliver the necklace in New York. She offers Cliff $100,000 dollars for it, with no questions asked. Cliff tells her he is only interested in the affair for what he can get out of it himself. Lydia makes romantic advances to Cliff, who plays along up to a point, then leaves. When he has gone, Royal appears from another room. He and Lydia embrace.

Cliff rings his office, and Helen tells him that the woman with Owney in the ambulance was named Birdie Alton, and that Owney hangs out at a joint in the Village called Rudi's.

Cliff goes home. Minnie and Kathe are there. Minnie has told Kathe who Cliff really is. Kathe shows Cliff that she has hidden the necklace in the freezer tray of the refrigerator.

Cliff takes Kathe to Rudi's. Owney is there. Cliff and Kathe pretend to him that they have been part of the conspiracy all along, that Royal has now returned the necklace to Lydia and has been paid off, and that they have received their share. Furious at the thought that he has been left out, Owney leaves.

Cliff returns home with Kathe, and finds that Minnie has been beaten up, and the necklace is gone. He leaves and goes up to Lydia's penthouse, using service stairs and outside access. Through a window he sees Owney holding Royal and Lydia at gunpoint. Royal is explaining that he has only just arrived with the necklace and is about to close the deal. He offers to pay Owney off with $5,000, but Owney takes all the money. Royal kills him with a knife. Cliff enters through the window, gun in hand. While Cliff holds up Royal and tries to phone, Lydia picks up Owney's gun and holds up Cliff. Royal knocks Cliff's gun out of his hand, and they fight. Royal calls on Lydia to shoot Cliff, but in the melee she mistakenly shoots Royal. Cliff phones for help.

Brandon arrives with Kathe and several officers. Brandon, Cliff, and Kathe leave, leaving the police in charge. Kathe is placed in Minnie's custody so that she can remain in the US.


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