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Decision Before Dawn (1951)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, War  |  25 February 1952 (Norway)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,595 users  
Reviews: 44 user | 24 critic

As the US Army approaches Nazi Germany, they recruit German prisoners to spy behind German lines.



(screenplay), (novel), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Col. Devlin
Cpl. Karl Maurer aka Happy
Hilde (as Hildegarde Neff)
Dominique Blanchar ...
O.E. Hasse ...
Col. Oberst von Ecker
Wilfried Seyferth ...
Heinz Scholtz - SS Man (as Wilfried Seyfert)
Hans Christian Blech ...
Sgt. Rudolf Barth aka Tiger
Helene Thimig ...
Fräulein Paula Schneider
Robert Freitag ...
Sgt. Paul Richter (as Robert Freytag)
George Tyne ...
Sgt. Griffin
C.A. Amos ...
Himself (as C.A. Amos 1st Lt. USAF)
Harold Benedict ...
Lt. Pete Gevers
H.W. Briggs ...
Himself (as H.W. Briggs Sgt. USA)
D.G. Devine ...


WWII is entering its last phase: Germany is in ruins, but does not yield. The US army lacks crucial knowledge about the German units operating on the opposite side of the Rhine, and decides to send two German prisoners to gather information. The scheme is risky: the Gestapo retains a terribly efficient network to identify and capture spies and deserters. Moreover, it is not clear that "Tiger", who does not mind any dirty work as long as the price is right, and war-weary "Happy", who might be easily betrayed by his feelings, are dependable agents. After Tiger and another American agent are successfully infiltrated, Happy is parachuted in Bavaria. His duty: find out the whereabouts of a powerful German armored unit moving towards the western front. Written by Eduardo Casais <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A woman's kiss . . . A lighted cigarette - Each had Its meaning! An exciting and realistic story of war . . . of German Prisoners Sent Back Behind Their Own Lines as Agents of the Allies!


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

25 February 1952 (Norway)  »

Also Known As:

Legion of the Damned  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Oskar Werner and Richard Basehart did most of their own stunt work, including jumping in and swimming the fast currents of the Rhine river on location in Germany. See more »


Before Karl (AKA Happy) parachutes back into Germany, the US crewman in the aircraft says that he is glad "every time that a string of hundred pounders leave that bomb rack". The aircraft that they are in is a C47, a cargo plane, and did not have bomb racks. See more »


Sgt. Rudolf Barth aka Tiger: I didn't expect the job to be safe or pleasant. Why should you take Germans for safe work when your own people are in danger?
See more »


Referenced in Hilde (2009) See more »


Ach, wie ist' möglich dann (Treue Liebe)
Written by Kükcken
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User Reviews

Outstanding picture, one of the best WW2 movies
4 June 2000 | by (California) – See all my reviews

As American forces approach Germany near the end of World War II, it becomes crucial for them to get an idea of the Germans' capacity to resist. In order to do that, they recruit spies from among German POWs, train them and send them into Germany to gather information. This is somewhat of an unusual film about a subject that, as far as I know, had never been dealt with before or since (the movie is based on fact; American military intelligence did indeed use German POWs as spies). The location filming helps the picture greatly, as the war had only been over for a few years and Germany still hadn't rebuilt yet. Performances are universally top notch, notably Oskar Werner as a young German soldier code-named Happy who volunteers to return as a spy, and especially Hans Christian Blech as Happy's tough, opportunistic, and not entirely trustworthy partner. There are some nail-biting moments, notably aboard a train when Happy and his partner come under scrutiny by a suspicious Gestapo agent. The film has a tough, gritty, dangerous look that is totally atypical of the usual 20th Century Fox gloss, and is all the better for it. Gary Merrill as the tough American officer in charge of the operation, and Richard Basehart as an American agent sent in to accompany the two German spies, also turn in first-rate performances, and director Anatole Litvak keeps the film full of twists and surprises, but it's Oskar Werner's show, and he is up to it. An excellent film and one to put on your must-see list.

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