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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Based on a true story. In neutral Turkey during WWII, the ambitious and extremely efficient valet for the British ambassador tires of being a servant and forms a plan to promote himself to rich gentleman of leisure. His employer has many secret documents; he will photograph them, and with the help of a refugee Countess, sell them to the Nazis. When he makes a certain amount of money, he will retire to South America with the Countess as his wife. Written by
Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
Supposedly based on a true story, a valet uses his position at British embassy to steal WWII secrets to sell to the Germans.
What a superbly tight script that stays on the compelling track the whole time. We watch lowly valet Diello (Mason) use nothing but wits and guts to outmaneuver both the British and the Germans. He's not a sympathetic lead character, always unusual for a Hollywood production (TCF). But you can't help admiring his ability to outwit the professionals, even if he is completely self-centered.
I get the feeling Diello sees himself as a natural born aristocrat denied that position by the fortunes of birth. So, by golly, he's going to use those talents to get the wealth and position he deserves, but which European society has denied him.
Mason is simply superb in a tailor-made part. He projects both the icy intelligence and curt politeness that the role requires. I sweated a bucket load when the cleaning lady rummages around the closet, while Diello photographs embassy secrets. If she finds the power switch, he's toast. Great scene.
Note too, how there're no obvious good guys-bad guys, also unusual for a WWII drama. The British are slightly favored, but at least the Germans aren't caricatured. It's more like one opportunist (Diello) is exploiting both sides impartially, and they're both after him.
Then too, what guy wouldn't lose his head over the delectable Darrieux, even a guy as calculating as Diello. All of which makes the ending one of the most ironically satisfying in movie annals. I'm betting this was one of the best films to come out of that spare movie year of 1952. So if you haven't seen it, do.
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