An American oil company executive of Swedish descent, now living in Sweden, is blackmailed into spying for the Allies during World War II. At first resentful, his relationship with a beautiful German Allied agent causes him to realize how vital his work is. When he learns that his anti-Nazi German associates are under suspicion from the Gestapo, he risks his own life to go back inside Nazi Germany to finish his work and try to save his friends. It's an exciting story with great characters, filmed partly in the locations where the story took place. Written by
In the Copenhagen street scenes of Danish bicyclists blocking the Gestapo truck pursuing Erickson and the underground leaders, a blue-and-white late '50s car can briefly be seen in the background in one shot. See more »
One of my favorite William Holden performances is in The Counterfeit Traitor where Holden plays an American born Swedish businessman who agrees to spy for British Intelligence after a bit of blackmail.
The offer he can't refuse comes after Holden is put on a list of undesirable businessmen who are doing business with the Germans. Holden is American born, but became a Swedish subject after deciding he would be working and living out of Stockholm. By agreeing to spy Holden will get cleared after the Allies win the war presumably.
Holden proves to be quite useful to the Allies giving them all kinds of information about where Nazi war production is so it can be targeted by Allied bombing. Of course each trip from Sweden to Germany brings new risk as the Gestapo is cracking down on traitors.
One of his contacts is Lilli Palmer, a prominent society woman with whom he begins an affair. Palmer was a refugee herself from Nazi Germany and she brings that dimension to her part that can't be imitated.
Alfred Hitchcock probably could have made this film a classic, still and all George Seaton who wrote and directed can't be faulted for the job he did. Holden and Seaton had worked well together before in The Country Girl and Seaton gets good performances from him and the rest of the cast.
Hugh Griffith is very good as the cynical British agent who is Holden's contact who is not above using any means to defeat the Nazis. I also liked Werner Peters the German actor who played a really terrific variety of Nazi types throughout the Sixties and who is suspicious of Holden from the gitgo.
But the best scenes in the film involve young Helo Gutschwager who is the son of one of Holden's German contacts and a true believing member of the Hitler Youth. First Holden to escape and then Gestapo agent Stefan Schnabel to apprehend Holden play some real mind games on this kid who has grown up with Hitler the only reality he knows.
The Counterfeit Traitor is one fine espionage film and definitely in the top ten of William Holden's performances.
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