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Secret Agent (1936)

Not Rated | | Mystery, Thriller | 15 June 1936 (USA)
After three British Agents are assigned to assassinate a mysterious German spy during World War I, two of them become ambivalent when their duty to the mission conflicts with their consciences.

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writers:

Campbell Dixon (play), W. Somerset Maugham (novel) | 4 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Madeleine Carroll ... Elsa Carrington
Peter Lorre ... The General
John Gielgud ... Richard Ashenden / Edgar Brodie
Robert Young ... Robert Marvin
Percy Marmont ... Caypor
Florence Kahn Florence Kahn ... Mrs. Caypor
Charles Carson ... 'R'
Lilli Palmer ... Lilli
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Storyline

During the first world war, novelist Edgar Brodie is sent to Switzerland by the Intelligence Service. He has to kill a German agent. During the mission he meets a fake general first and then Elsa Carrington who helps him in his duty. Written by Claudio Sandrini <pulp99@geocities.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Mystery - Intrigue - Romance, burn a flaming trail among the gay capitals of Europe See more »

Genres:

Mystery | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | German | French

Release Date:

15 June 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Laugh Track: Secret Agent See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Full Range Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Alfred Hitchcock convinced John Gielgud to play the lead by describing the hero as a modern-day Hamlet. Gielgud, however, ended up hating that his character was an enigma and felt that Hitchcock made the villain more charming than the hero. See more »

Goofs

When you first see the hotel bathroom, the toilet roll is held on its holder with the end hanging at the back of the toilet roll hanger. When 'The General', however, goes on a strop for not having a wife 'issued' to him, the toilet roll is hanging with the end on the front of the toilet roll holder. See more »

Quotes

Edgar Brodie: We aren't hunting a fox, we're hunting a man. He's an oldish man, with a wife. Oh, I know it's war and it's our job to do it, but that doesn't prevent it being murder - simple murder!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Alfred Hitchcock: More Than Just a Profile (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Bulgar Folk Song
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Hubert Bath
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Creative & Carefully Crafted Spy Story
5 June 2001 | by Snow LeopardSee all my reviews

While not one of Hitchcock's most well-known films, "Secret Agent" is one of his most creative. His version of the world of espionage is quite different from, and much richer than, the usual James Bond-type spy story. This movie is also distinguished by large doses of good humor and by some creative uses of the story's setting in Switzerland.

John Gielgud plays Ashenden, an English spy in World War I. He is assigned to go to Switzerland, determine the identity of an important German agent, and then stop the enemy agent before he can carry out his mission. Gielgud has two assistants: a young agent posing as his wife (Madeleine Carroll) and an eccentric assassin (Peter Lorre). What makes the film interesting is that Gielgud's character is not at all the stereotyped dashing movie spy, and he has a keen sense of the human cost involved in what he is doing. By contrast, his two assistants are both excited about the mission, and look forward to the game of tracking down and eliminating their quarry. As the story proceeds, it is the reluctant but responsible Ashenden who persists in continuing the mission in spite of some bad surprises, while the once enthusiastic "Mrs. Ashenden" quickly begins to lose heart when she realizes what espionage is really all about. At the same time, the twists and turns of the mission itself lead to some interesting and tense developments. This is all handled with Hitchcock's usual mastery of suspense and irony.

Hitchcock also makes full use of the setting, and typical Swiss themes like mountain climbing, chocolate, and folk dancing are all part of the plot. Hitchcock makes use of these elements in a natural way, not forcing them into the plot, and the whole production is nicely crafted. There are some excellent scenes, including a scene in an old country church that combines humor and suspense, and a chase through a chocolate factory.

Because its hero has a reluctance about his mission that we do not expect in our spy heroes, "Secret Agent" has never been one of Hitchcock's most popular films. And the story does have some odd aspects to it. But this is quite a good film, worthy of attention, and one that shows many aspects of the great director's skill and imagination.


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