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Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)

Approved | | Drama, War | 6 May 1939 (USA)
FBI agent Ed Renard investigates the pre-War espionage activities of the German-American Bund.

Director:

Anatole Litvak

Writers:

Milton Krims (screen play), John Wexley (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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4 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward G. Robinson ... Edward Renard
Francis Lederer ... Schneider
George Sanders ... Schlager
Paul Lukas ... Dr. Kassell
Henry O'Neill ... Attorney Kellogg
Dorothy Tree ... Hilda Kleinhauer
Lya Lys ... Erika Wolf
Grace Stafford ... Mrs. Schneider
James Stephenson ... British Military Intelligence Agent
Hedwiga Reicher ... Mrs. Kassell (as Celia Sibelius)
Joe Sawyer ... Werner Renz
Sig Ruman ... Krogman (as Sig Rumann)
Lionel Royce Lionel Royce ... Hintze
Henry Victor ... Wildebrandt
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ... Helldorf (as Hans von Twardowski)
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Storyline

Prior to the United States entry into World War II, Nazi spies try to steal American military secrets. Among those whose passions are roused is Kurt Schneider who was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the US Army. Schneider is not very bright and is easily swayed by the oratory of Dr. Karl Kassel, a prominent physician who is eventually made the head of the Nazi spy ring. When Schneider's contact is arrested in Scotland, the US military asks the FBI to root out the spies. Agent Edward Renard is put in charge of the case and they methodically arrest all who have been spying. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

EXPOSED! It Was Our American Duty to Make This Picture! It's Your American Priviledge to See It! See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

6 May 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Storm over America See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

The film exactly quotes U.S. District Court Judge John C. Knox, who presided over the trial of the case upon which this film is based: "In this country we spread no sawdust upon the surface of our prison yards." This was an allusion to the executions of spies in Nazi Germany. The real four spies received prison terms from two to six years. Over a dozen other spies in the ring that were identified in the investigation were let out on bail and fled the country. See more »

Goofs

In one scene there is a large sign on a fence reading, "Fort Wentworth Base Hospital." The Army does not refer to its installations as "bases." A correct sign would have read "Post Hospital." See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: Some months ago, various persons appeared in the federal courts of New York City and the Panama Canal Zone, charged with the crime of espionage against the armed forces of the United States. Called to the witness stand, they swore to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God". The story brought out at those trials is stranger than fiction, revealing the existence of a vast spy ring operating against the naval, military, and air forces of the United...
See more »

Alternate Versions

For the 1940 re-release, Warner Bros. added footage showing the devastation inflicted on Norway, Holland and Belgium, those countries then occupied by Germany. That footage is included in the print shown on Turner Classic Movies. See more »

Connections

Featured in Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Annie Laurie
(1834-35) (uncredited)
Music by Lady John Scott
Whistled by Alec Craig
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An exciting espionage thriller
5 November 2005 | by krorieSee all my reviews

With the Nazi Party now illegal in Germany but still legal in the United States with several active members, it's not surprising that the American Bund had such a large membership in 1939 when Hitler was at the height of his power and was rapidly augmenting the Third Reich with territory stolen from his neighbors. Since the United States was officially neutral at the time, it is surprising that this film received such a wide distribution. One must remember, however, that FDR early on recognized the threat to world security, including the danger to our interests, from Der Fuher. He was in the process of asking Congress for the approval of Lend Lease and worked closely with Winston Churchill following the fiasco of the Munich appeasement which ousted the incompetent Neville Chamberlain.

The movie turns out to be somewhat of a mixed bag. There are really three main elements composing the film. From time to time there is a documentary-style narration by John Deering of actual events taking place in Europe such as the Anschluss; second, there is the main story which is well written, directed, and acted concerning a spy network in the United States attempting to lure the minds of German Americans into the Nazi trap with help from the Gestapo, Hitler's private police force of bullying goons; third, is the preachy part filled with patriotic talk, some noble, some propaganda, some prophetic. The best element is the actual story with standout performances by: Edward G. Robinson, who doesn't appear until the movie is almost half over, George Sanders playing a Nazi Stooge who is a go between for agents in Germany and their counterparts in the United States, Paul Lukas playing a medical doctor who mixes medical facts with Nazi myth and who gives stirring speeches for the Party to get recruits and to hold his own ring of spies together, Francis Lederer as a Nazi agent who places fame and fortune above all else including the master race, and Dorothy Tree playing Hilda a true believer until she breaks under pressure from FBI agent Ed Renard (Edward G. Robinson).

Whether you like this film depends a lot on how much you like espionage flicks dealing with World War II. As a spy movie from 1939, "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" holds up well. It comes across not as a relic from a bygone era but as an exciting movie thriller based on historical events.


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