The film opens with a German air-raid over the skies of London, and moves to the attempts of the F.B.I. and Scotland Yard investigators trying to circumvent the attempts of a sabotage ring ...
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The film opens with a German air-raid over the skies of London, and moves to the attempts of the F.B.I. and Scotland Yard investigators trying to circumvent the attempts of a sabotage ring dedicated to impeding the flow of American airplanes and flying fortresses to Britain(on FDR's Lend-Lease program since the United States was not yet at war against Germany and Italy.) Tim Hanley is an American agent, posing as a lawyer connected with the United States Embassy in London, and Reggie Oliver, a Scotland Yard detective, posing as a music critic, who has a hard time understanding American slang. Both are keeping their eye on Carla Nillson, a famous singer, whom they suspect of espionage. They all meet in London, then in Lisbon, and eventually in New York City, where Carla sings on the radio under the auspices and sponsorship of Siudney Grenner, a wealthy candy manufacturer, who is in reality the head of the sabotage gang. Miss Nillson may or may not know that some of the songs she sings ...Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'George Brent' to refers to Basil Rathbone as "Sherlock" about half way through the movie. Rathbone had already made a couple of Sherlock Holmes movies and was scheduled to make several more. See more »
The opening credits rise up from the bottom of the screen and from a distance, at about a 30-degree angle from the vertical. See more »
This independent 1941 film has a considerable cast of known actors of the day. It's one of just a few films Hollywood made about Nazi espionage in the Americas before and during World War II. Although actual German espionage didn't reach near the level shown in this film, it was very real.
"International Lady" was released in the U.S. and the UK in mid-October of 1941. The U.S. was not officially in the war, but was aiding the Allies, chiefly Great Britain and Russia. Less than two months later, the U.S. would be in the war after the Dec. 7 bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. And, within days after that, 33 members of the largest Nazi spy ring broken up in the U.S. were sentenced to prison. The Duquesne spy ring was organized in the late 1930s. Many of its members had civil service jobs.
It's interesting that this film doesn't directly name the Nazis or Germany as the enemy. It's mostly a story about British and American cooperation in routing a spy ring. But it also has some music, romance and comedy. The latter is in a friendly tete-a-tete between two clandestine Allied agents. Tim Hanley is an FBI agent and Reggie Oliver is from Scotland Yard. George Brent plays Hanley and Basil Rathbone plays Oliver.
This was before WW II when American intelligence work was done by the FBI and special offices of the Army and Navy. The British had its intelligence agencies - MI 6 and the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The American CIA didn't come into existence until after the war - taking over the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which had been set up in June 1942. So, before the U.S. entered the war, Scotland Yard likely would have been the British agency collaborating with the FBI (and vice versa) on investigating and stopping internal espionage.
Ilona Massey plays Carla Nillson, a prominent Norwegian singer who also was a German agent. This was a curious twist because Norway was a country whose people largely and actively fought and opposed the Nazis. One would think the screenplay would have Massey cast as a Hungarian or Austrian singer since she was born in Hungary, and had begun her singing career, in real life, in those countries.
Massey never achieved the stardom some in Hollywood had anticipated for her, but I think she's very good as an actress. She also has a beautiful soprano singing voice. This film has just two short scenes of her singing. She had roles and sang in two Hollywood musicals with Nelson Eddy.
Other prominent actors of the day in this film are Gene Lockhart, George Zucco, Frederick Worlock, Charles Brown and Clayton Moore (who played the Lone Ranger).
The extent of espionage in this film, and the complicated methods of communication, are much exaggerated. Before WW II, spying was something more mythical than real to an American public. But, within a few years after the end of the war, a doubtful public was awakened by the scandals of widespread Soviet Union espionage in the U.S. and Canada.
The light-hearted relationship between the Brent and Rathbone characters works well for this film. It's an interesting and entertaining spy thriller with doses of light comedy, romance and some pleasant music.
A favorite line in the film is when the FBI chief is talking to an Army colonel on the phone. He says, "But that's taking a big chance." The colonel replies, "What do you think armies do?"
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