Great Performances (1971– )
3 user

Secret Service 

Set in Richmond, Virginia in October 1864, tells the story of a Union spy working to seize control of the telegraph office.




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Episode credited cast:
... Henry Dumont
... Lt. Maxwell
... Mrs. Varney
... Cpl. Matson
... Jonas
... Caroline Mitford
... Sgt. Wilson
... Benton Arrelsford
... Capt. Thorne
Arthur Miller ... Messenger B
Moultrie Patten ... Cavalry orderly
Jonathan Penzner ... Lt. Allison
... Maj. Gen. Randolph
Rex Robbins ... Lt. Foray
... Messenger A


Set in Richmond, Virginia on an evening in October 1864, tells the story of a Union spy working to seize control of the telegraph office by posing as the wounded Confederate Captain Thorne. The spy's false orders raise the suspicions of a southern agent, who uses a local girl in love with Thorne to set a trap. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

12 January 1977 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Hal Holbrook provides a little over a minute's worth of introduction before Act One of the performance. See more »


Version of Secret Service (1931) See more »

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User Reviews

Fun, fun, fun for acting fans
11 March 2017 | by See all my reviews

Secret Service is a treat for acting students or any fan of the principal actors. This Phoenix Rep revival (it's first since the author's last performance 60 years previous) may have been inspired by the success of the Sherlock Holmes revival starring John Wood, which played on the West End and Broadway with great success in 1974 (both plays written by and starring William Gillette). Nothing will disguise the old-fashionedness of Secret Service, but luckily this company doesn't try -- they embrace it with great humanity. Meryl Streep charms in a seldom-seen "girly" part, which she plays with her trademark intelligence. We also get to hear her lovely legit soprano in an interval. Even more delicious is Mary Beth Hurt, sans glasses, equal parts minx and steel magnolia. Her spin on the soubrette part is original and makes a "stock" character glow with life. John Lithgow embodies the noble hero with his interesting physicality and intensity. There's a bit too much angst and staring into the middle distance, but it's pretty much written in. One suspects that live audiences would get a lot of laughs out of the creaky storyline and intermittent stylized posturing. Charles Kimbrough nearly inhales his own moustache as the most dastardly of villains, coming right up to the parody line but never crossing it. Alice Drummond is sweetness and endurance as the mother; and Don Scardino brings brio to the young brother, eager to fight. A youthful, thin Jeffrey Jones pops up as an effortlessly confident guard. In a small role, the excellent Roy Poole vigorously reminds us of all those southern patriarchs in Gone With The Wind. Warning: this play from 1896 uses the N-word several times and no one seems to care that the black servant (David Harris) is roughed up by the rebels. It may not have been a fun experience for the black actors, but Louise Stubbs wrings every bit of sass and vinegar out of her brief role as a house servant who stands up to Kimbrough. Acting teachers -- have your students watch this for lessons on how to combine style with inner life. Enjoy!

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