Bob Sharkey (James Cagney) is an instructor of the 77th group of espionage agent candidates to be trained in the United States to infiltrate Nazi-occupied Europe. He is alerted that one of the students is a German agent and told to identify him or her. Sharkey is able to determine that the enemy agent is “Bill O’Connell” (Richard Conte), who performs too well when he succeeds in a field problem designed to cause the novices to make mistakes. Sharkey’s boss, Charles Gibson (Walter Abel), confirms that O’Connell is really Wilhelm Kuncel, one of Germany’s top agents but tells Sharkey to pass him, as they know Kuncel’s mission is to determine the date and location of the planned Allied invasion of Europe. They intend to provide Kuncel with false information to pass along to his superiors.
After they complete their training and are sent to Great Britain, three of the new “O77” agents—Frenchwoman Suzanne de Beaumont (Annabella), American Jeff Lassiter (Frank Latimore) and Kuncel—are sent on missions into German-occupied France. Kuncel is briefed on a fictitious invasion of Europe through Holland, but at the last minute he asks Gibson to send Lassiter with him. Lassiter has been briefed on a different mission—to locate the factory depot for V-2 rockets that will be used against the Allied invasion ports, with Suzanne as his radio operator. Sharkey tells him about Kuncel and assigns him to accompany Kuncel into Holland but then to continue on his own mission. If Kuncel tries to follow Lassiter instead of completing his own mission, Lassiter is to kill him. However, Lassiter’s uneasiness apparently alerts Kuncel. When the trio parachute into Holland, Lassiter’s parachute fails to open; and he plummets to his death. The jumpmaster (Karl Malden) of the B-24 Liberator transporting the group discovers that the strap to Lassiter’s static line was deliberately cut. Gibson and Sharkey realize that Kuncel knows that the information he was given is false and that he can identify every agent he trained with.
With no time to brief another agent to be Lassiter’s replacement, Sharkey volunteers. Gibson protests that Sharkey knows the date and location of the invasion but reluctantly agrees. With the help of the local French resistance led by the town’s mayor (Sam Jaffe) and his driver (E. G. Marshall), Sharkey completes his mission, apprehending the collaborator who designed the V-2 depot and returning him to Great Britain. However, while intercepting Kuncel as he tries to stop the pickup airplane from taking off, Sharkey is captured. Suzanne is killed while transmitting the news to England. The Gestapo torture Sharkey, but he refuses to reveal his knowledge. Back in Great Britain, Gibson has no choice but to order a bombing raid to destroy the Gestapo headquarters and kill Sharkey before he cracks. As the bombs strike, Sharkey realizes what is happening and laughs in Kuncel’s face just before they both perish.
A MUST SEE For all WWII-era Film Buffs!
In my opinion, Cagney is excellent in this movie, as is Richard Conte. The only fault I can really find with this movie, is that the characters were not really “fleshed out” enough. But the entire movie is suspenseful, your interest will not wane, and even if it does, the ending is worth sitting through the entire picture for.
If you are like me, and love WWII era spy films, then check out this film. You won’t be disappointed.
Unlucky number 13 in war
Author: Mike-764 (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Flushing, NY
22 November 2004
The story of an early OSS operation where the US is trying to destroy German missile targets positioned in Nazi controlled France, which are aimed at the British coast. The mission depends on the operators finding Duclois, the French designer of the missile sites. The operation is led by Bob Sharkey, who is to train the right people to accomplish the job. One of those people, O’Connell, is actually a trained Nazi double agent Kuncel, who is to learn where and when the Allied Second Front is to take place. Despite given false information about the front, O’Connell discovers that he is suspected and kills Lassiter, the agent assigned to spy on him. Since he is the only person who knows the details of the original plan, Sharkey takes Lassiter’s position, despite knowing that if he is caught, the Nazis will use any means to get information out of him. Very gritty, documentary style tale of counter intelligence in action.
Hathaway creates much suspense and crafts the twists and turns into the story with no slow spots. Cagney abandons his Warner Brothers gangster persona, yet keeps his tough guy character in a role commanding authority. Fine support from Conte (very sinister as O’Connell/Kuncel), Annabella, Abel, and Jaffe. Rating, 9.
Prologue is The Past.
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
24 January 2009
O.S.S. agents are in training for work behind enemy lines in WWII. Upon receiving his latest batch of trainees, training leader Bob Sharkey is informed one of the rookies is actually a German mole. Letting the mole continue thinking he is undetected, Sharkey feeds the mole false information about important upcoming operations. But as Sharkey arranges his agents missions, and that of the mole, things go wrong and Sharkey himself must go into occupied France and risk the wrath of the Gestapo at 13 Rue Madeleine.
13 Rue Madeleine is a very efficient and enjoyable War/Spy/Thriller, it’s directed by multi genre helmsman Henry Hathaway and stars acting legend James Cagney as Sharkey. Tho playing a tough guy, this is quite far removed from the sort of roles that defined Cagney’s career, he’s ably supported by Richard Conte and Walter Abel, but in all honesty it’s Cagney’s film all the way. As many other reviewers have mentioned, the majority of the picture feels like a documentary, or more a sort of public service explanation on the History Channel, not a bad thing exactly, but the dulcet narration is something I personally could have done without. However once the picture nicely turns its attention to the crucial mission, things start heating up and the film becomes a film in the truer sense of the word. We are fully engaged with the central characters having been with them thru Sharkey’s training school, and as the (fabulous) ending draws closer, it’s hoped that the majority of viewers are as involved with the plot as I personally was. Because then when the end does come, it impacts the way the makers hoped it would.
A very commendable picture and certainly recommended to fans of Cagney, Conte and this type of movie. 7/10
Cagney is “dandy” as always in this WWII thriller!!!
Author: FelixtheCat from Cleveland, OH
26 May 2000
James Cagney stars as the crafty leader of American secret agents of the 077 during World War II. The invasion is not far off and the Nazis have implanted one of their top spies into Cagney’s unit. Cagney has to figure out which one of his people is a Nazi and then double cross the double agent with misinformation. The film is fairly interesting, but the characters are not fleshed out well enough, which almost makes sense due to the semi-documentary nature of the film. Still, Cagney is great at being Cagney, which makes it worth watching all the way to the film’s explosive ending.
Cagney and Conte enliven spy docudrama
Author: RanchoTuVu from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
20 August 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As recruits in the US military intelligence service during WW2 train for their ultimate mission to gather data to lay the groundwork for D-Day, one of them is discovered to be a Nazi agent. James Cagney has an impressive role as an instructor at the school, showing off his acting and natural physical talent. Like in Yankee Doodle Dandy, he steps lightly but throws a mean right hand. Posture perfect he whips through the script’s technical jargon, energizing his role and the film, while Richard Conte as the planted Nazi and his nemesis is practically his equal. Caught in the middle is Frank Latimore as Conte’s unsuspecting roommate at the spy school and later his victim when the time comes to parachute into occupied Holland. For once technical verbiage seems to work okay as does the documentary style narration, due to the rapid fire pace that culminates in a great ending sequence featuring Cagney looking somewhat like he did in White Heat while Conte is left cowering amidst the falling bombs.