Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Any similarity to Foreign Correspondent is purely coincidental

TCM continues its salute to Star of the Month Joel McCrea this evening. McCrea's 1940 film Foreign Correspondent, which I've blogged about before, is airing at 9:30 PM. A similar movie that McCrea made one year earlier, Espionage Agent, is coming up later in the evening, overnight at 1:15 AM.

McCrea plays Barry Corvall, a man working in a US consulate in North Africa. He's about to return to the US to go to foreign service school for those who are intending to serve higher up in the diplomatic corps. But before that can happen, he meets a woman (Brenda Marshall) trying to escape the turmoil in Europe. The two eventually fall in love on the boat home, and against the better judgment of Barry's mother, he marries Brenda. He should have listened to mother: it turns out that Brenda is German, and the Nazis are trying to get her to start spying for them again. The fact that she's got a husband in the diplomatic corps makes her particularly valuable.

Brenda does have one thing going for her, though, which is that she wants to escape her Nazi past. Barry realizes that he's been compromised by marrying a former Nazi, and comes up with the brilliant idea of resigning from the diplomatic corps and independently getting the goods on the Nazis to show America what a danger Nazi agents in the US really are. So Barry and Brenda go to Switzerland, it apparently being much easier for a former American diplomat to enter there than Nazi Germany. Spying, however, is a dangerous business, and Brenda gets kidnapped and Barry has to rescue her before she winds up back in Germany....

Espionage Agent has echoes in a lot of other movies, such as the aforementioned Foreign Correspondent, as well as Night Train to Munich. The theme of German immigrants in America spying on the US for their country of birth is a theme that was also dealt with by Hollywood, both before the war in Confessions of a Nazi Spy and during/afterwards, in a film like The House on 92nd Street. Compared to these movies, Espionage Agent is entertaining, even if it's not quite as good overall. The other films have the feel of A-movies, while Espionage Agent is really more of a B-movie. Also, with the war in Europe already having started by the time Espionage Agent premiered in the US, it doesn't have quite the shock value that Confessions of a Nazi Spy, which premiered four months before the Nazi invasion of Poland, did. Still, Espionage Agent is an enjoyable movie.

Espionage Agent doesn't seem to have received a DVD release, and it shows up rather infrequently on TCM, so you'll have to record it if you want to see it.

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