Friday, July 3, 2009

13 Rue Madeleine

The Fox Movie Channel is airing the interesting James Cagney docudrama 13 Rue Madeleine at 8:00 AM ET on July 4. It's a look at the work of the OSS, the World War II-era forerunner to the CIA, and a movie that's actually quite appropriate for the Fourth of July holiday.

Cagney stars as Bob Sharkey, the man commanding the training of the spies-to-be who are going to do operations behind Nazi lines. The first half of the movie is documentary in nature, looking at the way in which agents are trained and learned to evade detection. That evasion is important, as Sharkey and the other spy bosses come to believe that one of the men he's training, Bill O'Connell (played by frequent Fox heavy Richard Conte), is actually a double agent, working for the Nazis. Sharkey decides to test this hypothesis by feeing the alleged double agent some false information before sending him off on a mission. Sharkey learns that O'Connell is in fact a double agent, but not because of the false information. Instead, O'Connell has discovered that the Americans are onto him, and kills the OSS man sent on the mission with him (played by Frank Latimore) by sabogating the man's parachute. What a way to die.

It's also here that the action really picks up. The mission is in jeopardy, but, since it pertains to the upcoming D-Day invasion, is of vital importance. There's only one man who can carry out that mission, that man being Sharkey himself. So, he proceeds to prepare for parachuting behind enemy lines, knowing that he faces grave danger should he be captured....

The first half of 13 Rue Madeleine is effective. It's not quite as good as either The Naked City or He Walked By Night, but it does its job at showing us the meticulous preparation wannabe spies face, and is far more realistic than, say, a James Bond movie. The second half, the spy operation in occupied France, is even better, with quite a bit of suspense, and Cagney shining. We even get a bit of a surprise ending.

13 Rue Madeleine is by no means the greatest movie ever made, but it's quite an enjoyable movie that's been largely forgotten 60 years on, which is a bit of a shame. However, it has made its way to DVD, so you don't have to wait for any of Fox's showings like tomorrow's.

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