|OPERATOR 13 (director: Richard Boleslavsky; screenwriters: Zelda Sears/Harvey Thew/Eve Greene/story by Robert W. Chambers; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: William Axt; cast: Gary Cooper(Capt. Jack Gailliard), Marion Davie (Gail Loveless), Jean Parker (Eleanor Shackleford), Katherine Alexander (Pauline Cushman), Henry Wadsworth (Capt. John Pelham), Ted Healy (Capt. Hitchcock), Willard Robertson (Capt. Channing), Sidney Toler (Maj. Allen), Fuzzy Knight (Sweeney), Robert McWade (Colonel Sharpe), Russell Hardie (Lt. Gus Littledale), Wade Boteler (Gaston), Douglas Dumbrille (Gen. "Jeb" Stuart),; Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lucien Hubbard; Warner Bros.; 1934)|
|"Lavishly entertaining but
nonsensical American Civil War spy
by Dennis Schwartz
last film Marion Davies made for MGM is this lavishly
entertaining but nonsensical American Civil War spy
story. It's remembered today for its epic battle
scenes. Director Richard Boleslavsky ("Rasputin
and the Empress"/"The Garden of Allah"/"Les
Miserables") keeps things trivial from the story
by Robert W. Chambers and screenplay by
Zelda Sears, Harvey Thew and Eve
Greene. Boley was a late replacement for
Raoul Walsh, whom Davies' interfering boyfriend, the
wealthy and powerful publisher William
Randolph Hearst, didn't care for and had the
studio remove him. Not satisfied with the way the
studio's promotion of his lover went, Hearst
orchestrated her move to Warners.
After the Bull Run battle, in the film's first half, if you can believe, blonde, blue-eyed Marion Davies, playing a Northern actress recruited as a spy known as Operator 13 by the Union's Major Allen (Sidney Toler), after recommended to him by her friend Jean Parker, disguises herself in blackface as a colored servant and operates on Southern turf behind the Mason-Dixon line with fellow actress spy Katherine Alexander trying to get intel on when and where the Reb general, Jeb Stuart, will attack. If you can handle that hokum you should have no trouble handling the film's second half, where Ms. Davies begins a romance with Confederate officer Gary Cooper when her true identity is finally known by Cooper. The lovers part company while promising to meet again when the war is over.
The over-produced b/w film, filled with Southern atmosphere, is meant to be pleasing and is. It offers such things as the Mills Brothers singing throughout and Ms. Davies singing "Once in a Lifetime, Love Comes Your Way." The melodramatic romantic espionage story never seemed credible, but Davies and Cooper are fine together.
REVIEWED ON 6/11/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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