5 Fingers (aka Five Fingers) (1952): Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ Espionage Thriller, Starring James Mason, Danielle Darrieux, Michael Rennie

5 Fingers

Grade: A- (**** out of *****)

In Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharply observed, sophisticated espionage melodrama, 5 Fingers (Five Fingers), James Mason gives an excellent performance as Cicero, a spy who operates within the British embassy in Turkey, stealing secrets about D-Day plans and peddling them to the Germans.

Michael Wilson’s screenplay is based on the book “Operation Cicero,” L.C. Moyzich, who appears as a character in the tale (cast with Oscar Karlweis).

The excellent international cast includes French actress Danielle Darrieux, American Michael Rennie and Walter Hampden.

Setting and Premise

The tale begins inn neutral Turkey in 1944, when German ambassador Franz von Papen meets countess Anna Staviska,  Frenchwoman and widow of pro-German Polish count. Destitute, the countess volunteers to become a spy for money, but her offer is declined.

Ulysses Diello approaches the German embassy attaché Moyzisch, offering to provide von Papen with top-secret British documents for a price of £20,000. The Germans don’t know that Diello is the personal valet to British ambassador Sir Frederic Taylor as well as the former valet of the late count.

Spoiler Alert:

Diello escapes alone to Rio, where he enjoys a new life of prosperity and freedom–until Brazilian authorities arrest him because all of his money is counterfeit, created during Operation Bernhard.


Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Screenplay: Michael Wilson

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The directing Oscar went to John Ford for “The Quiet Man,” which was also nominated for Best Picture.  Mankiewicz had won two directing Oscars, for “A Letter to Three Wives,’ in 1949, and for “All About Eve” in 1950.  The other three directing nominees were Cecil B. DeMille for “The Greatest Show on Earth,” which won Best Picture, John Huston for “Moulin Rouge,” and Fred Zinnemann for “High Noon.”

Charles Schnee won the Writing Oscar for Minnelli’s Hollywood melodrama, “The Bad and The Beautiful.”


Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Otto Lang
Screenplay by Michael Wilson; Uncredited: Mankiewicz; based on Der fall Cicero 1949 novel by Ludwig Carl Moyzisch
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
Edited by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: February 22, 1952

Running time: 108 min.
Box office $1,350,000 (US rentals)


James Mason as Ulysses Diello / Cicero (Elyesa Bazna)
Danielle Darrieux as Countess Anna Staviska
Michael Rennie as Colin Travers
Walter Hampden as Sir Frederic Taylor
Oskar Karlweis as Moyzisch
Herbert Berghof as Colonel von Richter
John Wengraf as Count Franz von Papen
Ben Astar as Siebert
Roger Plowden as McFadden
Ivan Triesault as Steuben (uncredited)
Lumsden Hare as MP (uncredited)
John Sutton as Narrator (uncredited)