Cloak and Dagger (1946): Fritz Lang’s WWII Thriller, Starring Gary Cooper and Lili Palmer

In this Fritz Lang-directed thriller, Gary Cooper plays the mild-mannered Alvah Jesper, a physics professor at a leading university, who is drafted by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to enter Switzerland, and then Italy, just before the end of World War II.

Screenwriters Lardner Jr. and Maltz, who adapted (with others) Alaistar MacBain’s book, later became two of The Hollywood Ten, caught up in the power struggle between J. Edgar Hoover and the CIA. They were brought before HUAC, jailed, and blacklisted during the Red Scare

In the movie, Jesper’s mission is to locate Dr. Polda, an atomic scientist held captive by the Nazis.  While in Switzerland, he contacts Austrian scientist Katerin Lodor to get information on Polda’s whereabouts, but is spotted and followed by Ann Dawson, a Nazi spy.  Shortly thereafter, Katerin is brutally murdered.

Moving on to Italy, Jesper has a romance with an Italian partisan named Gina (Lili Palmer), who, along with Pinkie, has been assigned to aid him in locating Dr. Polda.  In disguise, Jesper visits the scientist who fears for his life.  Jesper is determined to remove Polda to the safety of the United States. Through a carefully worked out plan, the group smuggles Polda to a deserted farmhouse near a landing strip where a plane is to pick them up.

Although their escape is nearly averted by the enemy, Jesper and Polda board the plane, but not before Jesper promises Gina to return to her after the war.

Lang clashed with producer Milton Sperling over the ending and other issues. Sperling thought that Lang’s proposed conclusion about a discovery of atoic bomb was ridiculous, as the audience knew that the Germans had no nuclear capacity

Lang’s Preferred Ending

Jesper leads a group of American paratroopers into Germany to discover the remains of an underground factory, the bodies of concentration camp workers, and evidence the factory was working on nuclear weapons. Jesper remarks that the factory may have been relocated to Spain or Argentina, claiming: “This is the Year One of the Atomic Age and God help us if we think we can keep this secret from the World!”

Cast:

Gary Cooper (Prof. Alvah Jesper)

Lilli Palmer (Gina)

Robert Alda (Pinkie)

Vladimir Sokoloff (Polda)

J. Edward Bromberg (Trenk)

Marjorie Hoshelle (Ann Dawson)

Ludwig Stossel (The German)

Helene Thimig (Katerin Lodor)

Dan Seymour (Marsoli)

Marc Lawrence (Luigi)

James Flavin (Col. Walsh)

Pat O’Moore (The Englishman)

Charles Marsh (Erich)

Don Turner (Lingg)

Clifton Young (American Commander)

Ross Ford (Paratrooper)

Robert Coote (Cronin)

Hans Schumm, Peter Michael (German Agents)

Yola D’Avril, Claire du Brey, Lottie Stein (Nurses)

Lynne Lyons (Woman in Bank, Double)

Rory Mallinson (Paul)

Ed Parker, Gil Perkins (Gestapo)

Bruce Lester (British Officer)

Leon Lenoir (Italisan Soldier)

Otto Reichow, Arno Frey (German Soldiers)

Maria Monteil, Lillian Nicholson (Nuns)

Bobby Santon (Italian Boy)

Elvira Curci (Woman in Street)

Hella Crossley (Rachele)

Douglas Walton (British Pilot)

Vernon Downing (British Sergeant)

Holmes Herbert (British Officer)

Frank Wilcox (American Officer)

Michael Burke (OSS Agent)

 

Credits

 

Released by Warner Bros.

Director: Fritz Lang.

Producer: Milton Sperling.

Scenario: Albert Maltz, Ring Lardner, Jr., suggested by the book by Corey Ford and Alastair MacBain.

Photographer: Sol Polito.

Musical Score: Max Steiner.

Orchestrator: Hugo Friedhofer.

Editor: Christian Nyby.

Art Director: Max Parker.

Sound Recorder: Francis J. Scheid.

Set Decorator: Walter Tilford.

Costumer: Leah Rhodes.

Special Effects: Harry Barndollar, Edwin B. DuPar.

Makeup Artist: Perc WEstmore.

Musical Director: Leo F. Forbstein.

Assistant Director: Russell Saunders.

Technical Adviser: Michael Burke.

From an original story by Boris Ingster and John Larkin