Joe Smith American (1942): MGM Propaganda, Directed by Richard Thorpe, Starring Robert Young

Richard Thorpe’s “Joe Smith American” was an MGM propaganda film, aiming to demonstrate the courage and integrity of an “average” American, when facing enemy pressure and torture.


Robert Young played Joe Smith, son of immigrants, family man (Marsha Hunt played his wife and Darryl Hickman his son), an aircraft factory worker who has invaluable knowledge, the details of a new bomb-sight of which enemy agents wanted a blueprint.  Joe’s moral strength, his refusal to talk regardless of personal pain and anguish, was meant to symbolize the indestructibility of the American spirit. Though kidnapped by Nazi operatives, and put under horrendous torture, Joe would not betray his country.  In the end, after escaping his enemies, he leads the FBI to his captors. 


A versatile, highly prolific director, former actor Thorpe (1896-1991) made over 100 films in every possible genre (he began his career in the silent era), but he was always considered to be a fast, technically proficient filmmaker who nonetheless lacked personal vision or distinctive style.




Robert Young

Marsha Hunt

Harvey Stephens

Darryl Hickman

Jonathan Hale

Noel Madison

Don Costello

Joseph Anthony

William Forrest

Russell Hicks

Mark Daniels

William Tannen




Directed by Richard Thorpe.

Screenplay by Allen Rivkin.

Based on the story by Paul Gallico.

Release date: March 6, 1942