Film runs Fri, Sep 26 through Sun, Oct 12.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1952
USA | Format: 35mm | 108 minutes
Originally intended for Henry Hathaway, Mankiewicz’s last film on his contract with Twentieth Century Fox (before his return with Cleopatra) was this brilliant adaptation of Operation Cicero by L.C. Moyzisch, a German attaché in Ankara during WWII. Moyzisch was the personal “handler” of a spy named Elyesa Bazna, code name Cicero, who worked as a valet to the British Ambassador and supplied a wealth of information to the German high command. Mankiewicz and screenwriter Michael Wilson added several layers of interest to the espionage story with the addition of a fictional character, Danielle Darrieux’s Countess Staviski. The scenes between James Mason as Diello, the Bazna figure, and Darrieux as the object of his devotion are among the most scintillating in Mankiewicz’s entire body of work, sparking with sexual and class tensions. “In its literate, satirical way,” wrote Manny Farber, who ranked 5 Fingers as one of the best films of 1952, “this spy melodrama was the most unusual thriller since Hitchcock’s first low budget films.”