The story begins at a meeting being held in a room which adjoins a German restaurant in New York. Dr. Kassel (Lukas), a committed Nazi party member, is telling his fellow German Americans in attendance that their loyalty should be to their fatherland. That their fuhrer (Adolf Hitler) has declared war against all democracies and that it is their duty to carry out his wishes. Ward Bond, uncredited, appears as an American Legionnaire in attendance who objects to the rhetoric and is promptly thrown out. Kurt Schneider (Lederer), an out of work language teacher, is so caught up in proceedings that he writes letters to Germany hoping Nazi party leadership will consider using him as a spy. Franz Schlager (Sanders), accompanied by an assistant Hilda Kleinhauer (Dorothy Tree), who regularly cross the Atlantic on the Bismarck, visit Schneider to see if he’s gotten the information he’d been ordered to obtain by those in Germany. By using his daring and his live-in friend, Werner Renz (Joe Sawyer), Schneider had; he’s given $50/month for his troubles and, eventually, is assigned more difficult tasks. Frustrated by not being given more responsibility and pay, for his wife (Grace Stafford) is pregnant, Schneider writes a letter to the liaison (Eily Malyon) in Scotland which, when its intercepted by British Military Intelligence (James Stephenson), begins the spy ring’s downfall.
FBI agent Ed Renard (Robinson) quickly realizes the significance of what the letter means, and the amateur nature of its author. John Hamilton appears uncredited as an FBI chief. He is also able to (all to easily) capture Schneider when he’s daring enough to try to obtain 15 blank passports for Schlager. Using Schneider’s vanity against him, Renard’s questions lead him to Hilda and then Kassel, who’s affair with another woman (Lya Lys), contributes to his undoing. Renard’s simple techniques for obtaining confirmation of his suspicions, and the Germans willingness to confess their deeds, make the story rather incredible. Schneider’s wife (Hedwiga Reicher) inadvertently leads him into the Gestapo’s hands and Krogman (Ruman) gaffes by admitting to Renard that the suspects are operating on orders from the German government. —Classicfilmguide.com
Born in Kiev, Michael Anatole Litwak was a stage actor and assistant director as a teenager. He entered Soviet cinema in 1923, working in Nordkino studios as a set decorator and assistant director. He directed his first film, the 1925 release Tatiana (Hearts and Dollars), but left the Soviet Union that year for Germany, where he edited G.W. Pabst’s Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street, 1925), assistant directed, and helmed the early ‘30s features Dolly Macht Karriere (1931), Nie Wieder Liebe (1932), and Das Lied Einer Nacht (1933). Fleeing the Nazis, Litvak directed films in England and France, among them the international hit Mayerling (1936). He came to Hollywood in 1937, where he helmed many handsome and polished features, specializing in crime films (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Castle on the Hudson, Out of the Fog) and romantic dramas (The Sisters, All This and Heaven Too). He worked on several Army documentaries during World War II, and co-directed… read more
This movie is a great piece of propaganda despite the fact it didn't need to be, coming out 2 1/2 years before US involvement in WWII. Edward G. Robinson: Nazi Hunter shows up to kick ass about 45 minutes after the story's been established. A decent turn by George Sanders and an uncharacteristic haircut, despite his character sort of disappearing about 2/3 of the way in. From a historical (cinematic or otherwise) point of view, worth the watch.