Cast & Crew
C. Henry Gordon
Annemarie, a seemingly deluded patient of a convent asylum, remembers her past while waiting for a mysterious man to fetch her: In Berlin of 1915, master spy Annemarie, known in the field as Fräulein Doktor, returns from a successful assignment and reports to Von Sturm, the head of the German secret service. After Annemarie advises him to be wary of Mata Hari, who has made the mistake of falling in love with her enemy, Von Sturm tells her about Ali Bey, the commander of the Turkish Dardanelles, who he suspects is a British spy. Von Sturm assigns Kruger, one of his agents, to go to Constantinople and approach Ali Bey as a fellow British spy. Before Kruger leaves Berlin, however, Annemarie follows him to a dentist's office, where he reveals himself to be an English spy trying to pass information to an equally traitorous dentist. During the raid on the dentist's office, Douglas Beall, an American medical student, is arrested and questioned by Von Sturm. Although Douglas eventually is released, Von Sturm asks Annemarie to investigate him further. That night, the skillful Annemarie, now calling herself Helena Bohlen, tricks Douglas into picking her up at a restaurant. Taken with the beautiful spy, the unsuspecting Douglas confesses his love to her in his hotel apartment and is dismayed when she slips away without saying goodbye. However, when Annemarie, who has been given Kruger's assignment, heads for the Constantinople-bound train, she finds Douglas in her taxi. In spite of her protests, Douglas boards the train with Annemarie and stays as close to her as possible. Soon after, the Allies bomb the train, which is carrying German soldiers, and Douglas impresses Annemarie by treating the injured passengers. Now in love with Douglas, Annemarie orders her fellow spy Karl, who is posing as her secretary, to return to Berlin and helps Douglas to enter Turkey on her passport. In Constantinople, Annemarie arranges to meet Ali Bey at a charity bazaar and immediately dazzles him with her aloof charm and beauty. Later Annemarie tells Ali Bey, who has been warned by telegram that the infamous Fräulein Doktor is in the city, that she is his British contact. Later, Annemarie confesses to a jealous Douglas her mission in Turkey and, in spite of his ultimatum that she leave immediately with him or risk their relationship, remains in Turkey to expose Ali Bey. Concerned for Douglas' safety, however, Annemarie arranges for Karl to pick up the American. She then orders Von Sturm to fake Douglas' execution in front of her and Ali Bey, confident that Ali Bey will assume that she is sacrificing her love to keep her identity as a British spy a secret from her superior. The ploy works, and using invisible ink, Ali Bey writes strategic information about German submarine movements on Annemarie's shoulder, then is arrested by Von Strum. Although Douglas was secretly transported out of Turkey, Von Sturm tells Annemarie that he was executed to keep her from quitting her espionage work. Overcome by grief and guilt, however, Annemarie lapses into a state of hopeless delusion. Back in the convent, Annemarie's dream that Douglas will one day find her finally comes true, and the couple happily reunites.
C. Henry Gordon
Douglas R. Dumbrille
Leo G. Carroll
General Theodore Lodi
Otto H. Fries
Anders Von Haden
Lal Chand Mehra
Tito H. Davison
James Wong Howe
Bernard H. Hyman
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Edwin B. Willis
In Stamboul Quest, Loy's character is called Annemarie Lesser. This is the name most commonly associated with Fraulein Doktor (though some sources do refer to her as Elsbeth Schragmuller). She is said to have received a PhD. from the University of Friedburg and to have run a spy school in Antwerp during the German occupation of Belgium. She has been called the "greatest of the German female spies," but little is known about her actual operations. All records of Lesser were destroyed by German intelligence. Many accounts speak of her descent into cocaine and morphine addiction. And her last years were reportedly spent in an asylum. But again, her hospitalization under an assumed name makes any verification of her identity impossible.
In her autobiography Being and Becoming, Myrna Loy says that Fraulein Doktor was still alive when Stamboul Quest was filmed. "She'd become a drug addict, lost her mind and landed in a Swiss sanatorium," Loy remembers. Apparently MGM still believed in the Fraulein Doktor mystique as well. As Loy recalled, "[the] fear of libel kept the script in the air all the way through."
But they need not have worried. Where the facts were thin, Hollywood stepped in and supplied the intrigue. Stamboul Quest was the first of four films, based on the alleged adventures of Fraulein Doktor. Next came Mademoiselle Docteur (1936), a French movie directed by a German, G.W. Pabst, and starring another German, Dita Parlo. An English language version, with the slightly different, translated title of Mademoiselle Doctor was filmed simultaneously under the direction of Edmond T. Greville. It maintained the exact plot of the French film and kept Dita Parlo as Annemarie. But changes were made in the supporting cast between the two movies. The most notable of these differences was the addition of Erich von Stroheim as the German spy chief in the English film. Despite Parlo's starring role as the title character, von Stroheim received top billing over her in Mademoiselle Doctor because his face and name were more recognizable to English audiences. But luckily, this billing caused no ill will between the actors. Von Stroheim and Parlo would appear together again the very next year in what would become a cinematic masterpiece - Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937). Both versions of Mademoiselle Docteur eventually made their way to America, with generic U.S. release titles. The French film was released as Street of Shadows, and the U.S. title of the English version became Under Secret Orders.
The final film about the infamous female agent was called simply Fraulein Doktor. An Italian-Yugoslavian co-production, this big budget feature was produced in 1969 and starred Suzy Kendall, Nigel Green and Capucine. But neither it nor any of the other "Fraulein Doktor" movies made much of an impact at the box office. Nor did they provide much insight into the woman named Annemarie Lesser. But they did help sustain the legend -- of a once feared, now forgotten spy called Fraulein Doktor.
Producer: Bernard H. Hyman, Sam Wood
Director: Sam Wood
Screenplay: Herman Mankiewicz, Leo Birinsky
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Costume Design: Dolly Tree
Film Editing: Hugh Wynn
Principal Cast: Myrna Loy (Annemarie Lesser), George Brent (Beall), Lionel Atwill (Von Strum), C. Henry Gordon (Ali Bey), Rudolph Anders (Karl), Mischa Auer (Ameel Roberts), Leo G. Carroll (Agent Kruger).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames
Modern biographical sources note that Fräulein Doktor was a German-trained spy who ran a school for spies in Antwerp, Belgium during World War I. In her autobiography, Myrna Loy states that, because Doktor was alive at the time of production, the studio was concerned about possible libel suits and therefore was cautious about the screenplay. According to Loy, Doktor had become a drug addict and was living in a Swiss sanatorium when the picture was made. M-G-M borrowed George Brent from Warner Bros. for this production. Early Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items list Walter Wanger as the film's producer. Bernard Hyman, however, received the onscreen producer credit. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Richard Schayer was assigned by the studio to "polish" Herman Mankiewicz's script. The exact nature of his contribution is not known. A June 12, 1934 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Jack Conway was to direct pick-ups for the film. According to a July 1934 Hollywood Reporter news item, Reginald LeBorg worked with director Sam Wood on the production. The news item describes LeBorg as a "continental director" who was signed by M-G-M to a "managerial contract" after this film was completed. The exact nature of his contribution to the picture is not known. Although the Call Bureau Cast Service credits Judith Vosselli in the part of "Mata Hari," that character is not seen in the film but only is referred to in the dialogue.