Cast & Crew
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
During World War II, Turkey is a neutral country, and in 1944, becomes a hotbed of espionage for Allied and Axis diplomats. One evening, at a reception in Ankara, German ambassador Franz von Papen and English ambassador Sir Frederic both converse with Countess Anna Staviska, the French widow of a pro-German Polish count. The once-wealthy socialite is now so poor that she offers to spy for von Papen, but the ambassador gently refuses. Later that night, German military attaché L. C. Moyzisch is approached by a mysterious man offering to sell photographs of top secret British documents for £20,000. Moyzisch is at first dismissive, but the man's self-assured, eloquent demeanor intrigues Moyzisch, and he states that he will consult with von Papen. The man agrees, then returns to the British Embassy, where he works as Sir Frederic's trusted valet under the name Ulysses Diello. Sir Frederic, aware that Diello was once valet to the late Count Staviska, discusses Anna's poverty with him, not knowing that Diello is secretly in love with her. Soon after, von Papen's dispatch to Berlin, requesting permission to buy the documents, is approved, and Moyzisch meets with Diello, who has been given the code name Cicero. Moyzisch develops Diello's film and is astonished to see that it contains the minutes of the Allies' Teheran conference. Diello demands £15,000 for each additional role of film and arranges to meet Moyzisch in a week, then goes to the seedy area of town where Anna lives. There, Diello gives Anna £5,000 and offers to subsidize a luxurious lifestyle for her if she hides his money. Although she slaps Diello for admitting his feelings for her, Anna agrees to the deal and is soon installed in a lovely villa. Meanwhile, Moyzisch is summoned to Berlin, where Gen. Joseph Kaltenbrunner and Col. von Richter, uncertain of the validity of Cicero's documents, decide to test them by waiting for an upcoming Allied bombing mentioned in one of the papers. After the bombing takes place, von Papen is angered that the city's residents were not warned, and Moyzisch buys another set of documents from Diello, who obtains them by stealing them from Sir Frederic's safe, photographing them in his office and then replacing them. When the Turkish foreign office begins to suspect that von Papen is involved in espionage, British counter-intelligence agent Colin Travers is sent to Ankara, while German officials, still fearing that Cicero is working for the Allies, send von Richter to investigate. Diello, who is reaping vast sums for his thefts, enjoys his quarters at Anna's villa and also their deepening relationship, but becomes alarmed when her change in circumstances makes Anna the target of Travers' suspicions. The Germans also focus on Anna, who is believed to favor the English, and fear that Cicero is a British spy working with her. Von Richter meets Diello, who insists that his motives are purely monetary and that all of the documents he has obtained over the past six weeks are genuine. After von Richter leaves, Diello relates to Anna his dream of living in South America, and she promises to go with him. Over the next five weeks, Diello skillfully avoids Travers' security measures and is paid handsomely for more photographed documents, although officials in Germany still refuse to act upon them. Hoping to test him, von Richter asks Diello for documents about a rumored British operation named Overlord, and Diello, who merely photographs anything marked "top secret," agrees to search for them. Travers, theorizing that the leaks are coming from careless remarks made at Anna's soirees, is upset to learn that an intercepted message from von Papen claims that Cicero works inside the British Embassy. Travers installs a new alarm on the ambassador's safe, and Diello, fearing imminent apprehension, misses his next appointment with von Richter. Instead, he arranges for Anna to obtain train tickets and false passports for the two of them. On the morning that they are to leave, however, Diello is stunned to discover that Anna has stolen his money and fled to Switzerland, leaving behind a mysterious letter for Sir Frederic. Desperate for enough money to leave, Diello calls Moyzisch, telling him that he will deliver the Operation Overlord documents to him in Istanbul. Diello then removes the fuse leading to the alarm system and photographs the documents from the safe, but when a cleaning woman replaces the fuse, the alarm sounds and Travers sees Diello running away. Finally deducing Diello's scheme, Travers and his men follow him to Istanbul, where they are prepared to kill him rather than let him pass on the information, which details the Allies' D-Day plans. Von Richter, who intends to kill Diello rather than let him fall into British hands, also sends his men to Istanbul. During the train ride, Diello reads the letter from Anna, in which she tells Sir Frederic that his valet is a German spy. Despite his fury at the betrayal, Diello successfully eludes his pursuers until he meets the Germans and sells them the film for £100,000. Realizing that the Germans intend to kill him, Diello surrenders to Travers, but soon runs away from all of the agents. Back in Ankara, von Papen receives a letter from Anna telling him that Cicero is a British spy, and von Richter discards the information about the Allies' invasions plans. Later, Diello, happily ensconsed in a villa in Rio de Janeiro, is visited one evening by his Brazilian banker and a policeman. The men inform Diello that his money is counterfeit, and that the German-printed forgeries have also been found in the possession of a woman living in Switzerland. As he is arrested, Diello laughs and ruefully calls out, "poor Anna."
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
A. Ben Astar
Paul H. Jackson
John Candan Rahmi
Joan Van Dyke
James B. Clark
George W. Davis
W. D. Flick
Bruce Fowler Jr.
Mehmet Adil Ozkaptan
Walter M. Scott
Baron Otto Von Strahl
Best Original Screenplay
Best Writing, Screenplay
Five Fingers on DVD
Also from Fox in 1952 came the excellent WW2 spy tale Five Fingers, starring the irreplaceable James Mason as one of the slickest traitor-spies ever. It's set in 1944, in neutral Istanbul where the British and German ambassadors politely arrange to attend formal receptions at different times to avoid awkward encounters. The movie's source is a non-fiction book by L.C. Moyzisch, a diplomatic attaché who was stationed in the German Embassy in Ankara and is one of the participants in the drama.
The screenplay is by the esteemed Michael Wilson, a noted blacklistee who was barred from working almost immediately after this movie and George Stevens' classic A Place in the Sun. Wilson moved to Europe but still had to write anonymously due to State Department harassment; his passport was rescinded for a full decade while he racked up "invisible" credits on movies like The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, Friendly Persuasion and The Bridge on the River Kwai. The Screen Actor's Guild awarded Wilson credit for these films posthumously.
Wilson's director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was then one of the hottest hyphenates in Hollywood. The movie abounds in superior dialogue given superb readings by James Mason. Mason's tenure at Fox included many movies beneath his talent, which he unfailingly raised several notches in quality just by dint of his imposing presence and vocal precision. He's remarkably good at putting German delivery boys in their place: "Why so nervous Moyzisch? This is the greatest day of your life. When you die Hitler will dip you in bronze and name streets after you!"
This true story is a cat 'n' mouse game played out in embassy anterooms and at fancy diplomatic receptions, as the Germans and British try to makes sense of a too-amazing-to-be-real breach of security involving top secret Brit documents. British Ambassador Sir Frederic Taylor (Walter Hampden) and Reich Ambassador Count Franz Von Papen (John Wengraf) take a strong interest in a particular Polish refugee, Countess Anna Staviska (Danielle Darrieux of The Earrings of Madame de...). Anna was once one of the wealthiest socialites on the pre-war continent, but now she's looking for a way to subsist. Then Von Papen's attaché L.C. Moyzisch (Oskar Karlweiss) is approached by a daring and suave Englishman who offers to sell top secret English diplomatic and war secrets, for high prices. The Germans take the mystery agent at his word. They dub him agent "Cicero" but are unable to trace his identity. It almost doesn't matter. The German security people, afraid to make a personally disastrous mistake, fail to act upon the stolen documents. Meanwhile, Brit security agent Colin Travers pays a visit to Ambassador Taylor, with the news that counter-agents have determined that someone close to Taylor has indeed been turning info over to the Nazis.
The culprit is Ulysses Diello (James Mason), Taylor's own trusted valet. Brilliant, daring and utterly self-confident, Diello continues to convince his employers of his loyalty while collecting a fortune from the Germans. To hide his cash and prepare for an escape to Rio de Janiero, Diello re-opens his relationship with Countess Staviska, whose late husband he once served. Diello even convinces Anna that the feeling they once shared was a personal attraction, and they become lovers. Staviska safeguards the money and secures forged passports -- just as both the English Travers and the new German investigator Col. von Richter (Herbert Berghof) zero in on Cicero's real identity. Will the clever Diello and Staviska continue to outwit their pursuers?
The completely believable Five Fingers is a suspenseful spy tale enlivened by excellent performances. James Mason can turn a statement or a phrase any way he wishes, adding nuances of disdain, elitist hauteur, snide criticism or blunt honesty, all framed in brilliant understatement. Diello is studiously proper and passive with his Brit employers and has little trouble demolishing the phony guises and hypocrisy of his German clients. The final ironies (there are at least three major surprises) include a shocking admission by author Moyzisch of what the Germans did when Cicero's papers revealed the authentic landing location of the desperately coveted "D-Day" Operation Overlord.
Michael Rennie is neatly cast as the British intelligence expert. Walter Hampden's Brit Ambassador is far less of a fuddy-duddy than he looks, and aids his counterspies' effort to ferret out the traitor. John Wengraf's German Ambassador is also no fool, and can only shrug his shoulders as Berlin refuses to act on what is obviously good stolen info. Danielle Darrieux has a complex character to play as well -- a woman unashamed to state that her only loyalty is to regaining some part of her lost wealth and social standing. She also seems quite vulnerable, and is happy to discover that the dashing Ulysses Diello is her perfect partner in high-risk crime.
The small parts are expertly covered by familiar faces: Richard Loo, Neyle Morrow, Michael Pate, Gene Roth, Otto Waldis and what looks like an unbilled Kurt Kasznar. The alluring Hannelore Axman has a small role as a German secretary -- she previously played a Communist infiltrator in the notorious Cold War drama The Red Menace.
The film's exteriors were shot on location in Istanbul, Turkey, using clever doubles to make it look as if the principal players went overseas. I don't see any evidence that any did, but we barely notice.
Five Fingers deserves the description, "a thinking man's spy picture". Wilson and Mankiewicz go for a suspense that requires that the viewer pay close attention to what's said, and exactly what happens. When the action does pick up, with identities suddenly revealed and Istanbul erupting into a major chase scene, we can only conclude that we're seeing the full and true story.
The 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives DVD of Five Fingers is a good transfer of a movie we were told had been passed over for home video because of, "problems with the elements". The show has not been restored but plays well. The main titles are a bit soft, and here and there minor focus issues appear for a few seconds, perhaps due to shrunken or warped film struggling through the transfer machine or scanner. As the transfer does not look new, I'm thinking that the home video holdup was more likely legal in nature. One possible obstruction might have been the original Edith Piaf songs heard on Danielle Darrieux's phonograph. Publishing rights for much less prominent cues have held up more than one desirable studio film.
An original trailer is included. Of special note to music fans will be the presence of yet another coveted Bernard Herrmann score. Herrmann keeps his musical contribution fairly subtle throughout the picture, even during the chase scenes; it's as if he decided that the show works well on its own and doesn't need wall-to-wall musical support, as do the later CinemaScope attractions Beneath the 12-Mile Reef and Garden of Evil. That won't keep Herrmann fans from snapping up this release. When they do they'll find they've gotten a really great spy picture in the bargain.
By Glenn Erickson
Five Fingers on DVD
5 Fingers - Five Fingers
Five Fingers was based on the true story of Eleyza Bazna, the valet to the British ambassador to Turkey. Using the code name Cicero, Bazna had sold the Germans photos of 35 top-secret documents, including plans for the D-Day Invasion. Although the Germans paid him 300,000 pounds, making him the highest-paid spy in history, infighting among the high command kept them from putting any of the secrets to use. German military attaché L. C. Moyzisch told the story in print in his book Operation Cicero, which led the British government to demand safety precautions to prevent such whole-sale dissemination of government secrets from recurring. The notoriety attracted filmmakers, with Arthur J. Rank, Alexander Korda, MGM and 20th Century-Fox all bidding for the rights. The latter won and assigned the script to Michael Wilson, with Henry Hathaway to direct. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck urged them to turn the film into a semi-documentary focusing on its leading character's lack of allegiance to either side of the war. In that way, he hoped to get the audience rooting for Cicero, despite the fact that he was selling Allied secrets to the Germans. One change to facilitate that was the addition of a love interest, an impoverished French countess whom Cicero recruits.
Wilson's script was already generating positive buzz when Joseph L. Mankiewicz stepped in to give it a polish. Zanuck was so impressed with his work that, when Mankiewicz asked to take over direction, the studio head agreed, on condition the director waive his writing credit. Looking for a change of pace from urbane comedies such as A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950), Mankiewicz agreed. He took a crew to Turkey to shoot exteriors at most of the locations where the story had taken place. When the publicity department asked for a new title, fearing Operation Cicero would lead audiences to think the film was about the recent race riots in Cicero, Illinois, Mankiewicz came up with Five Fingers to reflect the leading character's greed.
A year earlier, Mason had signed a short-term contract with Fox to win the role of Field Marshal Rommel in The Desert Fox (1951). The contract gave him some say in other roles, but he was delighted nonetheless when his next studio assignment was the leading role in Five Fingers. Not only was he impressed with the script, but also he was eager for the chance to work with Mankiewicz. In later years, he would say that it was one of the few films he made in Hollywood that he could still watch with pleasure.
For the leading lady, Mankiewicz initially cast French actress Micheline Presle, who had distinguished herself in her native land with such films as Boule de Suif (1945) and Le Diable au Corps (1947) before winning U.S. fans with the Errol Flynn swashbuckler Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951). Unfortunately, she became pregnant and returned to her distinguished career in France. In her place, the studio cast Danielle Darrieux, who had first attracted notice as Charles Boyer's doomed mistress in Mayerling (1936). More recently, she had come to the U.S. to play Jane Powell's mother in Rich, Young and Pretty (1951) and starred in two of Max Ophul's classic French films, La Ronde (1950) and Le Plaisir (1952). Joining her in the cast were British import Michael Rennie, who had just scored a hit as the alien Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1952), stage veteran Walter Hampden, whose performance as Cyrano de Bergerac was the stuff of legend, and a host of distinguished character actors, including Herbert Berghof, Richard Loo, Nestor Paiva and Ivan Triesault.
With so much quality in front of and behind the cameras it was no surprise when Five Fingers earned critical kudos. Bosley Crowther summed up the reaction in the New York Times, writing, "this literate entertainment Joseph L. Mankiewicz has made with a cast that might well have been recruited from an embassy function in pre-war Berlin, is as dandy an espionage thriller as ever went through the polished hands of a Grahame Greene or an Alfred Hitchcock." Ironically, Herrmann would soon become a regular contributor to Hitchcock's films, helping create the type of sophisticated thrillers to which Five Fingers continues to be compared favorably. The film landed on the Times and Film Daily ten best lists and brought Mankiewicz and Wilson Oscar® nominations. Wilson's screenplay won a Golden Globe and the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award.
The plot of Five Fingers was too good to let be, and Fox would make four more efforts to mine the story. Mason re-created his role twice for Lux Radio Theatre, each time with his wife, Pamela Kellino, taking over the female lead. The studio also recycled the story as Operation Cicero for its Hour of Stars anthology series. For that version, Ricardo Montalban took the lead, with Marlene Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva, as the Countess. Finally, the story inspired a season-long Five Fingers series, with David Hedison as Cicero, now a double agent, and Luciana Paluzzi as his beautiful female accomplice. The real Cicero even got into the act in 1962, publishing his own version of the story, I Was Cicero.
Producer: Otto Lang
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Michael Wilson, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Based on the book "Operation Cicero" by L.C. Moyzisch Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Lyle R. Wheeler
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: James Mason (Ulysses Diello/Code Name: Cicero), Danielle Darrieux (Countess Anna Staviska), Michael Rennie (Colin Travers), Walter Hampden (Sir Frederic), Oskar Karlweis (L.C. Moyzisch), Herbert Berghof (Col. Von Richter), Lumsden Hare (Bit), Richard Loo (Japanese Ambassador), Nestor Paiva (Turkish Ambassador), John Sutton (Narrator), Ivan Triesault (Steuben).
by Frank Miller
5 Fingers - Five Fingers
The real Cicero was Elyesa Bazna, an Albanian. In his book, "I Was Cicero" he retells the story, listing his collaborators as a chambermaid and his niece. The character of the countess was a Hollywood fabrication.
The working titles of this film were Operation Cicero and Five Fingers. According to a Saturday Review (of Literature) article on the picture, the title was changed to 5 Fingers "to avoid any association with the recent race riots in [Cicero] Illinois." Before the film's opening credits, a written statement reads: "This is a true story. All the exterior scenes in this picture were filmed in the locales associated with the story." Also before the title card, there appears a sequence set in the British House of Commons on October 18, 1950, at which time the publication of the book Operation Cicero by L. C. Moyzisch is discussed. The actor playing the Foreign Secretary acknowledges that the espionage story is true and that the mysterious "Cicero" sold vital secrets to the Germans. Intermittent narration describing the action is heard throughout the film, and at the picture's end, another written statement reads: "20th Century-Fox Film Corporation wishes to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the government and the people of Turkey for their generous cooperation during the filming of the exterior scenes for this picture."
5 Fingers is loosely based on the life of Elyeza Bazna (1905-1971), the valet to the English ambassador to Turkey during World War II, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen. [Bazna's name is spelled several different ways by both contemporary and modern sources.] Between October 1943 and February 1944, Bazna photographed a large number of top secret documents from the ambassador's safe and sold them to the Germans. L. C. Moyzisch, the author of the book on which the film is based, was a military attaché at the German Embassy in Ankara and the contact for Bazna, who was given the code name "Cicero" by the Germans. Despite the genuine nature of the documents supplied by Bazna, as shown in the film, jealousies between high-ranking German officials prevented them from being used. The Germans were also afraid that Cicero was a British counter-intelligence agent. Bazna, who received £300,000 from the German government and was called "the highest paid spy in the world," was paid mostly in counterfeit British pounds that had been printed in Germany. As in the film, Moyzisch's book was discussed in the British House of Commons, at which time the foreign secretary proclaimed that measures had been taken to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.
According to a October 30, 1950 Los Angeles Times article, after the incident in the House of Commons, a number of film studios and producers were interested in obtaining the rights to Moyzisch's book, including Arthur J. Rank, Alexander Korda and M-G-M. Modern sources report that Henry Hathaway was originally scheduled to direct the picture before Joseph L. Mankiewicz became interested in Michael Wilson's adaptation of the book. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Libary, Mankiewicz worked extensively on the screenplay, but modern sources report that he agreed to forego onscreen credit for his contribution to the screenplay in exchange for being allowed to direct the project. Studio records indicate that Fox also purchased a magazine article about Bazna entitled "The Highest Paid Spy in History" by Robert M. W. Kempner (The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1950) in order to protect its rights in regards to Bazna's story. Kempner's article was not used in the preparation of the screenplay for 5 Fingers, however.
According to a August 2, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Micheline Prelle was originally signed for the role of "Anna" (which was fictional, unlike the majority of the other characters in the film), but had to withdraw from the cast due to pregnancy. Although some contemporary and modern sources refer to Michael Rennie's character as "George Travers," he is called "Colin Travers" in the film. The CBCS lists both Frank Hemingway and John Sutton as the film's narrators, but only Sutton was heard in the viewed print. As noted in the onscreen credits, the exterior sequences in the film were shot on location in Ankara and Istanbul, with doubles being used for the principal actors. According to a July 1951 Variety article, while shooting on location, Mankiewicz was warned that "he would not be permitted to bring his camera crew into the British Embassy grounds-and that any exterior shots, even with telephoto lenses, would be regarded as an unfriendly act." While filming in Turkey, Mankiewicz met the real Bazna, according to an April 1952 Life article. The article also noted that Bazna's offer to serve as a technical advisor on the film was turned down. Studio records report that Moyzisch's offer to act as a technical advisor for the film also was refused, and that after the picture's release, Moyzisch was very displeased by the depiction of him and requested that his name be taken off the credits.
On September 13, 1951, Hollywood Reporter reported that writer Michael Wilson had been subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and was subsequently laid off from Twentieth Century-Fox. Following Wilson's testimony before the committee, during which he refused to confirm or deny membership in the Communist party, he was blacklisted and received only one onscreen credit, for the 1954 film Salt of the Earth (see below), until 1965, when he received credit for The Sandpiper. Wilson did contribute to a number of other screenplays, including Lawrence of Arabia, but did not receive onscreen credit for them.
For their work on 5 Fingers, Mankiewicz received an Academy Award nomination for Best Direction, and Wilson received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. The film, which garnered excellent reviews, was named one of the ten best films of 1952 by New York Times and Film Daily. Lux Radio Theatre broadcast two versions of the story, both of which starred Mason and his wife, Pamela Kellino. The first show aired on October 13, 1952, and the second was broadcast on February 1, 1955. The 20th Century-Fox television program broadcasted a version of the story, entitled Operation Cicero, in December 1956. The one-hour telefilm was directed by Hubert Cornfield and starred Ricardo Montalban and Maria Riva. From October 3, 1959 -January 6, 1960, the NBC television network ran a series very loosely based on the story, entitled Five Fingers, starring David Hedison and Luciana Paluzzi.
Released in United States 1983
Released in United States March 15, 1989
Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994
Released in United States Spring March 1952
Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 15, 1989.
Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (James Mason in Person: A Retrospective Tribute) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)
Released in United States Spring March 1952
Released in United States March 15, 1989 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 15, 1989.)
Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994