Cast & Crew
During a meeting of the Overseas Press Club, guest of honor Tom Kelly shows a newsreel about the international spread of Communism and describes his recent experiences in Soviet-dominated Hungary: In the fall of 1948, after harassment by the Kremlin, Tom leaves his post in Moscow to investigate the situation in Budapest. There, he meets music teacher Stephanie Varna, who is romantically involved with Alex Melnikov, a Russian officer, and inspires her with his talk of personal liberty. Tom asks Stephanie about Josef, Cardinal Mindszenty, the Roman Catholic prelate of Hungary and a firm opponent of the Communist regime, and she replies that despite Mindszenty's popularity, there is no effective underground movement to support him. When Tom gets an anonymous tip advising him to visit Mindszenty's mother, he and Stephanie drive to the family farm, where they meet the cardinal himself. Mindszenty tells them he expects to be arrested for his stand against the police state, and predicts that the Russians will attempt to vilify him as well. When Stephanie returns to her apartment, Alex is waiting for her with the news that Mindszenty's secretary was arrested that morning. The next day, a secret police officer comes to Stephanie's classroom with a petition demanding Mindszenty's arrest, and when Stephanie and her students refuse to sign it, she is arrested. Alex intervenes and arranges a visa for Stephanie, but she refuses to leave Budapest. Several days later, Commissar Belov, Tom's nemesis from the Kremlin, meets with local officials and secret police to discuss their strategy for handling Mindszenty, and they decide to discredit Mindszenty by spreading the rumor that he is an anti-semitic traitor. On Christmas Eve, Tom holds a secret celebration with Stephanie and Alex, who reflects on the tragic losses his family suffered during the war. Shortly after the holiday, Mindszenty is arrested, leaving behind a note proclaiming his innocence and denying any "confession" that might subsequently be attributed to him. After more than thirty days of relentless interrogation, Mindszenty still has not confessed, and, reluctant to resort to physical torture before the trial, the doctor for the secret police recommends using a hypnotic drug on the cardinal. Meanwhile, Tom is severely beaten by a Nazi gang, which leaves a note on his body reading "Heil Hitler, Heil Stalin." Stephanie shows Alex the note and urges him to follow his conscience and start an underground movement, but when Belov walks in, Alex has Stephanie arrested for espionage and treason. Stephanie refuses to confess to any crimes, and she dies under torture. As the conspiracy trial of Mindszenty and several other clerics begins, Tom questions Alex about Stephanie, reproaching him for being no better than the Nazis. Guilt-ridden, Alex goes to Stephanie's apartment, where he is shot to death by his fellow officers. Mindszenty is convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Back at the Overseas Press Club meeting, Tom speaks on behalf of the martyrs in Eastern Europe and reminds his colleagues that liberty is everybody's business.
Tom Brown Henry
Robert A. Golden
Sherman A. Harris
Reverend Father Mathias Lani
John L. Russell Jr.
The working title of the film was As We See Russia. Although pre-production news items identified both Robert and Edward Golden as producers, Edward Golden was not listed in the onscreen credits. However, the opening title card was missing from the viewed print, and it is possible that he was credited there. The following written dedication appears at the end of the film: "This production is dedicated to the men and women of all nations who live for a world of peace and a world of justice. The dramatization is based on the public papers of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty and the personal experience of members of the Overseas Press Club, as recorded in the book As We See Russia."
As depicted in the film, Cardinal József Mindszenty, whose name is spelled "Josef" in the onscreen credits, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949, but was released in 1955 on the condition that he remain in Hungary. In 1956 he was granted asylum in the United States legation at Budapest and stayed there as a voluntary prisoner until 1971. He then moved to a Hungarian religious community in Vienna, where he died in 1975.
In a February 1949 Los Angeles Examiner news item, Warner Bros. announced that it would film the story of Cardinal Mindszenty's trial, and that Anthony Veiller had been assigned to write the screenplay and produce the film. The studio abandoned the project several months later, however.
According to October 1948 news items in Hollywood Reporter, Thomas Barron and Bernard Selwin were sought for leading roles in the picture. As late as July and August 1949, Episcopal minister Robert A. Dunn and Raymond Massey were sought to portray Cardinal Mindszenty, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. The role still had not been cast when the film began production on September 7, 1949. Margaret Sullavan, who had not appeared in a film since 1943, was sought for the role of "Stephanie" before that part was assigned to Bonita Granville, wife of producer Jack Wrather. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Ian Wolfe to the cast, but he was not in the viewed print. In February 1949, Hollywood Reporter reported that United Artists would distribute the film. According to a March 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Dimitri Tiomkin was originally signed to compose and conduct the score.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was the target of a "campaign of villification" by the Communist Party, and the producers turned over numerous threatening and obscene letters to postal inspectors and the FBI. Hollywood Reporter also noted that footage from official United Nations films and newsreels showing the UN's initial probe into Mindszenty's trial was to be incorporated into the picture, but nothing about the UN appeared in the viewed print. According to an article in Variety, because Guilty of Treason performed poorly at the box office, Eagle-Lion was prompted to revise its advertising campaign to downplay the anti-Communist message and emphasize the "girl-meets-boy angle." The Variety article also noted that several other "anti-Red" films were "still failing to pay off big at the box office."