O.S.S.

  • 1946
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Spy

Though fanciful liberties are taken with American espionage during WW II, O.S.S. (standing for Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA) offers a Ladd vehicle packed with suspense and excitement. The film opens by following a group of volunteers through spy school, including Ladd, a former public relations executive, sculptress Fitzgerald,...read more

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Though fanciful liberties are taken with American espionage during WW II, O.S.S. (standing for Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA) offers a Ladd vehicle packed with suspense and excitement. The film opens by following a group of volunteers through spy school, including

Ladd, a former public relations executive, sculptress Fitzgerald, railroad equipment salesman Beddoe, and hockey player Benedict. Fitzgerald has the benefit of having spent many years in France while working with her art. When completing their training, the new members are parachuted into France

with the assignment of destroying the Corbett Mallon tunnel, along the main artery of the French railway system. Ladd early on shows his lack of faith in Fitzgerald's ability, but she proves to be an adroit and effective spy, ingratiating herself to German staff officer Hoyt and learning secrets

from him. Feeding his vanity in having some knowledge of art, Fitzgerald even gets Hoyt to pose for her and does a bust of him. She discovers that Hoyt will be taking a train through the tunnel she and the other American agents are to blow up. Hiding plastic explosives in the bust, Fitzgerald

accompanies Hoyt and her work of art on the train which is stalled in the tunnel by French partisans. Ladd arrives and takes Fitzgerald off the train just before it and the tunnel are blown to bits. But Fitzgerald is not grateful to Ladd, telling him that he has violated the first rule of

espionage by disobeying orders. "Never come back for me again," Fitzgerald tells Ladd. "Do you understand? Never come back!" When Ladd and Fitzgerald join a stream of refugees, they are stopped by Gestapo agents, but their venal leader, Vermilyea, sells Ladd information which is transmitted later

by Benedict over a secreted short-wave radio to England. Hoyt surprisingly appears on the scene, scarred for life, an eyepatch where a perfectly good orb had once been before the tunnel explosion. He lives only to find and punish Fitzgerald. But all he snares is Vermilyea as Ladd and Fitzgerald

escape once more. They run into Beddoe, who briefly aids them, but he gives himself away through a forgetful gesture. While eating, he neglects to fork his food with his left hand, in the custom of European dining, and is arrested. Later Ladd and Fitzgerald find a haven in a French farmhouse where

Driscoll, a precocious boy, lives with his grandmother, Dean. The Americans next play host to a bunch of drunken German soldiers, among whom is Webb, another American agent, who passes vital information about the impending Normandy invasion to them. Ladd goes to a distant field and signals the

secret information to a British aircraft. Driscoll arrives to beg him to come back to the farmhouse because Gestapo officials have arrested Fitzgerald and Dean, but this time Ladd heeds Fitzgerald's caution of never going back for her. He continues sending out the message until the plane

acknowledges receipt. Then he races back only to find the farmhouse empty and the woman he loves gone. Knowing Fitzgerald will be executed, Ladd sinks helplessly into a chair and sobs loudly. Ladd and Knowles, one of the O.S.S. commanders who trained Ladd's group, are later seen standing along a

French roadway beneath a gnarled tree, watching American troops, fresh from the landings at Normandy, advancing up the road. Their victory, it is obvious, is due much to the efforts of the American agents who have sacrificed their lives.

Ladd typically understates his role and is well-suited to the tough and dedicated spy he portrays, while Fitzgerald is lovely, warm, and vulnerable as a woman ready to die for a cause. Beddoe the bungler is unbelievable and too old for his role, but Hoyt and Vermilyea are perfect as the sleazy,

slimy Germans who will murder or sell out their own kind to satisfy personal lust and greed. Pichel's direction is taut and economical, but the script is sometimes a bit too melodramatic. For three weeks in 1946 the O.S.S. allowed Hollywood studios, if executives were of a mind, to inspect their

WW II files. Paramount jumped at the chance and culled many of the agency's best stories for the production of O.S.S. The studio used 30 ex-O.S.S. agents who had seen heroic service behind enemy lines during the war, employing them as technical advisors and bit players in the film. Ladd, who had

refused to come to the studio after months of receiving lame scripts, was given his choice role in O.S.S. and reported for work without complaint. While still in production for O.S.S., Paramount offered Ladd the lead in THE GREAT GATSBY. Although O.S.S. was not as effective as the semi-documentary

THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET or 13 RUE MADELEINE, it presented high-voltage entertainment and thrills.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Though fanciful liberties are taken with American espionage during WW II, O.S.S. (standing for Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA) offers a Ladd vehicle packed with suspense and excitement. The film opens by following a group of volunte… (more)

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