The Conspirators (1944)

The Conspirators (1944) is an espionage and resistance romance and adventure film noir made by Jean Negulesco, and starring Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid.

Despite its wartime time and the complexities of wartime spying and resistance and the very real and sometimes unreal presence of the Nazis, the set-up of this wartime noir is classicly typical of the style - - a man and a woman, both of whom are fleeing from their pasts, accidentally meet and he falls for her - - big time.

A chance meeting, indicative of the noirish fate of many a wartime film noir protagonist. He in particular feels that the past can never harm them, and urges his new love to forget it.

Hedy Lamarr's character on the other hand feels attached to the past, handcuffed to it, after some concentration camping back in deeply unfair central Europe and her love affair with the Nazi that helped her free this fate, she cannot initially be swayed. A cantina song is played in Lisbon, where this romance unfolds - - the song is called fado - -  fate.

As it all winds up one way or another to be an excellent extended metaphor for the kind of love relationship that everyone may experience or hope to experience, there are several points of romance and conflict which stand out. When Hedy Lamarr visits Paul Henreid in prison and he accuses her of betraying him, this is like a couple's first quarrel  - - based on error - -  passionate but hurtful - -  felt deeply a

Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-American actress known for her beauty and intelligence, was cast in "The Conspirators." Lamarr was not only a talented actress but also an inventor. During World War II, she co-invented a frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology intended for use in torpedo guidance systems. This invention later contributed to the development of modern wireless communication technologies.

The Conspirators
marked the second collaboration between Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid. They had previously worked together in the 1942 film Algiers, which was a successful romantic drama set in the exotic backdrop of Algiers. The pairing of Lamarr and Henreid was well-received by audiences.

The film is set against the backdrop of World War II, with espionage and intrigue central to the plot. Given the wartime context, many films produced during this period incorporated elements of patriotism, espionage, and resistance against Axis powers.

"The Conspirators" was directed by Jean Negulesco, a filmmaker known for his work in film noir and dramas. Negulesco later gained acclaim for directing films such as "Johnny Belinda" (1948) and "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953).

While not as well-remembered or celebrated as some other films of the time, "The Conspirators" received a mixed reception from critics. The film's focus on wartime intrigue and its romantic elements contributed to its appeal, but it did not achieve the same level of success as some other productions.

While "The Conspirators" may not be as renowned as some other films from the 1940s, its wartime theme and the pairing of Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid contribute to its place in the cinematic landscape of that era

In the annals of cinematic history, there exists an opus of profound intrigue and captivating narrative known as "The Conspirators" (or, in its alternate title, "Give Me This Woman"). This masterwork of the silver screen, meticulously crafted in the crucible of 1944's American film noir, stands as an amalgamation of World War II fervor, dramatic potency, espionage mystique, and the pulse-quickening cadence of a thriller, all deftly orchestrated under the discerning aegis of the visionary directorial hand of Jean Negulesco.

At the epicenter of this celluloid marvel, the luminous Hedy Lamarr and the charismatic Paul Henreid grace the screen, weaving a tapestry of emotive brilliance that transcends the temporal confines of its creation. In a supporting ballet of theatrical virtuosity, the indomitable Sydney Greenstreet and the enigmatic Peter Lorre contribute their thespian alchemy, further enriching the chiaroscuro of this cinematic tableau. To add an ethereal note to this symphony of visual and auditory splendor, the illustrious Aurora Miranda makes a cameo appearance, her mellifluous voice resonating with the haunting strains of Fado, a poignant embellishment that lingers in the recesses of cinematic memory.

It is within the context of this magnetic tapestry that "The Conspirators" takes its place in the pantheon of filmic artistry, a celluloid reverie that not only captivates the discerning viewer but also stands as a testament to the collaborative prowess of a cast that finds itself reunited from the hallowed realms of another cinematic gem—Casablanca (1942). In this harmonious reunion, the echoes of a bygone era resound, weaving a narrative tapestry that serves as an indelible testament to the enduring magic of the silver screen.

It is with a poignant sigh that one contemplates the squandered potential of such a formidable ensemble cast, their talents seemingly relegated to the periphery of a storyline that fails to harness the full spectrum of their capabilities. A cinematic lament, where the synergy of talent and narrative purpose remains a tantalizingly unexplored terrain, leaving the discerning viewer with naught but a wistful acknowledgment of the missed opportunity that permeates this celluloid endeavor. Alas, little can be proffered in commendation for a film that, despite its fleeting moments of visual allure, ultimately languishes in the shadows of unfulfilled promise.

Tragically, the cinematic venture, birthed amidst the crucible of a tumultuous production, met its equally bothering destiny at the box office. While the film does boast pockets of commendable atmosphere and cinematographic finesse, it seems to falter in its essential duty – that of elucidating the raison d'être of the inconspicuous collective that occupies the narrative forefront. A disconcerting void emerges, leaving the audience bereft of a compelling understanding as to the significance of this enigmatic assembly, rendering the very essence of why one should invest emotionally in their plight an elusive enigma.

Taking place in Lisbon, Paul Henried is the main foil, a Dutch resistance fighter known to the Germans as the “Flying Dutchman” but whose real name is Vincent Van Der Lyn.  After an immensely successful attack on the evil Nazis, Van Der Lyn has fled to Lisbon to try to work his way into the Free Dutch Air Force.

While in Lisbon he meets a small band of local conspirators, led by Ricardo Quintanilla (played by Sydney Greenstreet)  but also including Peter Lorre, Victor Francen, and Hedy Lamarr.  Sydney Greenstreet pulls Henreid aside and asks for his help.  You see, there is a mole in the group passing secrets along to the Germans.

In the realm of genre classification history endeavors to ascribe the film to the esteemed category of Film Noir, an assertion that, upon closer scrutiny, reveals itself to be a somewhat tenuous association. The film, rather than adhering to the brooding aesthetic of traditional noir, becomes entangled in the intricate threads of wartime morale propaganda, intricately woven into the fabric of our alliance with wartime compatriots. The geopolitical nuances of neutral Portugal, caught in the crossfire of allegiances, add layers of complexity, a subtext that navigates delicately to avoid unsettling the diplomatic equilibrium of the time.

As the narrative unfurls with Vincent Van Der Lyn, a conspicuous celebrity saboteur, in its prologue, one is left to ponder the conspicuous absence of an immediate German reprisal against him. This seeming oversight, however, is soon overshadowed by the incongruity of Vincent's return to undercover machinations, a narrative pivot that, while diverging from conventional logic, paradoxically aligns with the intrepid resilience often associated with clandestine heroes. The film, despite its narrative idiosyncrasies and a surplus of characters, weaves a complex tapestry that, much like the intricacies of wartime alliances, demands careful consideration and discernment from the discerning spectator.

Eduardo Ciannelli's brief dalliance as a high-ranking policeman, seemingly inconsequential to the film's thematic thrust, emerges as a curious appendage that could have been judiciously excised. The ominous duo of Steven Geray and Kurt Katch, embodying sinister Germans with a veneer of cultured malevolence, share the stage with an excess of embassy denizens, diluting the narrative impact with an overabundance of dialogue-laden vignettes. The Lisbon prison, a veritable microcosm of characters, each with their fleeting moment in the celluloid spotlight, contributes to the film's profligate cast, diminishing the emphasis on the central figures of Henreid and Lamarr, Greenstreet and Lorre, and Victor Francen & Joseph Calleia.

A veritable cavalcade of notable actors, including Christine Gordon, Anthony Caruso, Edward Van Sloan, George Macready, Aurora Miranda, Neyle Morrow, Jay Novello, Frank Reicher, Philip Van Zandt, and Doris Lloyd, flit through the frames, leaving an indelible imprint of familiarity. One could be forgiven for speculating whether director Jean Negulesco populated his opus with a coterie of actor friends. However, the lamentable consequence is an overpopulated narrative canvas that eclipses the essential core cast, comprising the aforementioned luminaries, who, regrettably, are not afforded the narrative prominence they so richly deserve.

In the intricate tapestry of Paul Henreid's portrayal of Vincent in this cinematic venture, a surfeit of ancillary characters, akin to an ensemble cast of disparate shadows, materializes, creating an unwieldy and, at times, superfluous dynamic. The venerable Vladimir Sokoloff, personifying an elderly Portuguese fisherman, stoically endures Vincent's impassioned soliloquy on the pursuit of retribution for Nazi transgressions, yet his role in the overarching narrative remains tenuously tethered. Likewise, Carol Thurston's portrayal of a lovelorn peasant girl, with its tantalizing moments of unrequited affection toward Vincent, meanders into narrative cul-de-sacs, leaving the audience yearning for substantive resolution.

In the sartorial sanctum of 1940s cinema, Hedy Lamarr, an ethereal luminary, stood as an untouchable dream woman, a paragon of glamour deemed too exalted for the confines of mere pin-up photography. MGM, custodian of Lamarr's celestial allure, meticulously curated her image even as whispers of her earlier cinematic foray in the Czech erotic film "Ecstasy" continued to circulate in hushed tones. Lamarr's role, primarily relegated to a stunning visage, transcended the need for extensive dialogues, for the mere act of beholding her countenance constituted a sublime form of entertainment for audiences of the era. In "The Conspirators," Lamarr's most captivating moments lie in her entrances, as the script, regrettably, constrains the mysterious Irene to a binary dance of allure and caution with Vincent. While the two protagonists undeniably form an aesthetically pleasing union, the narrative neglects to furnish them with a more intricate dance, leaving an undeniable sense of untapped potential in its wake.

The enigmatic quartet under the command of Quintanilla, played with panache by Peter Lorre among others, demands meticulous introductions that ultimately yield limited involvement in the unfolding drama. Lorre, a luminary in his own right, graces the film with moments of sublime virtuosity, yet finds himself regrettably relegated to the periphery, a circumstance that befalls several characters in the film's narrative panorama. Scenes of urban pursuits and a labyrinthine prison escape unfurl with a palpable sense of déjà vu, with a scuffle at an identification checkpoint eerily mirroring a sequence from the cinematic echelons of "Casablanca." The cumulative effect, however, falls prey to an unsettling sense of familiarity, overshadowing the intended impact of these cinematic echoes.

In the directorial realm, Jean Negulesco channels the spirit of Michael Curtiz with a concerted effort to infuse scenes with the cascading, tightly wound efficiency reminiscent of the cinematic craftsmanship synonymous with the latter's oeuvre. A maestro both as an artist and designer, Negulesco's ascent to recognition encountered obstacles before finding a triumphant inaugural venture with "The Mask of Dimitrios." 

The frequent portrayal of women in 1940s paranoid woman films and film noir in bed can be attributed to several interconnected factors that were prevalent in the societal, cultural, and cinematic landscape of that era. The representation of women in such contexts often served to reinforce and exploit certain gender roles, as well as to evoke and manipulate specific psychological and emotional responses from the audience. 

Women in bed, especially in scenes of vulnerability or distress, were a visual shorthand for power dynamics and vulnerability. Placing a female character in a bed, whether she is awakening from a nightmare or grappling with a threatening situation, underscores a sense of helplessness and fragility, emphasizing the power imbalances that may exist in the narrative.

Film noir, known for its shadowy visual style and exploration of moral ambiguity, often employed the bedroom setting to symbolize seduction, moral ambiguity, or the intertwining of desire and danger. The dimly lit bedrooms in film noir added an air of mystery and heightened tension to scenes, contributing to the overall atmospheric quality of the genre.

The femme fatale, a common archetype in film noir, was frequently depicted in bed, using her allure and sensuality as tools of manipulation. The bedroom setting became a stage for the femme fatale to exercise her agency and exert control over male characters, further complicating the narrative with themes of deception and betrayal.

Bedrooms provided an intimate space for characters to grapple with their inner demons, fears, or conflicts. Placing a woman in bed could be a cinematic device to explore the psychological unraveling of a character, allowing audiences to witness moments of introspection, anxiety, or personal crisis.

The 1940s was an era marked by traditional gender roles and societal expectations. Placing women in domestic settings like bedrooms was reflective of the prevailing norms, reinforcing the idea that a woman's primary sphere was the home. This setting also facilitated the exploration of societal anxieties related to changing gender roles during and after World War II.

  • Hedy Lamarr as Irene Von Mohr
  • Paul Henreid as Vincent Van Der Lyn
  • Sydney Greenstreet as Ricardo Quintanilla
  • Peter Lorre as Jan Bernazsky
  • Victor Francen as Hugo Von Mohr
  • Joseph Calleia as Police Captain Pereira
  • Carol Thurston as Rosa, Miguel's daughter
  • Vladimir Sokoloff as Miguel, a Portuguese fisherman who helps Van Der Lyn
  • Edward Ciannelli as Police Colonel Almeida, Pereira's superior
  • Steven Geray as Dr. Schmitt
  • Kurt Katch as Otto Lutzke
  • Uncredited (in order of appearance)
  • Gregory Gaye Anton Wynat
  • Edward Van Sloan Dutchman in cellar
  • Doris Lloyd Mrs. Benson
  • Phil Van Zandt Gomez
  • William Edmunds Souvenir vendor
  • John Bleifer Polish refugee
  • Marguerita Sylva Older woman
  • Isabelle LaMal French refugee
  • Leon Belasco Vincent's Waiter
  • Frank Reicher Casino attendant
  • Tony Caruso Young fisherman
  • Pedro Regas Older fisherman
  • Martin Garralaga Detective outside pawnshop
  • Dick Botiller Detective
  • Jay Novello Detective
  • Monte Blue Jennings
  • Arno Frey General's attache
  • Beal Wong Japanese attache
  • Luis Alberni Prison guard
  • Saul Gorss Jorge
  • John Mylong Commandant
  • George Macready Schmitt conman
  • Carmel Myers Baroness von Kluge
  • Rafael Storm Senhor Gamma
  • Emil Rameau Professor Wingby
  • Erno Verebes Portuguese fisherman
  • Brooks Benedict ?
  • Sid D'Albrook Jorge
  • Harry Semels Customs assistant
  • Trevor Bardette Stefan

  • Note: Character names are not indicated in on-screen credits.

The Conspirators (1944)

Directed by Jean Negulesco

Genres - Drama, War, Spy Film  |   Sub-Genres - Resistance Film, Psychological Thriller, War Spy Film  |   Release Date - Oct 24, 1944 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States  | Wikipedia The Conspirators (1944)

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