The Conrad Veidt Society
By Barbara Peterson
'Springtime 1918, and German submarines diligently patrol the sea between Sweden and France. A German sub surfaces and fires a warning shot across the bows of a neutral ship. The ship's civilian captain and crew respond by stopping the ship. Below decks, a female steward knocks on cabin doors telling passengers to get on deck with their life preservers.
The sub launches a small boat with three men aboard. On the ship panicky passengers rush to get on deck, most of them in pajamas and robes. A long shot of the sea shows the small boat traveling to the ship from the German sub. Back on the ship, Madeleine descends a staircase, wearing an evening gown and putting on her life jacket. She goes into the main corridor and joins the other passengers hurrying to the deck. After she passes from view, a suspicious looking little man wearing a hat appears in the doorway to the corridor, stares after her, then turns and goes back into his room where he reaches under his pillow, takes out his passport and stares at his photo. His passport indicates that he is Dutch. He looks at himself in the mirror and looks back at the photo, then rubs the side of his face as if he is worried about something.
Madeleine gets in line on the upper deck with the other passengers. The small boat from the German sub arrives and the three Germans board the ship. They salute the ship Captain and the leader asks where the ship left the convoy and whether it is carrying any contraband. The German officer says he will inspect the cargo and then the passengers in their cabins. The ship's crew send all the passengers back to their cabins and tell them to take off their life jackets. Madeleine gets in line on the upper deck with the other passengers. The small boat from the German sub arrives and the three Germans board the ship. They salute the ship Captain and the leader asks where the ship left the convoy and whether it is carrying any contraband. The German officer says he will inspect the cargo and then the passengers in their cabins. The ship's crew send all the passengers back to their cabins and tell them to take off their life jackets.
In the lower deck corridor, the ship captain and the Germans visit each passenger room. In the room of the man with the Dutch passport, the German officer takes the man's hat off to get a closer look at his face. The officer tells the man that his passport is not genuine and that they know all about him, that he is really Belgian. The Germans take him away as he protests that he is a Dutchman. The ship captain objects and says that this is a neutral ship but the German officer says he has every right to take the man because he is a spy. Madeleine stands in the doorway of her cabin watching everything. The German officer comes to her room next and asks her name. He examines her passport and asks why she makes so many trips between Stockholm and Paris. She replies that it is for business. He asks how long her business has been going. She says for three years, since January 1915. He asks, ''What business?'' ''Ladies dresses.'' He checks her trunks and sees all her new season's models and makes a joke that this might be considered contraband as support for the Swedish front.
The scene changes to a map of Sweden's coast showing Stockholm, followed by an actual shot of Stockholm's seaport (very picturesque). More shots of Stockholm, then a medium close shot of a city street with well dressed men and women walking along the side walk in front of various shops. The camera pans along all the stores and stops at Madeleine's exclusive dress shop. Inside the shop two saleswomen are tying string around a dress box. They start insulting each other because one is French and the other is German. Madeleine appears and tells them to stop, that she doesn't want ''French'' women or ''German'' women, just saleswomen.
She asks one of the saleswomen to ring for the porter. The porter, Anatole, is downstairs rolling a cigarette and goofing off. He slowly walks upstairs and Madeleine asks him if he has swept up that day. He says he has, as ''well as one can with a broom as bare as a newborn baby's bottom.'' She hands him the dress box and tells him to come with her to deliver it to Countess Lindstrom. Madeleine goes upstairs to her private quarters to get ready to leave. Anatole goes downstairs to get the broom and pulls the few remaining bristles out of it. Madeleine goes downstairs to leave and Anatole shows her the ruined broom. She raises her eyebrows and says with a touch of sarcasm that she can see ''it must have taken a lot of hard work to reduce it to this condition' Anatole rolls his eyes and goes to get his hat and coat. As they leave the store, Anatole makes a wisecrack about all the best shops having vacuum cleaners.
A map showing a series of Morse code dashes from Stockholm head to Berlin, fades
to a sign reading ''Section 8, German Secret Service, Berlin.'' A room of men examining
a soldier's file. The uniformed man in charge orders that Sergeant Duprez be brought
in next. A scruffy, dirty, bearded man in a French helmet, in handcuffs and under
guard by German soldiers is marched to the room of men. The soldiers leave him at
the door, he goes into the room, sits down and is greeted by the man in charge as
''Herr Muller''. Herr Muller, a spy in the French army, has arranged to be captured
by the German Army. He gives his report -
At Swedish passport control, Muller, shaved, pomaded, and in a suit, presents himself as a doctor, come to help take care of German prisoners returning from Russia. After he walks away, Baron Karl von Marwitz presents his papers. He's a landowner, and has been a Captain in the German navy, wounded twice. He has come to Stockholm because he wishes to refrain from any political activity. His leave expires in two weeks, but as he informs the Customs official, he's not going back. The official informs him that he can stay in Sweden as long as he respects their laws. Marwitz continues through Customs. ''Anything to declare?'' Marwitz lifts a flask to his lips. ''Only my intention to finish this.''
In the bar of the Grand Hotel, Marwitz proceeds with his drinking, and dazzles the
ladies present by betting that he can guess what a woman will say about him after
he's kissed them. One of the girls goes to get a Brasilian, Lupita. Meanwhile, Bob,
an Englishman, stops below the window of Madeleine's flat and whistles. ''Shall I
come up?'' ''No, I'll be down in a moment.'' She turns and walks past her two German
Back at the bar, Lupita arrives to test Marwitz. They kiss, she steps back. ''Not
bad, but you need practice.'' Marwitz pulls a paper from his pocket and hands it
to one of the women. ''You're short of practice.'' The women exclaim in delight,
Lupita looks long and hard at Marwitz and then returns to the Ball Room, where she
sits next to a table where Bob and Madeleine have just arrived. An Englishman comes
up to them expressing admiration for Marwitz. Madeleine reveals how the trick is
The next day Marwitz brings Lupita to Madeleine's shop. She's looking for a handbag. A few minutes later the assistants are assembling a matching evening dress, shoes, and hair ornament. Marwitz enters Madeleine's office to pay the bill. His attraction to Madeleine is apparent. "Marvelous saleswomen. A lady comes in looking for a handbag and goes out with the whole shop.'' ''A lady who goes shopping with a man intends to have the whole shop.'' As they are leaving, Marwitz lingers over Madeleine's hand. Lupita makes a tart remark. Lupita and Marwitz leave, but continue their quarrel through an afternoon concert. Lupita slaps him and leaves, and Marwitz returns to Madeleine's shop to apologize for Lupita. He asks her out, but she refuses. Bob phones her, and she accepts his invitation to dine at the Grand. Bob hangs up the phone looking thoughtful. ''She's a sweet girl, I hate to suspect her.'' He looks at his counterpart. ''See what you can find out at the Cherry Orchard.
At Madeleine's, she rings for Anatole. He takes a piece of paper from the frame of
a painting and goes into her sanctum. She reads the information on Baron Marwitz.
''A deserter. Cashiered. Funny. He doesn't seem that type.'' ''Feminine instinct?''
''No, professional.'' Madeleine tells him to find out what he can about Marwitz at
the Cherry Orchard. Soon both he and the Englishman are pursuing their enquires at
The days pass, and Marwitz's valet notices a change in his boss, as he accepts yet another parcel from Madeleine's shop. ''It used to be all women with no clothes, now it's all clothes with no women.'' The Baron himself is once more at Madeleine's shop, inspecting a shipment of frocks newly arrived from Paris. Madeleine enters and forbids him to buy anything more. ''Okay, Madeleine, I lose.'' ''No, Karl, you win.'' and she agrees to go out with him that night.
Anatole drives Madeleine to her rendezvous, and she reads off coordinates from the new dresses to her cohorts. It is news of the French counteroffensive, and her spymaster is proud of her. The information is quickly passed on, men march towards the new line, their faces wait tensely for action, and then the guns start to pound out their toll in death and destruction.
Evening, and Marwitz and Madeleine gaze out over the balcony of a restaurant at the brightly lit ship below them. Its officers sing a melancholy song. They return to their table when the food arrives.
Bob Carter has returned from London, and steps off the boat train in Stockholm to reveal to his compatriot waiting at the station cafe that he has discovered nothing of interest, but he's got a call to make. He goes to Madeleine's and starts up the stairs, then notices that the door to her shop is partially opened. He enters and discovers Anatole's body. He has no choice but to call the police.
''Do you regret going out with me that first night?'' asks Baron Marwitz. ''Yes, that's why I've been out with you seventeen times since then.'' ''And have you discovered all the secrets of my dark soul?'' Madeleine nods, and recites them. As she continues she starts speaking more vehemently, then gets up and walks away. Marwitz follows her, leans closer to her. ''You've forgotten my most important asset.'' ''What's that?'' ''That you love me.'' Madeleine stares into her eyes, but as he goes to caress her hair she turns away and goes back to the table. Marwitz approaches her once more, but the police interrupt, and take her away.
Madeleine turns away from viewing Anatole's body, and Bob walks beside her to a chair, where she sits to be interrogated by the Swedish magistrate. It seems he was a man with German sympathies, judging by the correspondence in her room. Madelenie says she knows nothing of this. All she can say is that she's lost a good friend.
Madeleine goes up to her flat to face the stares-
As usual, the ship is stopped by a submarine, but nothing untoward occurs. But when
she arrives at Le Havre, the French police arrest her, and take her under guard to
Paris, where she is interrogated. She finally convinces them that her many trips
between Paris and Stockholm are innocent, and is allowed to leave. She goes to Cottin-
Madeleine begs him to allow her to remain in France. She's been a double agent for
three years and finds it more and more degrading. He agrees to let her come home
after one final mission -
Upon her return from Paris, Madeleine dines with the Baron at the Grand. The Baron
is eyeing her strangely -
''I wanted to see you kill that man.'' ''At last I've succeeded in convincing you I am a coward.'' He turns to go, and Madeleine can't stand it. ''I think you're the bravest man who has ever served his country.'' Marwitz speaks very carefully. ''That's very sweet of you. But how do I serve my country? As a deserter?'' Madeleine rises and goes to him. ''As the head of Section 8 of the German intelligence...you must know that I'm in the German service too.'' Marwitz cups her face between his hands. ''I know more than that. I know that you are not Swiss, but French. Your name is not Madeleine Godard but Montavigny. I know that you've outwitted us for three years while you served your country, as I serve mine.''
For a few seconds they dream that they can run away together, go somewhere that the war can't follow, then Madeleine turns away in tears.
Somehow Bob Carter has heard the news that something is up. When he hears a knock on the door he takes a pistol and gives it to Faber. Madeleine comes in. ''Bob, I need your help desperately.'' She tells him of Marwitz's identity, and that he also knows who she is. There is no where in Sweden where they won't find her. ''That's all right,'' says Bob. ''You do as I tell you and you'll be safe as a church.''
The next day, as Baron Marwitz has arranged, 30 shoppers fill up Madeleine's shop. There's also a sign in the window announcing a Sale, and even more people arrive. In all this confusion two men arrive to take Madeleine away, but just in time the police arrive and arrest her.
The magistrate is out of patience with people who abuse Sweden's hospitality, and orders her deported. Until the boat sails she's to be held in strictest custody. Madeleine exchanges a long glance with Bob as she is led away.
Baron Marwitz isn't to be foiled so easily. He returns to his submarine, and the submarine tracks down the neutral ship on which Madeleine sails to France. He personally is rowed over to the boat, identifies her, and takes her away, over her protests and those of the Captain. They get back into the boat and head back to the submarine.
A British 'Q' ship, an armed vessel disguised as a merchantman, arrives, and begins
to bombard the submarine, quickly sinking it as Marwitz watches in realization of
how he has been tricked. The surviving submariners are picked up by the Q-
The film was completed on schedule in five weeks of filming at the London Film Studios in Denham, England.
During the exhibition of this film in London there was a gigantic advertising poster displayed on the side of a building in Piccadilly Square. Over twenty feet tall, Conrad Veidt's face stared down at you, while the poster announced, ''CONRAD VEIDT, the master spy in DARK JOURNEY, and introducing Vivien Leigh.''
Based on a play.
I don't really like this movie. The scenes between Veidt and Leigh are charming but I kept waiting for someone to do some spying. Everything seemed to be found out by telepathy. In addition, although the action takes place in Stockholm among an international milieu, everyone in the movie, except for Veidt, speaks with an English accent. (I was reminded of Masada filmed in 1980. In order to solve the problem of accents, all the Romans (villains) were played by English actors with English accents (Peter O'Toole, Clive Francis, Timothy West) while all the rebels (Jews) were played by American actors with American accents (Peter Strauss). If you're a fan of Veidt's you'll love his performance, ditto Leigh. If you're interested in WWI spy movies, you'll be disappointed.
NOTES OF INTEREST
When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, they signed a peace treaty with Germany. Thousands of prisoners of war then returned to their homeland from Siberia. In the movie, therefore, Dr. Mullar's 'cover' is that he's come to Sweden to care for returning prisoners of war.
I've Seen That Face Before
Cecil Parker, who played the Shakespeare-
M. Martin Harvey
Baron Karl Von Marwitz
Chief of German Intelligence
Head of Fifth Bureau
Captain of Q-
Mate of Q-
Captain of Swedish Packet
Officer of U-