Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Operator 13(1934). Romantic spy film set in the American Civil War. Director: Richard Boleslawski. Cast: Marion Davies, Gary Cooper and Jean Parker.
Early in the Civil War, after performer Gail Loveless performs a really cute number involving hats, she is recruited as spy "Operator 13." by her friend, Pauline Cushman, known as spy "Operator 27." Gail and Pauline's, first assignment together is to go to the headquarters of Confederate General "Jeb" Stuart. Disguised as a black maid and a weird voice, Gail meets Captain Jack Gailliard, a Confederate officer, when he rides by and ruins her clean laundry. When Pauline asks too many questions about Jack, who is a spy for the south, he and Captain Cornelius Channing become suspicious and have her room searched.
When a traveling medicine show run by Doctor Hitchcock, who is secretly a captain in the Northern army, come looking for Operators 27 and 13. Gail, gives him information that he wanted about Confederate troop, as Pauline is being arrested. Gail, is also suspected of being a spy, but when she is brought to testify at Pauline's trial, she says that her mistress "turned Yankee." Pauline is sentenced to death, but Gail and Hitchcock help her to escape.
Back in Washington, Pinkerton knows that Pauline can no longer spy for him, so he gives Gail the mission to learn more about the activities of Jack, whom Pinkerton suspects is working with "Copperheads,". To make herself believable, Gail, openly jeers at marching Union soldiers. She and a man posing as her father are then arrested. When the incident is reported in Southern newspapers, Gail now known as "Anne" becomes the guest of Mrs. Shackleford and her daughter Eleanor. Gail, also runs into Jack, who suspects that he has seen her before.
While at the Shackleford's, Gail is able to pass on information that results in a victory, but causes the death of Eleanor's fiance. Feeling guilty over John's death, Gail goes into the garden and accidentally meets up with Jack, who tells her that he loves her. She moves him out of the aim of one of her operatives who is spying on them. She gets away from Jack, dressed in a Confederate soldier's uniform, heads North after the operative tells her that the Confederates now know she is a spy and are out looking for her. As Jack and Channing, hot on her heals, chase her into the woods, they split up and Jack finds Gail asleep in a little house. He calls her a a traitor and says he is going to take her back for a court-martial. He handcuffs Gail, but as they leave the house, they see Union soldiers kill Channing. Gail and Jack, escape together and Jack heads South, while Gail goes North. Will they ever be reunited?
Operator 13, has a couple of entertaining musical numbers such as: the traditional Civil War era melodies sung by Davies, a campfire chorus and the Mills Brothers songs. Also, the battle scenes are very well done..
Although Curly Howard of The Three Stooges played the part of a Confederate Soldier in this film, most of his part was cut prior to release. However, he can still be seen briefly in one sequence.
Her other films include: The King's Vacation (1933) (her largest role, the female lead opposite George Arliss), Bureau of Missing Persons (1933), Private Number (1936), You'll Never Get Rich (1941), and Meet The Stewarts (1942). Gateson's film career faded in the late 1940s and she moved onto Television roles.