Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)

Approved   |    |  Drama, War

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) Poster

FBI agent Ed Renard investigates the pre-War espionage activities of the German-American Bund.


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User Reviews

25 January 2017 | GManfred
Better Than It Sounds
Hollywood produced this one as the war in Europe had barely begun and the US was a couple of years away from Pearl Harbor. They had correctly identified the threat from Nazi Germany, though, and made a pretty accurate assessment of the consequences involved. "Confessions Of A Nazi Spy" is better than it sounds, and is not a story extracted from a cheap novel.

Nutshell; Some German-Americans felt an attachment to their Fatherland at the outbreak of the war, and some bought into the narrative and became Nazi sympathizers. Schneider (Francis Lederer) is one of those. He is inspired by the speeches of Dr. Kassell (Paul Lukas) and becomes a spy - more of a messenger - for a local subversive Nazi group. He is discovered by the FBI (Edw. G. Robinson), loses his nerve and informs on the group. Any more of the plot will spoil the story.

The picture is related in semi-documentary style which gives it a patina of authenticity and is directed by Hollywood veteran Anatole Litvak, who adds the required tension and who made several noteworthy noir and crime dramas in his career. Lederer and Lukas supply the villains and Robinson the hero in this surprisingly good rendition of a story of troublesome times to come for America.

Critic Reviews

Did You Know?


This movie had an initial release date of May 1939. However, the DVD issued by the Warner Archive Collection in 2014 has a narrated two-minute montage of events that occurred later in 1939 and in 1940, as a result of the re-edited mid-1940 re-release. Beginning at 1:37:45 are the invasions of Poland, Norway, Denmark (the narration "and Finland's invasion by communist Russia" indicates that Russia has not yet joined the Allies), Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. France was included only in a headline. These last four countries were invaded on May 10, 1940. No mention was made of Nazis invading the Soviet Union in 1941. There are two appearances of this film in New York Times articles in June 1940: on June 2 announcing the updated re-release of the film, and on June 16 mentioning its disappointing tryout box office despite "generous publicity campaigns."


Narrator: Some months ago, various persons appeared in the federal courts of New York City and the Panama Canal Zone, charged with the crime of espionage against the armed forces of the United States. Called to the witness stand, they swore to tell "the truth...


According to the film the spies are allegedly working for "German Naval Intelligence." In reality no such agency ever existed. The Abwehr was the joint intelligence service that coordinated foreign espionage for the entire German military. Before and during most of WWII the Abwehr was headed by Adm. Wilhelm Canaris. Also, Canaris and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, detested one another and would never have cooperated as shown in the film (the producers may not have known this in 1939.)

Alternate Versions

For the 1940 re-release, Warner Bros. added footage showing the devastation inflicted on Norway, Holland and Belgium, those countries then occupied by Germany. That footage is included in the print shown on Turner Classic Movies.


Annie Laurie
(1834-35) (uncredited)
Music by
Lady John Scott
Whistled by Alec Craig


Plot Summary


Drama | War

Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)

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