Operator 13

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Operator 13
Operator 13 1934 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Boleslawski
Produced by Lucien Hubbard
Screenplay by
  • Harvey F. Thew
  • Zelda Sears
  • Eve Greene
Story by Robert W. Chambers
Music by William Axt
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by MGM
Release dates
  • June 8, 1934 (1934-06-08) (USA)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Operator 13 is a 1934 American romance film directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Marion Davies, Gary Cooper, and Jean Parker. Based on stories written by Robert W. Chambers, the film is about a Union spy who impersonates a black maid in the early days of the Civil War, but complications arise when she falls in love with a Confederate officer.[1] The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.[1]


The Civil War, shortly after the Battle of Bull Run, the Union forces are in retreat. In a US Military Hospital, the Pauline Cushman Players are performing for wounded soldiers. Pauline the spy who works for Allen Pinkerton persuades Gail to become a spy for the Union cause, Operator 13.

Gail, in blackface as a disguise, accompanies Pauline as her African American maid (so-called "octaroon" the out-of-date term for a person of 1/8th African ancestry) and while washing General Stuart’s clothes, hears he will attend a ball that night. At the ball, Captain Gailliard suspects that Pauline is a spy and finds evidence in her room. Pauline, trying to flee is arrested and is to be a witness against Gail who is later sentenced to death. Both women manage to escape to the Union lines.

Pinkerton decides to use Pauline to trap Gailliard, and part of the plan, she jeers at a parade of Union soldiers and is thought to be a heroine in the southern newspapers. Gail, as Anne Claibourne is pardoned by Lincoln and heads south where Captain Gailliard is attracted to her. However later Gail is told by Stuart’s groom, a fellow spy, that she is known to be a spy and she flees in a Confederate uniform. Gailliard cannot believe she is a spy and finds her but she strikes him with a gun and rides off. Others start in pursuit.

She and the groom hide in a farm house where Gailliard finds her and she pours out her love for him. A group of Union soldiers pass by and groom rushes out to them, forgetting his Confederate clothes and is shot down. The two hide in a well as the farm house is searched. They later part and she watches as he heads southwards back to his own lines.



Curly Howard of Three Stooges fame was cast in a small speaking part, which was mostly deleted prior to release. Curly is briefly seen in the finished cut of the film.


  1. ^ a b "Operator 13 (1934)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 

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