O.S.S. (film)

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O.S.S.
Directed by Irving Pichel
Written by Richard Maibaum
Starring Alan Ladd
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Gloria Saunders
Narrated by Richard Maibaum
Cinematography Lionel Lindon
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • May 26, 1946 (1946-05-26)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.8 million (US rentals)[1]
1,762,769 admissions (France)[2]

O.S.S. is a 1946 war film starring Alan Ladd and Geraldine Fitzgerald about the Office of Strategic Services. It was directed by Irving Pichel, who would later be blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and written by Richard Maibaum, a World War II veteran who would later write 12 of the first 15 James Bond films.

Richard Maibaum, a former Broadway actor, also narrates the film.

Plot[edit]

John Martin (Ladd) attempts to steal plans for an electric circuit from a plant in Baltimore, Maryland. Caught and arrested for espionage, he is turned over to the Office of Strategic Services, which is training a group of new recruits by sending them on test missions.

Along with three other men, Gates, Parker and Bernay, and one woman, Elaine Dupree (Fitzgerald), Martin (an assumed name like the others) is sent to France to blow up a railroad tunnel in order to paralyze Axis troops during the Allied invasion. Martin doubts Elaine can work under pressure because she is a woman, but she insists he treat her as any male agent.

During the group's first assignment, at a rural French inn, German agents kill Gates. A meeting of the French maquis is interrupted by German Colonel Paul Meister, who becomes immediately infatuated with Elaine. Elaine sculpts a bust of Meister's head, and when he announces his departure for Normandy on a troop train, she begs him to take her with him. With Martin's help, Elaine makes a duplicate bust and fills it with plastic explosives. She and Martin then blow up the tunnel. After Martin comes back for her under fire, Elaine makes him promise never to jeopardize a mission in order to rescue her.

On foot, they meet Bernay, who is their radio contact with the O.S.S. As the Allies break through at Normandy, Elaine and Martin make a deal with Amadeus Brink, an officer of the Gestapo, who hopes to secure his safety and a small fortune. Brink removes Martin and Elaine's "wanted" file from the Gestapo sector headquarters and arranges for his cousin, a courier, to hand over a diplomatic pouch to Bernay for photocopying. Bernay places the negative in the lining of Martin's hat. Against Brink's advice, Bernay radios a final message that the Nazis have broken one of the O.S.S. secret codes. Bernay is gunned down, and Martin and Elaine are questioned by the Gestapo, but are released before Meister catches Brink with their file papers.

Martin and Elaine are about to board a plane to safety when they are asked to complete one last mission. They must contact Parker, who is on assignment near the Rhine. At a farmhouse, Elaine is accosted by a group of drunken German soldiers. Parker, hiding among them, gives Elaine the Germans' troop dispositions. Martin leaves the farmhouse to radio in the positions. While he is gone, Meister arrests Elaine.

As the American troops advance through France, Parker tells Martin that Elaine's real name was Ellen Rogers, and he imagines that she might have been the girl next door in his hometown.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Richard Maibaum had just served four years in the army. He returned to Paramount, where he had been a screenwriter, and became a producer. He was assigned the job of writing and producing O.S.S. "Every studio in Hollywood was racing to come out with the first OSS film," says Maibaum. "When I was in Washington I knew some of the OSS people so I had a head start on the subject."[3]

The studio had hoped to cast Sterling Hayden who had served in the OSS in real life. However he was still in uniform in early 1946 so the film was assigned to Alan Ladd, whose casting was announced in January 1946. It was one of three movies being made about the OSS in Hollywood around this time, the others being 13 Rue Madeleine and Cloak and Dagger.[4][5] This resulted in filming taking place in extreme secrecy.

Shooting ended in March and the film was rushed into release.[6] O.S.S. was the first of the three films to reach cinemas.[7]

"People had warned me about Alan and his wife Sue saying they were tough to work with but we got along marvellously," said Maibaum.[8]

Reception[edit]

According to Maibaum the film "reaped substantial profits".[8]

Maibaum and Ladd later collaborated on another OSS-related film, Captain Carey, U.S.A..

Radio adaptation[edit]

O.S.S. was presented on Lux Radio Theatre November 18, 1946. The adaptation starred Ladd and Veronica Lake.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
  2. ^ French box office of 1947 at Box Office Story
  3. ^ Maibaum p 280
  4. ^ By Way of Report: Presented by the Royal Air Force By A.H. Wwiler. New York Times, 03 Mar 1946: X3.
  5. ^ Paramount's 'OSS' To Star Alan Ladd: Film Is One of Three by Major Studios on Same Subject-- Four Arrivals in Week Of Local Origin Special to The New York Times. New York Times, 07 Jan 1946: 16.
  6. ^ Article 3 -- No Title: Not-So-Secret Only the Title Remains Hollywood - Chapter II Continued Next Week Frend and Spurs By Fred Stanley. New York Times, 31 Mar 1946: 49.
  7. ^ By Way of Report: Fox Drops OSS From '13 Rue Madeleine' --Metro to Reissue Old Hits--Addenda Up for Reissue Kilroy Turns Critic A Trend? By Thomas M. Pryor. New York Times, 25 Aug 1946: 52.
  8. ^ a b 'Great Gatsby' Employs Two Generations of Farrows: 'Gatsby' Employs Farrow Family Maibaum, Richard. Los Angeles Times, 15 July 1973: p14.
  9. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (2): 32–41. Spring 2015. 
  • Maibaum, Richard, Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age, 1986

External links[edit]