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 date
  • June 8, 1934 (1934-06-08) (USA)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $880,000[1]
Box office $1,010,000[1]

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.[2][3] The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.[3]


In the American Civil War, Union forces are in retreat after their defeat in the Second Battle of Bull Run. The Pauline Cushman Players are performing for wounded soldiers at a US military hospital. Pauline, a spy who works for Allan Pinkerton, persuades Gail to become a spy for the Union cause as Operator 13.

Gail, disguised in blackface, accompanies Pauline as her octaroon black maid. While washing General Stuart’s clothes, she 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 and return to the Union lines.

Pinkerton decides to use Gail to trap Gailliard, and as 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, Gail is later 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. When Gailliard finds her, she pours out her love for him. A group of Union soldiers pass by and the groom rushes out to them, forgetting he is wearing a Confederate uniform, 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 cut prior to release. He is briefly seen in the film.

Box office[edit]

The film grossed a total (domestic and foreign) of $1,010,000: $619,000 from the US and Canada and $391,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $226,000.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ M.H. (June 23, 1934). "Movie Review - - Civil War Spies. - NYTimes.com". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Operator 13 (1934)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2012. [dead link]

External links[edit]