AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Spy
Director: Berthold Viertel (Dir)
Release Date:   26 Apr 1931
Duration (in mins):  65 or 68
Print this page
Display Movie Detail

Cast: Kay Johnson  (Anna Turin)
  Neil Hamilton  (Ivan Turin)
  John Halliday  (Sergei Krasnoff)

Summary: Russian aristocrat Ivan Turin, recently exiled to Paris during the Bolshevik revolution, agrees to carry out a plot against the life of Citizen X, the current Soviet leader, because he worries about the welfare of his wife and son back in Russia. Carrying a letter for General Silenko that is coded to read like a recipe for a new way of cooking goose, Turin disguises himself as a peasant and crosses the Russian border. The dreaded Tcheka, the Russian secret police, learn of Ivan's arrival and instruct his former friend and betrayer, Sergei Krasnoff, to keep an eye on him. The Tcheka arrest Ivan's wife Anna, with whom Sergei is in love, in the hope that upon her release she will become dependent on Sergei's protection. Sergei encourages her to take a job at the state gambling house, a front for the Tcheka's activities. Worried about the welfare of her son Kolya, and believing that Sergei secured her release from prison, Anna trusts Sergei and takes the job. Ivan arrives by train and discovers Kolya at home with a gang of street urchins with whom he has taken up and finds that his wife is out with Sergei. General Silenko, after meeting with Ivan, goes to the gambling house in search of a friend, Antoniev, and to tell Anna of her husband's arrival. Anna then innocently reveals that her husband has returned from Paris with a recipe for a new way of cooking goose. Sergei, knowing that the recipe is a coded plan to overthrow Citizen X, arrests Silenko, and Anna rushes home to meet her husband and to tell him that she has inadvertently "signed his death warrant." Ivan leaves to try to find the letter with the recipe, and Sergei arrives at Anna's house with an envelope he claims is the recipe, telling Anna that, if she will meet him in his apartment, he will burn it and defy the Tcheka out of love for her. After he leaves, shots are heard outside the door, however, and when Anna picks up the gun, she is arrested and confesses to having killed Sergei in order to protect her husband, whom she believes to be his killer. In Citizen X's office, it is revealed that Sergei never found the letter and that the government believes that Anna is covering for someone. Citizen X then reveals that Sergei was stabbed, not shot, thus disproving Anna's story. Kolya, who disappeared when the Tcheka arrived to arrest Anna, is brought in with the gang of street urchins. The children finally admit that their leader, Yashka, who was later killed when the Tcheka raided their hiding place, knifed Sergei when he fired gunshots at the children, who were trying to retrieve the letter that meant life and death for Kolya's parents. Ivan then confesses everything and praises the courage of his wife, son and the urchins, all of whom are true comrades. Citizen X charges Ivan with conspiracy and a sentence of death, but decides instead that he'll be exiled to Siberia for ten years as the country needs strong men. Ivan and Anna look forward to starting a new life together in Siberia. 

Distribution Company: Fox Film Corp.
Production Company: Fox Film Corp.
Director: Berthold Viertel (Dir)
  Charles Woolstenhulme (Asst dir)
  Hamilton MacFadden (Dir of retakes)
  Raoul Walsh (Addl dir)
Producer: Wm. Fox (Pres)
  Ralph Block (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ernest Pascal (Story)
  Edwin Burke (Cont writer for retakes)
  Ernest Pascal (Dial)
  Berthold Viertel (Contr wrt)
  George Middleton (Contr wrt)

Subject Major: Espionage
Subject Minor: Assassination
  Confession (Law)
  False arrests
  Gambling houses
  Secret codes

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.