Full page view
HISTORY

The prologue to the film states, "A ring of steel encircles Vienna; Strange figures emerge from the dust of the falling Austrian Empire. One of these: X-27, might have been the greatest spy in history had she not been a woman." An early script title for this film was Madame Nobody . In his autobiography, director Josef von Sternberg states that he was against titling this film Dishonored because the heroine was not dishonored, but killed by a firing squad. Sternberg also states that the film was based on his story "X-27." An early script in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library lists Gary Cooper in the cast as Marlene Dietrich's co-star. A modern source claims that Cooper declined the role of Lt. Kranau on the grounds that he had promised never to work with Dietrich again. (He had starred with her in the 1930 film Morocco .) He did, however, appear with Dietrich in the 1936 film Desire . The Paramount Studio Sound Department received a 1931 Academy Award for Sound Recording. Sternberg states that the award was specifically for the execution scene in this film, which was staged in a balloon hangar in order to facilitate an echo when the shots were fired. According to a modern source, the music "X-27" plays repeatedly throughout the film is the waltz "Danube Waves," by Ion Ivanovici. This film marked the end of Dietrich's first Paramount contract, which she renegotiated at a fee of $125,000 a picture. Modern sources credit Sternberg with editing, Hans Dreier with art direction, Travis Banton with costumes and Karl Hajos with ... More Less

The prologue to the film states, "A ring of steel encircles Vienna; Strange figures emerge from the dust of the falling Austrian Empire. One of these: X-27, might have been the greatest spy in history had she not been a woman." An early script title for this film was Madame Nobody . In his autobiography, director Josef von Sternberg states that he was against titling this film Dishonored because the heroine was not dishonored, but killed by a firing squad. Sternberg also states that the film was based on his story "X-27." An early script in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library lists Gary Cooper in the cast as Marlene Dietrich's co-star. A modern source claims that Cooper declined the role of Lt. Kranau on the grounds that he had promised never to work with Dietrich again. (He had starred with her in the 1930 film Morocco .) He did, however, appear with Dietrich in the 1936 film Desire . The Paramount Studio Sound Department received a 1931 Academy Award for Sound Recording. Sternberg states that the award was specifically for the execution scene in this film, which was staged in a balloon hangar in order to facilitate an echo when the shots were fired. According to a modern source, the music "X-27" plays repeatedly throughout the film is the waltz "Danube Waves," by Ion Ivanovici. This film marked the end of Dietrich's first Paramount contract, which she renegotiated at a fee of $125,000 a picture. Modern sources credit Sternberg with editing, Hans Dreier with art direction, Travis Banton with costumes and Karl Hajos with music. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
8 Mar 31
p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald
7 Mar 31
p. 60.
New York Times
6 Mar 31
p. 16.
New York Times
15 Mar 31
p. 5.
Variety
11 Mar 31
p. 14.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Madame Nobody
Release Date:
4 April 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Publix Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 April 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2125
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90-91
Length(in feet):
8,100
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1915 Vienna, the widow of an Austrian army captain is inducted into the Austrian Secret Service as a spy called X-27. She is told to use her feminine wiles to save Austria and succeeds by forcing Colonel Von Hindau, attached to the army's chief of staff, to confess treason and commit suicide. Next, X-27 tries to implicate Von Hindau's Russian accomplice, Colonel Kranau, but he eludes her, later showing up at her apartment. While X-27 plays the piano in the adjoining room, Kranau finds her orders to go to the Russian headquarters at Borislav, near the Polish border, to find out the position and plans of the Russian army. When X-27 discovers Kranau, he tries to make love to her, but she rebuffs him. As X-27 arrives in Borislav, martial law is proclaimed in Tarnow, Poland. Posing as a maid, she overhears the Russians' plan to invade Poland in four days. After avoiding seduction by Russian Colonel Kovrin by getting him drunk, X-27 spends the night coding the Russian offensive into music, until she is caught by Kranau and asked to take her clothes off for a strip search. X-27 obliges coquettishly and he discovers her music, which he burns. While telling her she will have only until dawn to live, Kranau confesses his love for her and the two make love. In the morning, X-27 drugs Kranau's wine and escapes to the Austrian border, where she plays the piano on an encoded composition that leads to capture of many Russians. The lovers meet again when Kranau is arrested and identified as H-14 of the Russian Secret Service. X-27 then ... +


In 1915 Vienna, the widow of an Austrian army captain is inducted into the Austrian Secret Service as a spy called X-27. She is told to use her feminine wiles to save Austria and succeeds by forcing Colonel Von Hindau, attached to the army's chief of staff, to confess treason and commit suicide. Next, X-27 tries to implicate Von Hindau's Russian accomplice, Colonel Kranau, but he eludes her, later showing up at her apartment. While X-27 plays the piano in the adjoining room, Kranau finds her orders to go to the Russian headquarters at Borislav, near the Polish border, to find out the position and plans of the Russian army. When X-27 discovers Kranau, he tries to make love to her, but she rebuffs him. As X-27 arrives in Borislav, martial law is proclaimed in Tarnow, Poland. Posing as a maid, she overhears the Russians' plan to invade Poland in four days. After avoiding seduction by Russian Colonel Kovrin by getting him drunk, X-27 spends the night coding the Russian offensive into music, until she is caught by Kranau and asked to take her clothes off for a strip search. X-27 obliges coquettishly and he discovers her music, which he burns. While telling her she will have only until dawn to live, Kranau confesses his love for her and the two make love. In the morning, X-27 drugs Kranau's wine and escapes to the Austrian border, where she plays the piano on an encoded composition that leads to capture of many Russians. The lovers meet again when Kranau is arrested and identified as H-14 of the Russian Secret Service. X-27 then receives permission to interrogate Kranau, who faces execution, in private and allows him to escape, for which she is court-martialed and sentenced to die. Her last request is to die in the clothes she wore "when [she] served [her] countrymen, instead of [her] country." After adjusting her lipstick and stocking, X-27 is shot down. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Espionage


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.