I Was an American Spy (1951)

85 mins | Drama | 15 April 1951

Director:

Lesley Selander

Writer:

Samuel Roeca

Producer:

David Diamond

Cinematographer:

Harry Neumann

Production Designer:

David Milton

Production Company:

Allied Artists Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

An opening credit title reads: "We acknowledge with appreciation the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Army on the production of this picture." The film begins with an onscreen introduction by U.S. Army Commanding General Mark W. Clark who states: "You are about to witness a motion picture story of a woman who performed a magnificent service to her country under hazardous wartime conditions. In time of crisis, she recognized a call to duty and reacted as we hope all Americans will if confronted with similar circumstances. As an underground agent and civilian patriot she acquitted herself with great courage and made an important contribution to the war effort. Her actions were exemplary and reassuring--to preserve world freedom will require sacrifices and devotion to our cause on the part of every citizen. As we face the task that lies ahead, we may all derive great inspiration for the story of the deeds of this fine American woman."
       As dramatized in the film, during World War II, the Japanese takeover of Bataan, Manila and the island of Corregidor in the Philippines took place in the spring of 1942. Americans returned to invade the Philippines in 1944 and regained control for the Allied forces. The book Manila Espionage , one of the sources on which the film was based, is a biographical account of Claire Phillips' wartime experiences. According to a 27 Dec 1950 LAEx article, Phillips was the only woman spy to receive the Medal of Freedom. A LAT article of 14 Jan 1951 reported that at the time of the film's production, Phillips was living in Beaverton, OR, was married ... More Less

An opening credit title reads: "We acknowledge with appreciation the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Army on the production of this picture." The film begins with an onscreen introduction by U.S. Army Commanding General Mark W. Clark who states: "You are about to witness a motion picture story of a woman who performed a magnificent service to her country under hazardous wartime conditions. In time of crisis, she recognized a call to duty and reacted as we hope all Americans will if confronted with similar circumstances. As an underground agent and civilian patriot she acquitted herself with great courage and made an important contribution to the war effort. Her actions were exemplary and reassuring--to preserve world freedom will require sacrifices and devotion to our cause on the part of every citizen. As we face the task that lies ahead, we may all derive great inspiration for the story of the deeds of this fine American woman."
       As dramatized in the film, during World War II, the Japanese takeover of Bataan, Manila and the island of Corregidor in the Philippines took place in the spring of 1942. Americans returned to invade the Philippines in 1944 and regained control for the Allied forces. The book Manila Espionage , one of the sources on which the film was based, is a biographical account of Claire Phillips' wartime experiences. According to a 27 Dec 1950 LAEx article, Phillips was the only woman spy to receive the Medal of Freedom. A LAT article of 14 Jan 1951 reported that at the time of the film's production, Phillips was living in Beaverton, OR, was married to a disabled veteran and supported herself by selling cosmetics door-to-door.
       An article about Phillips in The Sunday Oregonian of 17 Jun 2001, indicated that little was known about her early life and that a distant cousin, who had been researching her life, had not even been able to establish Phillips' maiden name, or the whereabouts of her daughter. The article also provided the following information: After the war Phillips was given a home in Marlene Village, Portland OR by a local family; the U.S. government disputed the legitimacy of her marriage to John Phillips; she sued the government for $146,850, the cost of surgery and care necessary to repair injuries inflicted by the Japanese; she married Cabanatuan survivor Robert Clavier in 1948. The article also reported that Claire Phillips Clavier died in Portland in 1960, at age 52, and concluded with the statement, "Cause of death: like so many other pieces of her life, known to very few."
       Jan 1951 HR news items add Frank Ishiro Mizuo, Hideo Hokada and Jim Yagi to the cast although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed. The 21 Mar 1951 DV review states that captured Japanese war footage, showing Manila being bombed and evacuated, was used in this film.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
31 Mar 1951.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1951
p. 3.
Harrison's Reports
31 Mar 1951
p. 50.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1950
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1951
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1951
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1951
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1951
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1951
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 1951
p. 10.
Los Angeles Examiner
27 Dec 1950.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
7 Jun 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Mar 1951
p. 786.
New York Times
4 Jul 1951
p. 13.
Sunday Oregonian
17 Jun 2001
p. E09.
The Exhibitor
11 Apr 1951.
---
Variety
28 Mar 1951
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv film ed
SET DECORATOR
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Set cont
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "I Was an American Spy" in The American Mercury (May 1945) and The Reader's Digest (May 1945) and the book Manila Espionage by Claire Phillips and Myron B. Goldsmith (Portland, OR, 1947).
SONGS
"Because of You," music and lyrics by Arthur Hammerstein and Dudley Wilkinson
"Tokyo Ondo," composer undetermined.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 April 1951
Production Date:
4 January--19 January 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Allied Artists Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 April 1951
Copyright Number:
LP853
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15132
SYNOPSIS

On the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, authorities in the Philippine capital of Manila fear an imminent Japanese invasion and advise evacuation. Claire Snyder, an American nightclub entertainer, her adopted daughter Dian and her maid Lolita await Claire’s fiancé, U.S. Army sergeant John Phillips, whom Claire hopes will help them leave the city. When John arrives, he tells Claire that he is unable to help as his unit has been ordered into active duty, but promises to meet her in Pilar where they can be married. After the Japanese bomb Manila, Claire, Dian and Lolita take refuge in the hills where Pacio, one of the guerrillas fighting with John’s unit, finds them and takes them to him. After a hurried wedding ceremony, performed in Spanish by a local priest, John heads for Bataan, leaving the women in Pacio’s care. Later, after Corregidor falls to the Japanese, Claire decides to send Dian and Lolita back to Manila with Pacio while she attempts to find John. In the jungle, Claire is rescued from potential discovery by the Japanese by U.S. corporal John Boone who, with a few others, has become separated from his outfit and is organizing a guerrilla unit. When Claire learns that American and Allied prisoners of the Bataan and Corregidor conflicts are being forced to walk to Cabanatuan, she and Boone find the last remaining members of the infamous death march and discover that John is among them. After Claire witnesses John killed by a Japanese guard as he attempts to get a drink of water, she resolves to help Boone destroy the Japanese in any way she can. Boone suggests that if Claire were in ... +


On the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, authorities in the Philippine capital of Manila fear an imminent Japanese invasion and advise evacuation. Claire Snyder, an American nightclub entertainer, her adopted daughter Dian and her maid Lolita await Claire’s fiancé, U.S. Army sergeant John Phillips, whom Claire hopes will help them leave the city. When John arrives, he tells Claire that he is unable to help as his unit has been ordered into active duty, but promises to meet her in Pilar where they can be married. After the Japanese bomb Manila, Claire, Dian and Lolita take refuge in the hills where Pacio, one of the guerrillas fighting with John’s unit, finds them and takes them to him. After a hurried wedding ceremony, performed in Spanish by a local priest, John heads for Bataan, leaving the women in Pacio’s care. Later, after Corregidor falls to the Japanese, Claire decides to send Dian and Lolita back to Manila with Pacio while she attempts to find John. In the jungle, Claire is rescued from potential discovery by the Japanese by U.S. corporal John Boone who, with a few others, has become separated from his outfit and is organizing a guerrilla unit. When Claire learns that American and Allied prisoners of the Bataan and Corregidor conflicts are being forced to walk to Cabanatuan, she and Boone find the last remaining members of the infamous death march and discover that John is among them. After Claire witnesses John killed by a Japanese guard as he attempts to get a drink of water, she resolves to help Boone destroy the Japanese in any way she can. Boone suggests that if Claire were in Japanese-occupied Manila, she could become a vital informant, advising him where next to strike with his guerrilla force. Boone, whose code name is “Compadre,” names Claire “High Pockets” after the style of blouse she wears. Claire then returns to Manila and adopts the identity of an Italian friend who has been killed in the bombing and there also reunites with Dian and Lolita. With the help of her former employer, Ho Sang, Claire opens a nightclub, which caters exclusively to Japanese officers whom she flatters and charms and, claiming to be uninvolved in the war, befriends their Chief of Intelligence, Col. Masamoto. Thus, Claire is able to not only ferry food and supplies to the guerrillas via her patriotic employees, but also information about Japanese military movements. After Masamoto reveals to Claire that a locally run shoe factory is actually a front for the production of munitions, she passes the information to Boone and his men destroy the building. Although several guerillas are captured, none reveal the identity of “High Pockets,” enabling Claire to continue her underground activities and assistance to American and Allied prisoners of war for ten months. She is even able to persuade a Japanese naval officer to delay his ship’s departure by performing a fan dance for him while Boone and his men transmit information to Army headquarters that results in the ship’s destruction by bombs and torpedoes. Eventually, Masamoto discovers that Claire is “High Pockets” and has her arrested. Claire endures beatings and is brutally tortured in prison, but refuses to identify Compadre and his guerrillas. Masamoto informs Claire that American troops are expected to invade Manila soon but that she will be shot before they can reach her. However, Boone and his men stage a daring raid on the prison and save Claire just as Masamoto is about to shoot her. Later, on the recommendation of General Douglas MacArthur, Claire is awarded the Medal of Freedom for her meritorious wartime service.
+

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

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