Guilty of Treason (1950)

85-86.5 mins | Drama, Biography | February 1950

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HISTORY

The working title of the film was As We See Russia . Although pre-production news items identified both Robert and Edward Golden as producers, Edward Golden was not listed in the onscreen credits. However, the opening title card was missing from the viewed print, and it is possible that he was credited there. The following written dedication appears at the end of the film: "This production is dedicated to the men and women of all nations who live for a world of peace and a world of justice. The dramatization is based on the public papers of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty and the personal experience of members of the Overseas Press Club, as recorded in the book As We See Russia ."
       As depicted in the film, Cardinal József Mindszenty, whose name is spelled "Josef" in the onscreen credits, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949, but was released in 1955 on the condition that he remain in Hungary. In 1956 he was granted asylum in the United States legation at Budapest and stayed there as a voluntary prisoner until 1971. He then moved to a Hungarian religious community in Vienna, where he died in 1975.
       In a Feb 1949 LAEx news item, Warner Bros. announced that it would film the story of Cardinal Mindszenty's trial, and that Anthony Veiller had been assigned to write the screenplay and produce the film. The studio abandoned the project several months later, however.
       According to Oct 1948 news items in HR , Thomas Barron and Bernard Selwin were sought for leading roles in the picture. As late as Jul and Aug ... More Less

The working title of the film was As We See Russia . Although pre-production news items identified both Robert and Edward Golden as producers, Edward Golden was not listed in the onscreen credits. However, the opening title card was missing from the viewed print, and it is possible that he was credited there. The following written dedication appears at the end of the film: "This production is dedicated to the men and women of all nations who live for a world of peace and a world of justice. The dramatization is based on the public papers of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty and the personal experience of members of the Overseas Press Club, as recorded in the book As We See Russia ."
       As depicted in the film, Cardinal József Mindszenty, whose name is spelled "Josef" in the onscreen credits, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949, but was released in 1955 on the condition that he remain in Hungary. In 1956 he was granted asylum in the United States legation at Budapest and stayed there as a voluntary prisoner until 1971. He then moved to a Hungarian religious community in Vienna, where he died in 1975.
       In a Feb 1949 LAEx news item, Warner Bros. announced that it would film the story of Cardinal Mindszenty's trial, and that Anthony Veiller had been assigned to write the screenplay and produce the film. The studio abandoned the project several months later, however.
       According to Oct 1948 news items in HR , Thomas Barron and Bernard Selwin were sought for leading roles in the picture. As late as Jul and Aug 1949, Episcopal minister Robert A. Dunn and Raymond Massey were sought to portray Cardinal Mindszenty, according to HR news items. The role still had not been cast when the film began production on 7 Sep 1949. Margaret Sullavan, who had not appeared in a film since 1943, was sought for the role of "Stephanie" before that part was assigned to Bonita Granville, wife of producer Jack Wrather. HR production charts add Ian Wolfe to the cast, but he was not in the viewed print. In Feb 1949, HR reported that United Artists would distribute the film. According to a Mar 1949 HR news item, Dimitri Tiomkin was originally signed to compose and conduct the score.
       According to a HR news item, the film was the target of a "campaign of villification" by the Communist Party, and the producers turned over numerous threatening and obscene letters to postal inspectors and the FBI. HR also noted that footage from official United Nations films and newsreels showing the UN's initial probe into Mindszenty's trial was to be incorporated into the picture, but nothing about the UN appeared in the viewed print. According to an article in Var , because Guilty of Treason performed poorly at the box office, Eagle-Lion was prompted to revise its advertising campaign to downplay the anti-Communist message and emphasize the "girl-meets-boy angle." The Var article also noted that several other "anti-Red" films were "still failing to pay off big at the box office." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Jan 1950.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1949.
---
Daily Variety
29 Dec 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Dec 49
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 49
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 49
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 49
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 49
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 49
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 49
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 49
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 49
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 49
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
20 Sep 1949.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
11 Feb 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Mar 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Jan 50
p. 146.
New York Times
10 Oct 1948.
---
New York Times
26 Jun 1949.
---
New York Times
14 Aug 1949.
---
New York Times
11 Apr 50
p. 26.
Newsweek
24 Apr 1950.
---
The Exhibitor
4 Jan 50
p. 2776.
Variety
4 Jan 1950.
---
Variety
29 Mar 1950.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
Miss Granville's ward
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel As We See Russia by the Overseas Press Club (New York, 1948).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
As We See Russia
Release Date:
February 1950
Production Date:
7 September--late September 1949 at California Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Freedom Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 February 1950
Copyright Number:
LP2908
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85-86.5
Length(in feet):
7,784
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14264
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During a meeting of the Overseas Press Club, guest of honor Tom Kelly shows a newsreel about the international spread of Communism and describes his recent experiences in Soviet-dominated Hungary: In the fall of 1948, after harassment by the Kremlin, Tom leaves his post in Moscow to investigate the situation in Budapest. There, he meets music teacher Stephanie Varna, who is romantically involved with Alex Melnikov, a Russian officer, and inspires her with his talk of personal liberty. Tom asks Stephanie about Josef, Cardinal Mindszenty, the Roman Catholic prelate of Hungary and a firm opponent of the Communist regime, and she replies that despite Mindszenty's popularity, there is no effective underground movement to support him. When Tom gets an anonymous tip advising him to visit Mindszenty's mother, he and Stephanie drive to the family farm, where they meet the cardinal himself. Mindszenty tells them he expects to be arrested for his stand against the police state, and predicts that the Russians will attempt to vilify him as well. When Stephanie returns to her apartment, Alex is waiting for her with the news that Mindszenty's secretary was arrested that morning. The next day, a secret police officer comes to Stephanie's classroom with a petition demanding Mindszenty's arrest, and when Stephanie and her students refuse to sign it, she is arrested. Alex intervenes and arranges a visa for Stephanie, but she refuses to leave Budapest. Several days later, Commissar Belov, Tom's nemesis from the Kremlin, meets with local officials and secret police to discuss their strategy for handling Mindszenty, and they decide to discredit Mindszenty by spreading the rumor that he is an anti-semitic ... +


During a meeting of the Overseas Press Club, guest of honor Tom Kelly shows a newsreel about the international spread of Communism and describes his recent experiences in Soviet-dominated Hungary: In the fall of 1948, after harassment by the Kremlin, Tom leaves his post in Moscow to investigate the situation in Budapest. There, he meets music teacher Stephanie Varna, who is romantically involved with Alex Melnikov, a Russian officer, and inspires her with his talk of personal liberty. Tom asks Stephanie about Josef, Cardinal Mindszenty, the Roman Catholic prelate of Hungary and a firm opponent of the Communist regime, and she replies that despite Mindszenty's popularity, there is no effective underground movement to support him. When Tom gets an anonymous tip advising him to visit Mindszenty's mother, he and Stephanie drive to the family farm, where they meet the cardinal himself. Mindszenty tells them he expects to be arrested for his stand against the police state, and predicts that the Russians will attempt to vilify him as well. When Stephanie returns to her apartment, Alex is waiting for her with the news that Mindszenty's secretary was arrested that morning. The next day, a secret police officer comes to Stephanie's classroom with a petition demanding Mindszenty's arrest, and when Stephanie and her students refuse to sign it, she is arrested. Alex intervenes and arranges a visa for Stephanie, but she refuses to leave Budapest. Several days later, Commissar Belov, Tom's nemesis from the Kremlin, meets with local officials and secret police to discuss their strategy for handling Mindszenty, and they decide to discredit Mindszenty by spreading the rumor that he is an anti-semitic traitor. On Christmas Eve, Tom holds a secret celebration with Stephanie and Alex, who reflects on the tragic losses his family suffered during the war. Shortly after the holiday, Mindszenty is arrested, leaving behind a note proclaiming his innocence and denying any "confession" that might subsequently be attributed to him. After more than thirty days of relentless interrogation, Mindszenty still has not confessed, and, reluctant to resort to physical torture before the trial, the doctor for the secret police recommends using a hypnotic drug on the cardinal. Meanwhile, Tom is severely beaten by a Nazi gang, which leaves a note on his body reading "Heil Hitler, Heil Stalin." Stephanie shows Alex the note and urges him to follow his conscience and start an underground movement, but when Belov walks in, Alex has Stephanie arrested for espionage and treason. Stephanie refuses to confess to any crimes, and she dies under torture. As the conspiracy trial of Mindszenty and several other clerics begins, Tom questions Alex about Stephanie, reproaching him for being no better than the Nazis. Guilt-ridden, Alex goes to Stephanie's apartment, where he is shot to death by his fellow officers. Mindszenty is convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Back at the Overseas Press Club meeting, Tom speaks on behalf of the martyrs in Eastern Europe and reminds his colleagues that liberty is everybody's business. +

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

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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.