In the wake of a trial that convicted four Nazi agents of spying against the U.S., Warner Bros. became the first Hollywood studio to fire a salvo at Hitler’s Germany. Months before World War II erupted it released this thriller based on revelations that emerged from the trial and other real-life sources.
The story is a brisk connect-the-dots tale that ties German-American Bund operatives (Francis Lederer, George Sanders and Paul Lukas among others) to Berlin. Chief among those connecting the dots: FBI Agent Edward Renard (Edward G. Robinson).
The drama wasn’t limited to the screen. Production personnel received threats and violence erupted at some screenings. Directed with hard-hitting verve by Anatole Litvak, Confessions of a Nazi Spy struck a nerve in its era. It remains a milestone of filmmaking commitment today.