13 Rue Madeleine (1947)

James Cagney and Richard Conte in 13 Rue Madeleine (1947)

Cagney Gets Cagey Around Conte

As an instructor to those going through espionage training Bob Sharkey (James Cagney) is an expert of studying people and the perfect man when he is informed by his superiors that one of his trainees is in fact a German agent. Sharkey sets a trap involving a test designed for the inexperienced to fail so when Bill O'Connell (Richard Conte) passes with out a mistake it makes Sharkey aware to who he really is, the German agent. But Sharkey's superiors come up with a plan to just keep an eye of O'Connell and then feed him false information to feed back to the Germans. But when things don't go to plan Sharkey has to inform the other inexperienced agents as to who O'Connell is which makes things precarious and when one of the new agents dies under mysterious circumstances Sharkey steps in to take his place, a big risk considering everything which Bob knows.

"13 Rue Madeleine" is one of those post war movies which try to broach the gap between fact and fiction by delivering a fictionalized thriller with a touch of the docudrama about it. It probably made "13 Rue Madeleine" an entertaining movie back in 1947 as the world of war time espionage was shown on the big screen with big stars such as James Cagney and Richard Conte giving it star power and mass appeal. Unfortunately over 65 years later "13 Rue Madeleine" whilst a solid war time thriller doesn't have the same impact that it probably once had.

The trouble is that the balance of the movie now feels off and well over half of the movie feels like a semi docudrama look at war time spies as we see their training and also the complexity of their jobs when one of the young agents is informed he will have to shoot O'Connell if his cover is blown, something which he finds hard as he spent so long side by side in training together. If only the suspense and the docudrama side of things could have been woven together in a more convincing way then maybe "13 Rue Madeleine" would still be an impressive and exciting war time thriller rather than one which often feels like it is forcing the informative side of things.

Never the less "13 Rue Madeleine" still boasts a good cast and both James Cagney and Richard Conte carry this movie nicely with strong performances. Unfortunately whilst both get some powerful scenes the characters themselves are not memorable enough which for me is part of the reason why "13 Rue Madeleine" just doesn't work as well as it probably once did.

What this all boils down to is that "13 Rue Madeleine" is still an entertaining war time spy thriller which still benefits from featuring James Cagney and Richard Conte. But it is also a movie which unsurprisingly now feels dated especially as it struggles to blend the mix of docudrama and thriller.