Remembered I need to add to my goals starting on Eugene Onegin which I bought in the Falen translation on Kindle. So what happened Monday? Not a lot of reading. 23 pages of Everybody Was So Young – a biography of Sara and Gerald Murphy, Jazz Age muses to Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other. A few pages of My Name is Red which is a leftover from last year. Same with Ulysses, which I’m reading at a glacial pace, but haven’t stopped completely yet.
Instead of reading I watched 13 Rue Madeleine a movie of spies in WWII starring Jimmy Cagney. Sadly I was deeply irritated by it. Cagney stars as an O.S.S. officer training a batch of new recruits, one of whom he’s informed is a Nazi spy. (Serious spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you want to see this without knowing what happens.) We follow 3 youngish trainees, O’Connell, Lassiter and a French chick played by Annabella. O’Connell and Lassiter become great friends playing much backgammon together with Lassiter losing to the tune of 14 million dollars, as they joke. Cagney figures out O’Connell is the Nazi because when they almost get caught on their final training mission taking photos, O’Connell slugs his friend instead of the guard as an American would supposedly do. In other words, he’s too smart to be an American. We Americans are scrappy, true and honest with all kinds of moral high ground, but we’re dumb and we like it that way. And according to this movie, that’s the way it is throughout. Cagney is right, O’Connell is really Kuncel, one of the best and brightest Nazi spies. Cagney stupidly entrusts Lassiter with this revelation and Lassiter is completely incapable of acting like they’re still friends so as they’re being parachuted into their mission O’Connell/Kuncel takes care of him and lights out for the territories with the knowledge of what all the remaining trainees look like. Intrepid Annabella is left alone at this point and carries on with her mission. She’s fairly bright, but that’s okay she’s French. Europeans can be smart, just not us. Cagney decides no one but he can complete this mission. Annabella, though intrepid, is really only a telegraph girl. So, Cagney parachutes into France and blunders into town pretending to represent the Vichy government demanding to see Duclois the man who designed the depot for the V-2 rockets which will be used against the allies. He is instantly picked up by the Resistance and set to digging his own grave, when he manages to get a secret message read out from London thus saving his life to cause more trouble. He convinces the Resistance men that this is their moment – they must kidnap Duclois who is living/being held in a hotel full of Nazis. Luckily, most of them are asleep upstairs though it’s broad daylight. For some reason only Cagney and the French mayor attack this hotel. They take out two Nazis on the ground floor then locate their man on the second floor. Absolutely no intelligence being gathered beforehand, it was very convenient their target was on the second floor and most of the guards on the third. They get their man and run away, but the Nazis are on their tail including Kuncel. They see the plane landing and head off to stop it, but Cagney who I would’ve thought would have been getting on that plane as well, drives into them and stops them from destroying the mission, but gets taken alive to go and be tortured. Intrepid Annabella is found and shot, but not before she gets word through of Cagney’s capture. Plucky Cagney puts up with horrible torture and even gets to slug Kuncel once before the Americans decide to bomb the building to prevent Cagney from spilling all. Cagney knows what they’re doing and laughs at the end. Good old American pluck and bombs beats Nazi brains every time. Of course, everyone dies. Not entirely surprising as except for Cagney it was their first mission. Seems a bit much to ask, but I guess they were short of actual experienced agents who’d probably all died horribly on earlier missions. I trust there are movies out there with actually intelligent intelligence agents. I hope to find one of those.