Film / 5 Fingers (1952)

5 Fingers is a World War II spy film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring James Mason, Danielle Darrieux and Michael Rennie. It's based on the true story of Elyesa Bazna, a spy who posed as the British ambassador's valet.

Ulysses Diello, the suave, amoral valet to the British ambassador in neutral Turkey, plans to get riches and status by passing Allied secrets to the Germans. He is given the codename Cicero by the Germans.

It was very loosely adapted into a 1959 TV series, also called Five Fingers.

Not to be confused with the 2006 film or 2012 Korean series, both of which have the same title.


5 Fingers provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist: Diello.
  • Based on a True Story: Most of the film, though it veers into Very Loosely Based on a True Story for the final part. Agent Cicero did exist, really was the valet of the British ambassador to Turkey, and was for some time an immensely successful spy. The first part of the film is fairly true to life, although the real Cicero was called Elyeza Bazna, spoke poor English and was far from the perfect facsimile of an English gentleman Diello is. The second part of the film concerning the pursuit after Cicero flees the Ambassador's residence is pure fiction.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder / No Honour Among Thieves: The norm. Anna betrays Diello, then the Germans decide Diello has outlived his usefulness, upon which Diello escapes them and unabashedly accepts the British offer to "turn" him, then he eludes both sets of would-be masters and escapes to South America with his final payment for providing details of Operation Overlord. There at last he finally attains the life of a gentleman with servants of his own, until his arrest for passing counterfeit money - the British banknotes with which the Germans had paid him were forgeries.
  • Counterfeit Cash: The money Diello was paid becomes this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Diello and Anna.
  • Femme Fatale: Countess Anna Staviska.
  • Freakier Than Fiction: Although this did not come out until long after the film was made, Cicero/Diello's real-life counterpart, Bazna, was probably being fed information by the British Double Cross System. Or maybe that claim was a face-saving lie put together in 1962 by British Intelligence in cahoots with Bazna. That was when MI-6 assisted Bazna in writing his memoirs (I was Cicero) as a riposte to the claim made in his German controller Moyzisch's memoirs (Who was Cicero?) that he and Cicero had fooled the British. After the war, the real life Cicero tried to sue the West German government for back pay.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The German ambassador to Turkey, Franz Von Papen, formerly German Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor under Hitler, and one of the old-school German aristocrats who wrongly thought they could control Hitler if he were brought into the government. The actor John Wengraf, ironically in real life a refugee from the Nazis, looked astonishingly like the historical Von Papen. Von Papen is played fairly sympathetically, as is another German character who really existed, Cicero's controller Ludwig Carl Moyzisch.
  • Laughing Mad: Diello's reaction to learning the money he was paid is counterfeit.
  • The Jeeves: Subverted, with more than a hint of Fridge Horror. Diello plays the part of a loyal gentleman's personal gentleman to perfection but is inwardly consumed by resentment at his low social status. If you have ever wondered what Jeeves would turn into should he start to dwell on why a person as intelligent and cultured as he is should be a mere servant, the answer is Diello.
  • Karma Houdini / Laser-Guided Karma: Diello and Anna manage to be on the receiving end of both. She flees to Switzerland (with plenty of money) before everything falls apart. He escapes Turkey and the British and German agents after him and goes to Rio de Janeiro. Then both of them find out that their money is counterfeit, and Diello at least is arrested.
  • Only in It for the Money: Diello. He cares not who wins the war except insofar as it affects his own interests. In a gesture of contempt for his German employers, he demands to be paid in British pounds sterling for spying against the British. When his controller points out that when the Nazis win the war, as Diello is helping them do, British pounds will be valueless, he coolly replies that he is confident the Nazis will lose whatever he does for them.
  • Out-Gambitted: Diello.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Diello first meets Von Richter, Von Richter demands to know who he really is.
    Diello: If I told you I was the valet to the British Ambassador, would you believe me?
    Von Richter: Certainly not!
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The people Diello sells photographs to top secret documents to.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Nazis decide this about Diello.
  • Wicked Cultured: Diello convinces his German controller that he is an English gentleman of the most elegant and decadent sort.

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