is a World War II
spy film Very Loosely Based on a True Story
concerning the efforts of Ulysses Diello, the suave, amoral valet to the British ambassador in neutral Turkey, to get riches and status by passing Allied secrets to the Germans. He is given the codename Cicero by the Germans.
5 Fingers provides examples of the following tropes:
- Based on a True Story for most of the film but veering onto 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 as portrayed by James Mason in the film. The second part of the film concerning the pursuit after Cicero flees the Ambassador's residence is pure fiction.
- Femme Fatale: Countess Anna Staviska
- Freakier Than Fiction: Although this did not come out until long after the film was made in 1952, 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 MI6 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.
- 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 so intelligent and cultured as himself should be a mere servant, the answer is Diello.
- No Honor Among Thieves / Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: 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.
- 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, and Von Richter demands to know who he really is, Diello asks if he would believe it if Diello said he was really a servant to the British ambassador. Naturally, Von Richter doesn't.
- Wicked Cultured: Diello convinces his German controller that he is an English gentleman of the most elegant and decadent sort.