Saboteur Information

Saboteur is a 1942 Universal film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker. The film stars Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings and Norman Lloyd. It should not be confused with a Hitchcock film of a similar title, Sabotage (also known as The Woman Alone, 1936).

Plot summary

Aircraft factory worker Barry Kane is accused of starting a fire at a Glendale, California airplane plant during World War II, an act of sabotage that killed his friend Mason. Kane believes the real culprit is a man named Fry who handed him a fire extinguisher filled with gasoline during the fire, causing Mason's death. When the investigators find no one named "Fry" on the list of plant workers, they assume Kane is the saboteur.

Kane and Mason had seen Fry's name on an envelope the saboteur dropped before the fire, so Kane heads to the address, a ranch in the High Desert. The ranch owner, Charles Tobin, appears to be a well-respected citizen, although he later reveals that he is working with the saboteurs. Tobin's young granddaughter hands some mail to Kane that reveals Fry has gone to Soda City, while Tobin has gone to call the sheriff. Kane escapes the police, taking refuge with a kind blind man whose visiting niece is a billboard model, Patricia "Pat" Martin. Although her uncle asks her to take Kane to the local blacksmith shop to have his handcuffs removed, she attempts to take him to the police. Kane kidnaps Martin, protesting his innocence to her. When she stops the car and gets out, threatening to stop the first car that comes by, he uses the fan-belt pulley of her car's generator to cut off his handcuffs, causing the car to overheat.

As night falls, the couple stow away in the last trailer of a passing circus caravan, occupied by circus performers. The performers quickly recognize them as fugitives but decide to shield them from the officers.

Kane and Martin reach the abandoned Soda City and find a staging area for the saboteurs' plan to blow up Boulder Dam. Kane is discovered by the saboteurs, but conceals Martin and convinces the saboteurs that he is in league with them. After finding their plans to destroy the dam foiled, Kane convinces the saboteurs to take him with them to New York City. He learns of their plans to sabotage the launching of a new U.S. Navy ship at the Brooklyn shipyard. Kane's performance has fooled Martin as well; she contacts the authorities, hoping to get to New York in time to foil the saboteurs' plans.

The saboteurs arrive in New York but find the phone at their office disconnected, indicating the police are on to them. They drive to the mansion of a New York dowager, meeting with her and other conspirators. Kane finds the captured Martin, who was betrayed by a corrupt sheriff. As Kane attempts to signal her that she should escape, Tobin arrives, recognizing Kane and denouncing him as a foe of the conspiracy. The saboteurs lock Kane in the cellar and Martin in an office at Rockefeller Center. Martin drops a note from her window, alerting cabbies on the street to her location. They notify the FBI who rescue her. Kane triggers a fire alarm at the mansion and escapes in the pandemonium.

Desperate to warn someone of the impending sabotage, Kane reaches the shipyard, then stumbles onto Fry at the controls inside a fake newsreel truck. They struggle long enough for Kane to prevent Fry from pushing the bomb's detonator. Fry takes Kane prisoner, and his accomplice drives them to Rockefeller Center, but they find the police and FBI waiting to arrest them. Fry's flight from the officers takes him into a movie theatre, where he shoots a spectator to create confusion, allowing him to escape. As he exits, Kane and Martin are leaving the building, Kane in the custody of an FBI agent. Seeing Fry getting into a taxi, Kane tells Martin to follow the spy. Martin follows Fry as he boards a boat to Liberty Island, attracting his attention, then sees him walk into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. She calls the FBI office, then goes into the statue herself, climbing to the top of the statue, where she strikes up a conversation with Fry, stalling the spy until Kane and the FBI arrive.

Kane escapes his escort and encounters Martin, who tells him that Fry is getting away, so Kane pursues Fry onto the torch viewing platform. When Kane emerges from the tunnel he confronts Fry. Fry falls over the torch's railing, but grabs hold of the statue's hand. Kane climbs down to rescue Fry. The police and FBI agent reach the torch, watching from the railing. When Fry's grip slips, Kane grabs the sleeve of Fry's jacket. The stitching of Fry's sleeve gives way, causing Fry to fall to his death. Kane climbs back up to the torch and embraces Martin.


  • Priscilla Lane as Patricia "Pat" Martin
  • Robert Cummings as Barry Kane
  • Otto Kruger as Charles Tobin
  • Norman Lloyd as Fry
  • Alan Baxter as Freeman
  • Clem Bevans as Neilson
  • Ian Wolfe as Robert
  • Ralph Brooks as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Hans Conried as Edward (uncredited)
  • Selmer Jackson as FBI Chief (uncredited)


Hitchcock was under contract to David O. Selznick, so he first pitched the idea for the film to him; Selznick gave the okay for a script to be written, assigning John Houseman to keep an eye on its progress and direction. Val Lewton, Selznick's story editor, eventually passed on the script, so Selznick forced Hitchcock to offer it to other studios, "causing ill feelings between the producer and his director since it not only showed a lack of belief in Hitchcock's abilities, but also because the terms of Hitchcock's contract would net Selznick a three-hundred percent profit on the sale." Universal signed on, but their budgetary limits meant Hitchcock couldn't afford Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, the two actors he wanted for the leading roles; Universal did bring in Dorothy Parker to write a few scenes, "mostly the patriotic speeches given by the hero."

Production on the film began less than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hitchcock used extensive location footage in the film, especially in New York City, and utilized special long lenses to shoot from great distances. At one point Norman Lloyd glances at a capsized ship in the harbor and smiles knowingly. The ship shown is the former SS Normandie (renamed the USS Lafayette in the film) which was rumored to have been sabotaged by the Germans. Regarding this scene, Hitchcock said: "the Navy raised hell with Universal about these shots because I implied that the Normandie had been sabotaged, which was a reflection on their lack of vigilance in guarding it."

There was clever matching of the location footage with studio shots, many using matte paintings for background, for example in shots of the western ghost town, "Soda City". The famed Statue of Liberty sequence takes place on the torch platform, which had actually been closed to public access after the Black Tom sabotage of July 30, 1916. A mock-up built for filming gave an accurate depiction of this part of the statue.

Hitchcock makes his trademark cameo appearance about an hour into the film, standing at a kiosk in front of Cut Rate Drugs in New York as the saboteur's car pulls up. In his book-length interview with François Truffaut (Simon and Schuster, 1967), Hitchcock says he and Parker filmed a cameo showing them as the elderly couple who see Cummings and Lane hitchhiking and drive away, but that he decided to change that shot to the existing cameo.

There was no music to underscore the film's climactic movie theatre scene; Hitchcock chose to let the action on the screen propel the scene on its own. The scene also utilized visual effects that were ahead of their time. In particular, Lloyd lay on his side on a black saddle on a black floor while the camera was hauled from closeup to 40-feet above him. Film taken from the top of the Statue was then superimposed onto the black background, making him appear to drop downward, away from the camera.


The film did "very well at the box office even with its B-list cast"; it made a "tidy profit for all involved."

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film a "swift, high-tension film which throws itself forward so rapidly that it permits slight opportunity for looking back. And it hurtles the holes and bumps which plague it with a speed that forcefully tries to cover them up." Crowther noted that "so abundant [are] the breathless events that one might forget, in the hubbub, that there is no logic in this wild-goose chase"; he also questioned the "casual presentation of the FBI as a bunch of bungling dolts, [the film's] general disregard of authorized agents, and [its] slur on the navy yard police", all of which "somewhat vitiates the patriotic implications which they have tried to emphasize in the film."

Time magazine called it "one hour and 45 minutes of almost simon-pure melodrama from the hand of the master"; the film's "artful touches serve another purpose which is only incidental to Saboteurs melodramatic intent. They warn Americans, as Hollywood has so far failed to do, that fifth columnists can be outwardly clean and patriotic citizens, just like themselves."

Norman Lloyd states after Ben Hecht saw the film he told Hitchcock, regarding the finale's death of Lloyd's character due to an unravelling sleeve, "He should have had a better tailor."

Use of irony and symbolism

Hitchcock made use of irony on multiple occasions to strengthen his meanings. Early in the film, the authorities are seen as menacing, while the well-respected rancher and kind grandfather is a Nazi agent. In contrast, only ordinary folks and the misfortunate perceive Kane's innocence and offer trust: a long-haul truck driver, a blind householder and the circus freaks. Driving along the New York waterfront Kane's car passes by the capsized hulk of the liner SS Normandie, an ominous warning of what could happen if the conspirators succeed in their plans. The final battle symbolizing tyranny against democracy takes place on the torch of Statue of Liberty.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Saboteur_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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