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Movie: The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)
Willam Holden, Lilli Palmer, Hugh Griffith Star in World War II Film
William Holden spies for the Allies in the 1962 WW II thriller The Counterfeit Traitor. Lilli Palmer, Hugh Griffith, Carl Raddatz, Ernst Schroder also appear.
Director George Seaton and Paramount Pictures brought The Counterfeit Traitor to movie theaters in 1962. William Holden stars as a Swedish businessman-turned-Allied spy, with Lilli Palmer as his lover and confederate.
Alexander Klein's The Counterfeit Tratior
The Counterfeit Traitor is based on the book of the same name by Alexander Klein (1918-2002). Published by Henry Holt in 1958, The Counterfeit Tratior tells the true story of Eric Siegfried Erickson, a Brooklyn-born Swedish oil executive who secretly spied for the Allies during World War II.
Screenplay, Director, Music
George Seaton and Charles Grenzbach wrote The Counterfeit Traitor for the Perlsea Company. Seaton (Miracle on 34th Street, The Country Girl) also directed and co-produced with William Perlberg. Alfred Newman created the film's music score.
The Counterfeit Tratior Cast
William Holden (Eric Erickson) and Lilli Palmer (Marianne Mollendorf) head the cast. Other players include Hugh Griffith (Collins), Carl Raddatz (Otto Holtz), Ernst Schroder (Baron Gerhard von Oldenburg), Charles Regnier (Wilhelm Kortner), Ingrid van Bergen (Hulda Windler), Helo Gutschwager (Hans Holtz), Wolfgang Preiss (Colonel Nordoff), Werner Peters (Bruno Ulrich), Erica Beer (Klara Holtz), Stefan Schnabel (Gestapo Agent), Erik Schumann (German Gunboat Officer), Poul Reichhardt (Fishing Boat Skipper) and Ulf Palme (Max Gumpel).
Budget, Filming Locations
Budgetet at $4.5 million, The Counterfeit Traitor was filmed on location in Sweden (Stockholm), Denmark (Copenhagen) and Germany (Hamburg, West Berlin). Several Swedish and Danish coastal villages were also used.
Serving as an unofficial technical advisor on the production was the real Eric Erickson, who showed Lilli Palmer the actual apartment where he and Marianne Mollendorf had met during the war.
The terrifying execution scene was filmed in the actual Moabit Prison yard in Berlin where Marianne had met her fate at the hands of a Nazi firing squad. It was a difficult scene for Lilli Palmer, who had stood in front of the bullet-riddled wall and began to tremble. After the scene had been completed, the assembled crew gave the actress a standing ovation in tribute to her professionalism.
The Counterfiet Traitor Movie
The Counterfeit Tratior begins in Stockholm in 1942. A British Intelligence operative named Collins offers to get Swedish oil broker Eric Erickson off the Allied blacklist if he agrees to spy for them on his business trips to Nazi Germany.
Erickson recruits several of his German friends -- Baron von Oldenburg and Otto Holtz -- who have no love for Hitler's Third Reich. Also passing on vital information is Marianne Mollendorf, the wife of a German colonel who is stationed in France.
The Gestapo eventually catch on to Erickson's espionage activities, executing Marianne before his eyes in a prison yard in Berlin. Eventually, Erickson has to flee Germany, making a harrowing escape back to Sweden with help from the underground.
The Counterfeit Traitor opened in New York City on April 17, 1962.
"A first-rate spy picture, and those who relish this kind of thing should be careful not to miss it..." reported Paul V. Beckley of The New York Herald Tribune (4/18/62).
The Counterfeit Traitor is one of the finest espionage films of the 1960s, an absorbing account of real-life spy Eric Erickson and his contributions to the Allied victory in World War II. How important was Erickson? According to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Erickson's extraordinary spy work "shortened the war by two years."
William Holden gives a gripping performance as Erickson, with Lilli Palmer his equal as the doomed Marianne. The supporting cast is outstanding, particularly Helo Gutschwager as a vile12-year-old Hitler Youth who threatens to blow the whistle on his father's friend Erickson.
The Counterfeit Traitor is marked by scintillating dialog and a number of outstanding scenes. The latter include Marianne's act of confession with a Gestapo agent posing as a priest, the aftermath of an Allied bombing raid and Erickson's final leg to freedom aboard a Danish fishing boat.
"Strange...You can read about a hundred atrocities, hear about a thousand, but you only have to see one," a shaken Baron von Oldenburg comments after witnessing the random hanging of a conscripted Pole by the Nazis.