Operator 13 is a 1934 American romance film directed by Richard Boleslawski
and starring Marion Davies, Gary Cooper, and Jean Parker.
Based on stories written by Robert W. Chambers, the film is about a Union spy
who impersonates a black maid in the early days of the Civil War,
but complications arise when she falls in love with a Confederate officer.
The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography
Marion Davies' Last MGM Film
29 November 2007 | by drednm
Marion Davies plays an actress recruited by the Union Army during the Civil War to be a spy. Gary Cooper plays an officer in the Confederate Army who is a spy in the north. Through a series of events they meet, but he doesn't quite know if she is a spy or not.
Davies' initial disguise is as a Black maid (she has fun with the accent and looks great in the black wig), but when her "mistress" (another actress from the north working as a spy) is discovered, she bails the South only to return as a famous northern sympathizer of the Confederate cause. Back in the South, she again meets Cooper.
Implausible story is made interesting by solid performances by the leads and some good cinematography (Oscar nominated). The battle scene montages are OK, but the ending seems choppy and hurried. Still, Davies looks great.
Big supporting cast includes Katherine Alexander (as a spy), Jean Parker and Henry Wadsworth (as young lovers), Sidney Toler, Douglas Dumbrille, Marjorie Gateson, Sterling Holloway, Clarence Wilson, Ted Healy, Robert McWade, and silent film villain Walter Long (as Operator 55).
Davies sings "Once in a Lifetime" and "The Colonel, Major and the Captain." The terrific Mills Brothers show up in a minstrel show and sing a few songs and are especially good with "Sleepy Head" and "Jungle Fever." There's a stunning scene where Davies is sitting on a staircase and crying; the long scene is shot from below looking up at her face. Another nice scene is with Davies on a huge swing, being pushed by Cooper.
After this film, Davies left MGM and moved to Warners, where she made four more films before retiring.