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I Was an American Spy

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Director  Lesley Selander
Music director  Edward J. Kay
Language  English
6.6/10 IMDb

Genre  Biography, Drama, War
Country  United States
I Was an American Spy movie poster
Writer  Claire Phillips, Myron B. Goldsmith
Release date  1951
Story by  Claire Phillips, Myron B. Goldsmith
Cast  Ann Dvorak (Mrs. Claire 'High Pockets' Phillips), Gene Evans (Cpl. John Boone), Douglas Kennedy (Sgt. John Phillips), Richard Loo (Col. Masamato)
Similar movies  Related Lesley Selander movies
Tagline  Based on the Reader's Digest sensation that gripped the heart of the nation!

I Was An American Spy is a 1951 film dramatizing the true story of Claire Phillips, an American of Filipino descent who spied on the Japanese during World War II, and was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death before being rescued. The film, produced by Allied Artists and directed by Lesley Selander, starred Ann Dvorak in the title role. The filmmakers brought Phillips on as a consultant, and she and Dvorak became good friends, with Phillips admiring Dvorak's professional dedication in this difficult role.


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Claire Fuentes is an American-born Filipina living in Manila and working as a cafe entertainer on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She meets and marries an American soldier, Sgt. John Phillips (Douglas Kennedy), and with her husband, witnesses the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during the siege of Bataan. Her husband is captured, and she watches as he is killed by machine gun fire in the Bataan Death March after he defies the order of a cruel Japanese soldier not to drink from typhoid contaminated water. In retaliation, Phillips uses a handgun to shoot and kill a Japanese soldier. She then joins the anti-Japanese resistance, and in order to obtain intelligence to send back to the United States, she opens a nightclub catering to Japanese officers. Phillips is code named "High Pockets" for her habit of stashing items in her brassiere. She successfully passes useful intelligence on to the American forces and the Filipino underground, but is then discovered, imprisoned, and water tortured by the Japanese. Sentenced to death, she is rescued in the nick of time by American soldiers (one of whom is Cpl. John Boone (Gene Evans)) who storm Bilibid Prison, killing the Japanese guards. In 1951, she is awarded the Medal of Freedom on the recommendation of General Douglas MacArthur.


  • Ann Dvorak as Claire "High Pockets" Phillips
  • Gene Evans as Cpl. John Boone
  • Douglas Kennedy as Sgt. John Phillips
  • Richard Loo as Col. Masanoto
  • Leon Lontok as Pacio
  • Chabin as Lolita
  • Philip Ahn as Capt. Arito
  • Reception

    Unfortunately for the studio, the relatively low-budget film fell flat with critics, with The New York Times writing that it "isn't especially stimulating either as a narrative or as a tribute to personal courage." Hal Erickson noted in AllMovie, however, that the film "handles its more brutal scenes with a marked degree of tastefulness".


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    Similar Topics
    Ann Dvorak
    Claire Phillips
    Gene Evans