All the world war’s a stage: Garbo the Spy ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo in 2010)

WW2 espionage buffs won’t want to miss Garbo the Spy, an absorbing documentary about a Spanish double agent who arguably changed the course of the war in one brilliant play. In 1944, he managed to convince the Germans (who thought he was working for them) that the D-Day landings were merely a diversionary exercise (the Nazis may have otherwise thrown even more weight behind the defense of their crucial Normandy beachheads).

It’s a fascinating tale of an enigmatic and unlikely hero, who one interviewee calls “one of the greatest actors” who ever lived (at one point, he had 22 “operatives” working for him-all creations of his own imagination, and juggled so masterfully and convincingly that his German employers truly believed that they were an actual consortium of intelligence gatherers). Director Edmon Roch uses a clever device, weaving in footage from classic WW2 espionage thrillers to put events in context. One bit of footage (from the 80s) showing a choked-up “Garbo” visiting the U.S. cemetery in Normandy, is a moving tribute to the great sacrifices made on those beaches.

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