Wednesday, April 02, 2014
"Garbo, the Spy, the Man Who Saved the World", interesting Spanish documentary about a contemporary of Turing
“Garbo, The Spy: The Man Who Saved the World” (2009, “Garbo, el Espia, el hombre que salvo del mundo”) by Edmon Roch) is a captivating docudrama, and biography of Juan Pujol Garcia, the Catalan (Barcelona, 1912) born double-agent whose little known work may have made the success at D-Day during World War II possible.
His role may well have been as important as that of Alan Turing (see Nov. 19, 2013 and the blog label). He feigned a disappearance to Angola after the war, and wound up living and few decades in Venezuela, despite having his war wealth confiscated by socialism. He married twice, had kids, and was treated much better than Turing, whose place in history he should share on about the same level. That is, both men changed it. Had either one of them not lived, the rest of us might not be around today.
In fact, he was rather like Turing in terms of personality, quite intellectual, quite calculating, and able to remain distant from people when he needed to. He could also work an ordinary office job and fit in, and maintain a cover. (Sometimes sexual orientation really does seem separate from everything else.) A fictional character who fits the mold is Revenge’s Nolan Ross – the same sort of person.
Having bounced around in Spain and lucked out when he tried to defect to Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and then hid out in Lisbon (I was there myself in 2001), he took a job in Germany being taught to become a spy. That sounds like a strange concept. But he wound up living in Britain and then working with the Union Jack (let’s hope it stays together), feeding the Germans slightly misleading information about D-Day, that is, that the Allies really planned to attack Calais (and more or less around the Jersey Island). That kept the Nazis deflected long enough that they never got around to containing Ike’s invasion. By the way, I did visit the beach near Bayeux myself in 1999.
The film has an interesting style, mixing acted scenes (like a History Channel documentary) with old news reels and a variety of period music, some of it deliberately gurgled. It starts out with Dwight Eisenhower saying “Teamwork wins wars”. There is a lot of discussion about what a "real spy" does. Most of the time, a spy never uses a weapon.
The official site (Ikiru films) is here. First Run Features handled the US release in 2011. Netflix offers the film on instant play to subscribers only until April 17. I don’t know why online availability stops then; it should become a DVD, too.
The character has no relation to Greta Garbo, the actress in “Camille” (1936). I remember the headlines in the 1950s, “Garbo is back”.