disguises: Operator 13

Operator 13

Early in the Civil War, after the diasterous Second Battle of Bull Run, performer Gail Loveless (Marion Davies) is recruited to become a spy for the Union. Working under the codename Operator 13 Gail travels to the headquarters of Confederate General Jeb Stuart with her friend and fellow spy Pauline (Katherine Alexander), Operator 27.

Pauline is arrested and Gail is also suspected of being a spy, but when she is brought to testify at Pauline’s trial – still in the guise of Pauline’s black maid – she divulges Pauline’s real identity and says that her mistress ‘turned Yankee’. Pauline is sentenced to death but Gail helps her to escape.

According to the American Film Institute catalog the contemporary Variety review said: ‘Miss Davies is particularly effective as a colored wench, a disguise she simulates in one major chapter as the maid to Katherine Alexander. Her dialect and mannerisms are decidedly effective.’ Then again:

If you can accept blonde, blue-eyed Marion Davies disguising herself in blackface, chances are you’ll swallow the rest of ‘Operator 13’.

However, it is possible that the plot was inspired by the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds claimed to have donned multiple disguises and personas as a Union spy, including a young man, Irish peddler, Southern gentleman and African American laundress

The makeup

No makeup credits were given for this movie.