Conspiracy (1939 film)

Conspiracy is a 1939 American spy drama film directed by Lew Landers, from a screenplay by Jerome Chodorov, based on the story, "Salute to Hate", by John McCarthy and Faith Thomas. The film stars Allan Lane, Linda Hayes, and Robert Barrat, and was produced and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, who premiered the film in New York City on August 23, 1939, with a general release on September 1.

Theatrical poster for the film
Directed byLew Landers
Produced byCliff Reid
Screenplay byJerome Chodorov
Story byJohn P. McCarthy
Faith Thomas
StarringAllan Lane
Linda Hayes
Robert Barrat
Music byFrank Tours (director)
Roy Webb (score)
CinematographyFrank Redman
Edited byGeorge Hively
Release date
  • August 23, 1939 (1939-08-23) (Premiere-New York City)[1]
  • September 1, 1939 (1939-09-01) (US)[1]
Running time
59 minutes
CountryUnited States


Steve Kendall is an American telegraph operator aboard a cargo ship. He inadvertently discovers that his ship is carrying contraband arms, when a revolutionary agent forces him to send a message to the revolutionaries ashore. When the secret police catch him catch the two together, the revolutionary flees, but is shot dead as he attempts to jump overboard. Seeing the two of them together, the police mistakenly believe Kendall to be in league with the local revolutionaries. Nearing port, Kendall dives overboard and swims to ashore in a foreign country. Being chased by the militia and police, he winds up meeting a local member of the revolutionary party, Nedra. It is discovered that Nedra was the sister of the man killed by the police on the boat, and Nedra's group had been planning to hijack the illegal arms which Kendall's ship was carrying. Nedra introduces Kendall to Tio, an American expatriate who runs a local dance hall. Tio agrees to hide him in the basement of the hall, while Nedra tries to figure a way to smuggle Kendall out of the country.

Eventually Nedra arranges transport for Kendall on a steamship heading north, but before he can make good his escape, the police descend on Tio's, forcing not only Kendall to flee, but Tio and his friend, Studs, as well. The police chase them via speedboat, heading them off at the steamship. The group heads back to land, where Tio radios a call for help. After a gunfight, the foursome escape via seaplane to the United States, where, after they arrive, Nedra tearfully lets them know that she has to go back and help her comrades in their fight for freedom.


(cast list as per AFI database)[1]


In March 1939, RKO purchased the story, Salute to Hate by Faith Thomas. It was originally meant to star Anne Wilson and John McCarthy.[2] In April, RKO made the decision to change the name of the film from Salute to Hate to Conspiracy.[3] In June it was announced that Allan Lane and Linda Hayes would be headlining the picture, with Lew Landers handling the directing reins, and Cliff Reid the producing chores.[4] It was Hayes first starring role; she had been discovered when she won the 1938 Gateway to Hollywood contest, a nationwide talent search sponsored by producer Jesse Lasky.[5] The film was in production by the end of June, 1939,[1][6] and had wrapped filming by July 14.[7] It was announced that Robert Barrat, Charley Foy, J. Farrell MacDonald, Lionel Royce, Lester Matthews, and Solly Ward were also in the cast.[8] with a general opening nationwide on September 1.[1] The film premiered at the Rialto Theater in New York City on August 23, 1939,[9] with a general opening nationwide on September 1.[1]

Prior to its opening, the Motion Picture Herald would be a socially significant film, casting light on the practices of the secret police organizations in countries controlled by dictators.[10] In August, Conspiracy was given a class A-1 rating by the National Legion of Decency, labeling it unobjectionable for general audiences.[11]


The Film Daily gave the film a mixed review. They felt the plot was confusing and muddled, but enjoyed the action and pacing. They also highlighted the acting abilities of Allan Lane and Linda Hayes.[12] Harrison's Reports was somewhat more positive. While they did have an issue with the believability of the plot, they felt that was overshadowed by the action and the pacing.[13] The Motion Picture Herald was not kind to the picture, which called the confusing plot "disastrous". They also said that the production and direction, by Reid and Landers respectively, "may have had in mind all the serials ever produced", leading to such confusion among the audience viewers that there was no hope of recovery.[14]


  1. "Conspiracy: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on September 21, 2015. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  2. "Story Inventory for '40 Programs Increased by 55 Books and Plays". Motion Picture Herald. March 18, 1939. p. 14. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  3. "Title Changes". Variety. April 5, 1939. p. 21. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  4. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. June 26, 1939. p. 7. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  5. "Linda Hayes, Alan Lane Preem in RKO Flicker". Variety. June 21, 1939. p. 25. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  6. "50 Pix Shooting, Seven More Starting This Week". The Film Daily. July 5, 1939. p. 8. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  7. "Purely Personal". Motion Picture Daily. July 14, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  8. "The Hollywood Scene". Motion Picture Herald. July 1, 1939. p. 36. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  9. "The Broadway Parade". The Film Daily. August 22, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  10. "In The Cutting Room: Conspiracy". Motion Picture Herald. July 29, 1939. p. 47. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  11. "Legion Approves 7 of Nine new films". Motion Picture Daily. August 29, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  12. "Reviews of the New Films: "Conspiracy"". The Film Daily. September 5, 1939. p. 6. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  13. ""Conspiracy" with Allan Lane and Linda Hayes". Harrison's Reports. September 2, 1939. p. 138. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  14. "Showmen's Reviews: Conspiracy". Motion Picture Herald. August 26, 1939. p. 56. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
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