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The Secret Game (1917)

During the Great War, German and Japanese spies face off in the United States.


Marion Fairfax (scenario), Marion Fairfax (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview:
Sessue Hayakawa ... Nara-Nara
Jack Holt ... Maj. John Northfield
Florence Vidor ... Kitty Little
Mayme Kelso ... Miss Loring
Raymond Hatton ... Mr. Harris
Charles Ogle ... Dr. Ebell Smith


Dr. Ebell Smith, whose real name is Schmidt, is a German secret agent working on the west coast of the USA. One of his associates is Kitty Little, a young woman who idealizes both Germany and her brother, who is in the Kaiser's army. They have been obtaining American military secrets through their contact with Major Northfield, who is in charge of a quartermaster depot. Nara-Nara, a young man serving in the secret service of Japan, which is allied with the USA, knows that there is a security leak in Northfield's office. An important troop transport order is soon to come through, and Smith abducts Northfield's secretary so that Kitty can take her place. Meanwhile, Nara-Nara sets up an office as an importer next to Northfield's office, in hopes of learning how the Germans are obtaining their information. Written by Snow Leopard

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Release Date:

3 December 1917 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Spionen See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Featured in The Slanted Screen (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

A Too Little Known Silent Gem That Freezes History
11 July 2004 | by lawprofSee all my reviews

Imagine a Japanese diplomat solemnly intoning to his young secret agent that their country's honor depended on being able to protect American warships and troop ships as they traversed the Pacific. Not exactly what most of conjure up when we remember relations in that part of the world between our countries.

But in 1917 Japan and the U.S. were on the same side, fighting the Central Powers. In "The Secret Game" the U.S. is planning a master stroke attack against Germany and Austria-Hungary through Russia and our ships will cross the Pacific to Vladivostok. No such plan was ever envisaged but its the center of the plot here.

Young Sessue Hayakawa, born to a military family in Japan, is Nara-Nara, the secret agent. How anyone came up with that idiotic name is lost to history. Hayakawa, masquerading as a curios dealer in, essentially, cheap trinkets, is out to uncover a German spy ring.

An evil man runs the spy operation but his chief agent is lovely Kitty Little, played by the very busy and beautiful silent film actress Florence Vidor (she didn't make it to success in the talkies). Kitty is to seduce, Platonically of course, MAJ John Northfield, acted by Jack Holt. Surprise: they actually fall in love.

How can so lovely a woman be in the service of our evil foes? Don't worry-she sees the light and comes to her comely senses.

Hayakawa is effective as a man with strong morals and deep conviction whose usually impeccable behavior lapses through an all-too-common human failing. He redeems himself melodramatically.

Particularly interesting is that a black character is portrayed without any racial denigration and Hayakawa himself is emblematically Japanese without any crude stereotyping. Hayakawa, by the way, devoted much time during World War I to raising money for bonds in the U.S. He had a long career. Ironically his most remembered role for which he was Oscar-nominated was as the Japanese World War II prisoner-of-war camp commander in "The Bridge Over the River Kwai."

This is a small gem from the glory days of the silents. Very worth seeing.


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