The world of espionage is filled with many secrets, and no one truly knows who is who in that area. Your next door neighbor could be a spook on a case, or your local grocer could be an ex-foreign agent on the run from some secret organization bent on world domination. The cold war may be over, but the spy game continues on and with it comes revelations of the past from the secret files of covert agencies all over the world. I mean at some point everyone’s secrets tend to surface and with international men and women of mystery this definitely also applies.
At some point, most classified secrets become public revealing all kinds of crazy things. This includes some famous people that also had secret lives as agents. That’s right, several very well known celebrities throughout history have had to play the part of a spy in the real world. Of all the talents these famous folks brought to the table that entertained fans for years on end were also tricking the enemy into spilling some valuable information. Many actors have played James Bond, but these ten celebrities that also happened to be spies will absolutely blow your minds.
A lot of famous actors have secrets. Even back when Hollywood seemed like it was all glitz and glamour, the most decadent of performers had their skeletons, some good and some bad, and some were involved in espionage. One of which was only a secret agent behind the camera, although he almost played the part on the big screen. Carey Grant almost joined the exclusive list of actors that have portrayed the international spy James Bond. Names like Connery, Dalton, Moore, Brosnan, and Craig are all synonymous with the role, and like the franchise will never die.
Grant isn’t on this list but is part go a group of real spies whose names are kept out of the history books. The handsome box office draw of the ’30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s was an actual secret agent man. That is correct. Grant apparently worked for the FBI giving them information on his then-wife, Barbara Hutton. This has been talked about in several biographies, most recently in the 2005 biography written by Marc Eliot. Unlike James Bond, Grant wasn’t using jet packs to take down insane super-villains, he was just spying on the Nazi’s.
Movies have an exciting way of blowing people’s cover but in a good way. Sometimes it takes a great performance from one of the games most beloved performers to truly get that message across, that this happened and this person defied the odds. What is even more impressive is when its someone people never saw coming. Paul Rudd became a household name from playing a superhero in the MCU. But he also played an infamous super spy. The Catcher Was a Spy has the actor portraying real-life Boston Red Sox All-Star Moe Berg.
The decorated catcher had several distinguished degrees and was smarter than the average ballplayer. He used his athletic position to get around the world and spied on a German physicist to see if he was creating an atomic bomb. In 1944 Berg built a relationship with Heisenberg to determine if the fate of the world was at stake. In the end, his workings greatly assisted the US in their efforts to prevent a disaster. Nothing gets passed Red Sox Catcher Moe Berg.
When people write about things, they usually get most of their material from things they know. A lot of elements are stretched out, and the imagination has a strong impact on the final product. But the essence of every written word comes from some form of experience, be it firsthand or pretty close to. So to find out one of the best authors of the world’s most famous international super sleuth was actually one himself seems like it must be a piece of fiction. Everyone knows Ian Fleming as the man that created 007. The man with a license to kill who famously loves his martinis shaken not stirred has the been the standard for what spies should look like on screen.
But before he penned all his James Bond novels, he actually was a spy himself of sorts. Before he was author Fleming, he was Commander Fleming and the man responsible for creating the top-secret British commando Unit AU 30. They were specifically formed to gather intelligence. It’s hard to determine exactly what parts of Fleming’s spy career are used in the creation of Bond but its probably safe to say what is being embellished. Either way, no one should go as far as to say the secret agent stories are based on true events, but knowing the source of Intel makes these narratives all the more enjoyable.
According to the biographical works titled Garbo, Conversations with Greta Garbo, and Greta Garbo: A Life Apart, the famous actress was also a secret spy. A British spy chief by the name of William Stephenson confirmed that Garbo revealed important Nazi collaborators in Stockholm to agents working for the British. Author Charles Higham examined somewhere near a thousand or so declassified government files to learn more. These records stated that in 1939 Garbo got involved with the British secret service through director Alexander Korda. Korda was known for recruiting celebrities to the war effort.
In working for Korda, the talented performer reportedly served as a liaison for the British to a shipping magnate named Axel Johnson as well as other members of the Swedish royal family. Good old Greta was also credited with assisting in the release of the physicist known as Niels Bohr from occupied Denmark to the US, where he would go on to work on the infamous Manhattan Project. She certainly played her part the way the director wanted her too as she was known to do so well throughout her illustrious career, both in the shadows and on screen.
The agencies surrounded in covert operations are always on the lookout for those who have the special abilities needed to survive in the shady world of espionage. Being one of the best escape individuals the world has ever seen, Harry Houdini apparently fits the profile when filling out a secret agencies recruitment checklist. The Jack Lyden book titled The Secret Life of Houdini has many things coming out that escaped fans of the one-man spectacle. Besides being an elusive trickster and cunning escape artist, he was also an apparent seasoned spy.
The famous Hungarian-American illusionist’s skills caught the eye of the watchful folks at good old Scotland Yard as well as the boys from the American Secret Service. The latter of which asked his Houdini-ness to infiltrate Russian police stations and to extract intelligence for them. The information he ended up collecting from local law enforcement was very valuable and was easily obtained using his regularly scheduled tours as cover. The legendary stunt performer working as a spy for both the US and Great Britain is one of the most unbelievable things about a man who lived his life doing incredible things so that means that it should be believable he would be an unbelievable secret agent.
Before Julia Child taught the world how to cook some truly delicious food, she apparently was a spy working for none other than the CIA. While you’d assume she was working the mess hall or training undercover caterers before they go into a deep state for some anti-American organization, you’d be incorrect. The famous chef was hired for her clerical skills in the summer of 1942 with the intelligence agency. The personnel records show that after this Ms. Child worked directly for the OSS Director, whom at the time was William Donovan.
Her first duties for the agency took place in the nation’s capital Washington D.C. Then it would soon see her off around the world to Sri Lanka and China, this time as Chief of the OSS Registry. She worked as an intelligence officer during the war which saw her coordinating information to the Allies. Julia Child had a recipe for how she could serve her country, and she executed her duties in the world of espionage as well as she performed her duties in the kitchen.
Author’s tend to live exciting lives. But those that wrote for children are known for just having a vast imagination with a rather dull life. Roald Dahl lived anything but an ordinary life and apparently had a secret identity. The man is known throughout the literary world as a popular wordsmith, specializing in children’s books. What most people do not know about good old Dahl is that he spent several years as a spy for the British during the events of the Second World War. Roald was a pilot in the British Royal Air Force during World War II.
After a terrible crash in 1942 that rendered him unable to perform his duties he was moved to Washington. His next assignment was to use his Bond-esque good looks and potent charm to obtain access to some of the most powerful figures in the United States’ political atmosphere. The known scribe was among an elite group of informants known within appropriate circles as the “Baker Street Irregulars.” Who knew this impactful writer was also an international man of mystery on the side.
When a guy has ties to the president, the mafia, as well as a popular music career, being a member of the elite world of espionage is not something one would expect be added to the resume. And if one were to wager on that one would lose. The one and only Frank Sinatra played a lot of different roles and sang some really catchy tunes. But he was also an international man of mystery. In a book written by his daughter Tina, it reveals that Sinatra had ties to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Apparently, the infamous performer worked as a courier for the agency. His fame and control over his own airfare made him a prime asset for this endeavor. He could move people like diplomats and just say they were part of his entourage. This guy was always around people, so this doesn’t sound as crazy as some of the other accusations that have been placed at Sinatra’s feet.
In an illustrious moviemaking career that spanned more than half a century, John Ford was a man that directed over 140 motion pictures. This auteur of cinema is widely considered one of the most influential visual artists of his generation. He received an impressive total of 6 Academy Awards. But one thing that is left off of his legendary resume is that he worked for the Office for Strategic Services during the Second World War. The OSS for short was the precursor agency to what people know today as the Central Intelligence Agency aka the CIA.
Ford was rightfully placed at the head of the photographic unit for the organization, which makes a lot of sense given his extensive background in that field. At the helm of this division, the man himself pioneered such revolutionary aerial camera techniques that went on to save many lives as well as some that pushed the very medium of film in bold new directions. This cinematic powerhouse directed many of America’s wartime films of propaganda. He even filmed the historic landing at D-Day. He also told the agency about a suspected presence of enemy Japanese located close to the coastal areas of Baja. His direction and vision were a reliable asset for those who keep the country safe while its citizens sleep.
No one probably ever suspected that the husky-voiced diva named Marlene Dietrich was in actuality a spy. Dietrich had left behind Nazi Germany in favor of the United States of America. She was, however, long considered to be a spy from her adopted homeland embedded in our country for terrible deeds. According to declassified FBI files, this was a factor that made her a person of interest from the likes of the one and only J. Edgar Hoover.
Despite this, she somewhat succeeded in disputing these false allegations of when she gave proof of her loyalty to the United States by becoming a spy for America in February of 1944. The thing that is strange and continues to prove the theory that her double life was extremely vast in length is the fact that an ample portion of this file had mysteriously vanished conveniently just before these records were to be made available to the public.