Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

T-Men (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

T-Men (1947)

In B-film director Anthony Mann's low-budget, semi-documentary crime thriller-melodrama with exceptional chiaroscuro visuals and high-contrast B/W cinematography by John Alton - the hard-edged film was based on a story by American film writer Virginia Kellogg and written by John C. Higgins. Kellogg was noted for other stories that were adapted into great film noirs, including White Heat (1949) and Caged (1950).

T-Men was an abbreviated term for tough-guy "feds" -- US Treasury Department federal agents who often went undercover to apprehend the rotten cores of counterfeiting rings, bootlegging and smuggling operations. An authoritarian-sounding, knowledgeable off-screen Narrator (Reed Hadley) provided an intrusive, running newsreel-like commentary to enhance an understanding of the circumstances, and to laud the agents for their exemplary heroism and work. However, the roles of hoodlums that the two undercover agents assumed underscored the thin and blurred line that divided the good guys from the bad guys.

The seminal "docu-noir" film was presented as a realistic, propagandistic government police procedural case by undercover agents tasked with stemming the flood of authentic-looking counterfeited money released into the general currency. It was exceptional for its dark, decadent and sinister visual images of a subterranean and corrupt underworld of crime, violence, and brutality, with locales including isolated back-streets, crumbling tenement buildings, seedy nightclubs and hotels, mobster palaces, docks with rusted-out steamships, shady business offices, and more (even steam baths!).

Mann's film was remade by director Sam Wanamaker as The File of the Golden Goose (1969) starring Yul Brynner and Edward Woodward as the two agents (US and Scotland Yard) infiltrating a counterfeiting ring in London. Its tagline was: "TERRIFIC...and TRUE! The Screen-Searing Story of the Treasury's Tough Guys!"

  • in the film's "official" mock-documentary opening, the Treasury Department's seal was the backdrop as the title and cast credits were presented; there were travelogue-styled, panoramic views of Washington DC, before the camera stationed itself in front of the United States Treasury Department
  • a monologue was delivered from a prepared written statement by Elmer Lincoln Irey (as Himself) - the retired ex-Chief Coordinator of the Department's six law enforcement agencies ("shock troops"); he explained how the film's case against crime was a composite from the Treasury's files, known as the "Shanghai Paper" case, to illustrate for the audence "how the agents work and how the units cooperate" as they dangerously go deep undercover
  • the noir opened in a dark industrial alleyway in Los Angeles, CA (off Santa Monica Blvd.) where Secret Service Agent Nesbitt (Victor Cutler) was about to meet an informant, a Skid Row wino named Shorty (Curt Conway), who was expecting to be paid $500 for providing a "clean paper sample" of counterfeit paper; however, Shorty was shot dead with a .38 by a cruel, hit-man gang mobster named Moxie (Charles McGraw) and the evidence was stolen
  • in the local Secret Service Office in a downtown LA Federal Building, Agent Nesbitt reported back to his superior; they discussed how Nesbitt's cover must have been blown, and how they had hit a "dead end" in the continuing investigation
  • in a US Treasury Department office in Washington DC, further discussion with Chief Carson (Herbert Heyes) took place about how to confront the unordinary and deadly "gang of counterfeiters...a tough, tight outfit!" that had ties to mobs operating throughout the country; it was deduced that the mob was running a large-scale counterfeiting operation (of both fake currency and phony alcohol tax stamps), and the way to approach the widespread gang was to first go undercover and infiltrate the Vantucci mob in Detroit - "Detour to Detroit to crack a Los Angeles setup"
  • two skilled, hard-working and dedicated Treasury agents (who could pass as mobsters, and had some knowledge of Italian) were summoned to work the case:
    • Dennis O'Brien (Dennis O'Keefe), a 9 year unmarried veteran of the agency
    • Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder), newly-hired, with a new bride Mary Bennett (June Lockhart) who lived in San Francisco; he spoke fluent Italian; O'Brien reminded him: "You've been divorced for reasons of duty"
  • the two agents were instructed to go to Detroit, and slowly "start at the bottom and work up step-by-step" - gathering knowledge through the chain of command to locate and apprehend the highest levels of the organization
  • in Detroit, the agents began to follow orders for the first phase of their efficient investigation: "They had to know all the answers! Failure to do so would mean a bad grade later on - in the shape of a bullet or an icepick" - they tediously researched the local crime element and the history of the Vantucci gang that was using counterfeit revenue stamps for highjacked liquor, to establish their credentials for the job
  • the two agents also chose to adopt a reliable and credible background story for themselves as the sole surviving members of the defunct River Gang after a gang robbery massacre; they took fake names while undercover - Vannie Harrigan and Tony Galvani respectively; the two staked out the notorious Forinzi Hotel ("a rundown hideout for criminals") with its Italian proprietor Pasquale (Tito Vuolo) and signed in with aliases Jones and Smith; as part of their plan, a detective of the Detroit Robbery Squad arrived to inquire about two robbery suspects named Harrigan and Galvani, and "true to his unsavory reputation," Pasquale denied knowing them; as a result: "Pasquale was sold on them"
  • Pasquale referred them to his friend, local crime boss Vantucci who ran the Catania Produce Co. warehouse as a front for his dealings in hijacked liquor and counterfeit Internal Revenue stamps; they met with gang leader Carlo Vantucci (Anton Kosta), who attempted to check them out by testing them on their backgrounds with incorrect facts; he hired them after they passed the test ("Maybe I can use you")

The Two Agents Outside Produce Co.

The Two Agents Interviewed and Hired by Vantucci (Anton Kosta)
  • during their work shift, they heard about a character named "The Schemer" - the counterfeit ring's middleman located on the West Coast (in Los Angeles); they were very meticulous: ("...every angle, however slight, must be carefully checked"); from The Schemer's discarded work clothes-overalls, the FBI crime lab in DC determined facts about his appearance and preferences: about 50 years of age with gray hair, 5 Foot 9 Inches, slightly stout, 180 lbs. in weight, smoked strong cigars, and used Chinese health herbs (Dragon Liver Herb Preparation); also he had a scar on his left shoulder from a knife wound
  • for the second major phase of the case, Agent O'Brien immediately left for Los Angeles to stake out and pursue The Schemer; however, back in Vantucci's warehouse, Tony Galvani was roughed up when he refused to tell where his partner Harrigan had disappeared to: ("Could be a fast double-cross"), but then he was praised for not snitching ("You don't talk easy")
  • in LA's Old Chinatown (near the LA train station), O'Brien's lead on the Chinese herbs revealed that The Schemer often visited a steam bath; after a tedious ten days of searching, O'Brien finally located a probable suspect in a steam bath (with a scar wound and indulging in Chinese herbs), and followed him back to his second-floor Apt. # 212; he would keep him under "constant surveillance" as his "shadow"
  • with his superiors in LA, including local Treasury chief Gregg (Art Smith), O'Brien was given two hand-engraved counterfeit plates (the front and back plates) and a counterfeit note; he was also assigned a new local contact named Agent Lindsay (Jim Bannon), a former colleague
  • O'Brien followed the Schemer to an LA hotel in Ocean Park, and was able to bluff his way into entering an illegal craps game in a backroom; after betting with his one fake bill, ("phony dough" used as a "calling card"), he was caught passing the bill by the Schemer; after O'Brien recovered his fake bill, he was beaten up in the wash room, and discarded into an alleyway where he was almost hit by a speeding car
Backroom Craps Game in LA Hotel - One of the Participants was the Schemer, Who Detected O'Brien's Phony Bill
  • O'Brien followed the Schemer back to his apartment and assaulted him for shaking him down in the game; the Schemer at first thought O'Brien was Moxie - the mobster who had killed the informant in the opening sequence; O'Brien claimed he had better quality bills manufactured with exceptional hand-engraved plates: ("Pretty, ain't it?"), but admitted they were printed on inferior stock paper, unlike the mobsters' counterfeit bills that were printed on quality paper - possibly cheaply imported from China; O'Brien's plan was to entice the gang to produce higher-quality bills with his superior plates used as bait; the Schemer succinctly explained: ("We got the good paper. You got the good plates"); the Schemer agreed to talk to his higher-ups for possible collaboration, and took half of the torn-up bill with him
  • O'Brien followed the Schemer to Club Trinidad in Ocean Park, where in a tense sequence, O'Brien hid in a phone booth (with reflective glass) as he surveilled the Schemer seated at one of the tables, making contact with the club's sexy photographer Evangeline (Mary Meade); after the Schemer left, O'Brien also flirted with Evangeline who offered to take his picture - she was stunned by his unusually-folded paper money payment (the phony bill), similar to the one the Schemer had given her
In Club Trinidad: the Schemer Sat at a Table With O'Brien Hiding in a Phone Booth, And Then O'Brien Flirted With the Club Photographer Evangeline
  • at the West Coast Camera Center the next day, O'Brien watched from the nearby Hollywood Ice Cream Co. as Evangeline entered the photo lab store to show the photo developer the counterfeit bill that was handed to her by O'Brien (it was folded similarly to the way that Schemer had paid for his photo with a "phony bill" when he was photographed); the photo developer - a counterfeiter technician with thick black glasses named Paul Miller (William Malten) surmised: "He's either a Treasury Agent (or a T-Man!) or he works for some rival outfit"
  • when O'Brien returned to his hotel apartment (with a blinking neon HOTEL light) that evening, he was seized and brutally beaten up by two gangsters awaiting him, Moxie and Brownie (Jack Overman); the two were undoubtedly sent by the Schemer; Moxie wanted to know his "game" and learn about his "little trick of folding money a certain way"; O'Brien claimed he had been vetted by Vantucci's gang in Detroit, and was not a T-Man
  • after being closely guarded by the mobsters, O'Brien was eventually taken to an exclusive gangster's home in Beverly Hills to meet Mr. 'Shiv' Triano (John Wengraf), the Schemer's boss; during a game of pool, O'Brien proposed a partnership merger: ("I've got a set of top plates and you've got good paper...And a distributing setup. I thought we might get together"); Triano refused to cooperate: ("We are happy the way we are"), but was intrigued and wanted to see the plates; O'Brien claimed his buddy Tony had the plates in Detroit and would bring them if requested, but then he also suggested he might set up his own operation: ("I setup my own push")
  • after O'Brien left, Triano called Vantucci (to have him vouch for them) and had Tony promptly sent out to Los Angeles; Tony wrongly thought that O'Brien had sent for him; in O'Brien's hotel lounge, 'Shiv' ushered in his counterfeiting technician Paul Miller who was there to provide his expertise on the deal; O'Brien bargained to be provided with the gang's superior paper and then promised to produce a "sample note" in the next day or so
  • a crime lab in Washington DC analyzed the gang's paper composition and concluded it was made in China: "It's amazingly close to official banknote paper. Composition is 40% linen, 45% cotton. Long-staple Egyptian. And 5% rice paper....The 3rd component, though, is a shrinking agent used by Chinese paper makers"; an alert was issued by Chief Carson to all Pacific Coast shipping districts to check on imports of paper from Chinese ports
  • O'Brien was pleased with their progress with the gang, but was planning to only give Triano the back engraving plate, and keep the front one: "This face plate's gonna be our ace. Got to hang onto this baby until we're sure we're at the top! Find their plant and we're ready to raid"; in a meeting with the counterfeiter-technician Paul Miller and Triano, O'Brien listened as the gang members approved of the reproduction's quality: "With our paper and these plates, we're in!", but O'Brien refused to give them the front plate until he could meet their upper-echelon boss: "I come up with the face plate when I meet your boss and talk my deal"
  • O'Brien and Tony created doubts in the Schemer's uneasy mind about his shaky standing with the other racketeers; the Schemer retreated to a steam bath where Tony joined him and toyed with him to reinforce Schemer's fears: ("I don't know when it's coming to you or where. You lost the lottery, Schemer"); the Schemer claimed that he "got an Ace" to protect himself ("I'll scheme out of it"); the duplicitous Schemer also proposed an alternative - together, they should set up their own independent counterfeiting operation: ("Let's pull up. Set up our own push somewhere else. You gotta set of good plates!"); he also boasted: "I'm gonna call this 'Mr. Big' and tell him to call off his wolves. Then I blow!"; he divulged that he had a back up 'insurance' policy - a secret and coded "little black book" with documented details about "the top guy in town" that could be used to blackmail the entire illegal organization
  • in a Farmer's Market while Tony was shopping with the Schemer, a friend of Tony's wife named Genevieve (Vivian Austin), who was accompanying Tony's wife Mary Genaro (June Lockhart) from San Francisco, spoke up and identified Tony as she attempted to speak to him. Tony pretended that he wasn't married and was unfamiliar with her or his wife; Mary was wise enough to play along (and ended up tearful) and say that he was mistaken, although Schemer became very suspicious and wary

Tony Recognized by His Wife's Friend Genevieve (Vivian Austin)

The Very Skeptical and Wary Schemer

Tony's Wife Mary Genaro (June Lockhart)

Tony Genaro - Caught in a Difficult Situation
  • in the next scene, O'Brien was ushered in to meet the second in command in the organization - the pretty Miss Diana Simpson (Jane Randolph); she stated that the real Chief had just arrived in town from China aboard the liner, Mariposa, plus there was a shipment of paper that was concealed as wrapping for a lot of Chinese antiques; in private, she ordered "Shiv" to "get rid" of Schemer
  • the double-crossing Schemer was confronted by Moxie in a steam bath; realizing that he was doomed to die, Schemer tried to throw Tony under the bus (with his suspicions about Tony having a wife and their betrayal plan): "He's double-crossing you on the plates! Tried to bring me in on the deal" in order to divert attention away from himself; Moxie blocked the Schemer's exit door access and turned up the steam full force; Schemer was literally steamed to death
  • shortly later, 'Shiv' questioned O'Brien about how his pal Tony might be a double-crosser: ("Schemer told Moxie that Tony planned a double-shuffle on the plates"), but O'Brien defended Tony; however, Moxie then reported to 'Shiv' damning evidence that Tony was overheard phoning his wife in San Francisco: ("Tony made a long-distance to 'Frisco. Asked if his wife had returned. Mrs. Mary Genaro"); 'Shiv' realized: "Schemer was not lying!"; surreptitiously, O'Brien warned Tony to get out of town as fast as possible because his cover had been blown; the gang had identified him: "He's a T-Man!"
  • as Tony frantically searched the Schemer's room for his notebook, he found a Check Room claim ticket (for the Hotel Wiltshire) taped behind a dresser-drawer; at that moment, 'Shiv's' gang-members (including O'Brien) ominously entered (seen in a mirror reflection) the apartment room and walked forward (in extreme-closeup); O'Brien was forced to helplessly and impotently stand by and watch as Tony was shot and killed point-blank by Moxie - he had to maintain a stone-faced appearance in order to not reveal that he was also a Federal agent; O'Brien listened to his pal's final self-sacrificial words that covered for him: "And you, Vannie, you're smart. Top-drawer crook. You lived with me and never caught on! Top-drawer crook! Always so sharp, always knew all the angles! Sucker..." O'Brien's eyes dropped down into darkness as he watched his pal Tony fall to the floor
O'Brien and Gang Confronting Tony

Tony's Last Words to O'Brien

O'Brien Watching Tony Drop to the Floor
  • the Narrator provided further commentary: "For this scrap of paper, Agent Genaro had sacrificed his life. O'Brien had to carry on alone"; O'Brien also found the claim check in the Schemer's room (where Tony had previously found it), and was able to pass it on to his contact man Lindsay; the claim check was for Schemer's black book with coded, incriminating information about the gang that was sent to Washington DC to be deciphered: ("The Schemer's coded book, for which Tony gave his life turned out to be a mine of information. The code was a simple one. A transference from English to Greek letters which decoded revealed illegal activities and profits in gambling and liquor, racketeering and especially counterfeiting"); the book's contents were extremely valuable, with proof of the profits being made in illegal activities: "This book is going to give us one of the biggest tax evasion cases since Capone! It's not only a counterfeiting case now. It's something for the Intelligence unit"
  • a teletype machine printed out an alert bulletin about the Shanghai Paper Case, that the gang's inside technician could discredit O'Brien's engraving plates: "Caution all agents. Paul Miller worked with Bauman. Can identify face plate"; a note in O'Brien's room further warned him: "Miller worked with Bauman. Can identify face plate. We will close in on Miller tonight. Get face plate and leave town immediately"
  • O'Brien was cautioned that the Dept. had discovered that Miller knew the head of the ring - August Bauman - and could identify the face plate as coming from a known counterfeiter; the agent was instructed to acquire the face plate and immediately leave town to save his own life
  • in the film's most-celebrated set piece, in the Schemer's hotel room, the face plate was taped under the sink basin in the cramped bathroom; with the camera positioned below O'Brien (on the left) and Moxie (on the right), O'Brien surreptitiously retrieved the hidden plate without arousing Moxie's suspicions, and stuffed it into his pocket
  • Triano arrived and spoke to O'Brien: "The Chief is ready to see you. Have you got the face plate?"; O'Brien claimed he had the face plate, but that it wasn't on his person; he also said that he didn't like the setup: "I don't like this setup, and I don't want any part of it!" when Moxie retorted: "What's the matter? You getting the wim-wams?"; Moxie searched O'Brien's pockets, discovered the face-plate, and confiscated it, and then forcefully ordered O'Brien to accompany the gang to their docked tanker ship (the Hagan) on Pier 181
  • O'Brien realized the gang cleverly kept their counterfeiting presses on the ship itself; after the face plate was handed over to Miss Simpson, she showed it to the Chief; then she reported back that the plate was the work of a notorious counterfeiter: "The Chief thinks this is the work of a known engraver. His name is on the Treasury list"; O'Brien was seized as Miss Simpson announced his fate: "Take him! You're lying!...Sorry, Mr. Harrigan, but we never take chances"; O'Brien defended himself and suggested an alternative second opinion: "One of your own crowd can clear this up. Paul Miller. Your technician. He'd know in a minute if those plates were okay or not"
  • while a heavily-sweating O'Brien was detained at gunpoint by the gang members, Miller was summoned from the photo shop to the dock's tanker ship to verify the plates, not knowing that he was being tailed by other agents; at the docked ship, he carefully inspected the plates, and though he recognized them, he covered for O'Brien (sensing he was a Treasury agent), and spared him: ("Nobody's work I know. It does have a European flavor! I'd say it's okay"); the two took the plate to the counterfeiting presses on board to make a "proof"
  • in private, Miller admitted to O'Brien that he had vouched for him: ("You're a Treasury agent. I knew it the moment I saw that plate. I recognized it! The work of August Baumann. I saw the mark on the seal"); he bargained with O'Brien - in exchange for saving O'Brien's life, Miller wanted clemency and protection in order to testify against the gang as a government witness: "I know the game is over. I turn government witness. I expose everything! I saved you from being killed in there! I saved your life! Let's make a deal, huh?"

Miller Privately to O'Brien: "You're a Treasury agent"

O'Brien Defending Himself Against Moxie

O'Brien Stalking Moxie on Catwalk and Then Collapsing

Moxie's Death on the Deck of the Cargo Ship
  • as Miller offered his deal, Moxie apparently overheard their conversation; Miller was lethally shot in the back from behind by Moxie, and O'Brien was wounded in the arm; the LA Police, the Feds, and the Customs Port patrol all responded to the sounds of the gunshots at the counterfeiters' docked cargo ship on Pier 181, and swarmed onto the tanker; O'Brien was shot multiple times by Moxie as he pursued after him, but then O'Brien (who had taken Miller's gun) had a clear shot and gunned Moxie down, and then collapsed on a narrow catwalk
  • at the same time, the police and other authorities arrived, surrounded the ship, spread out over its deck as they conducted a tear-gas raid, and apprehended the Chief ringleader (off-screen)
  • the film concluded with a long voice-over from the Narrator, as he explained how the Los Angeles gang was defeated, and its associates in Detroit and Shanghai were also arrested; Dennis recovered from multiple gunshot wounds, and Mary Genaro grieved the sacrificial loss of her heroic husband:
    • "Now, the forces of the Treasury struck hard and fast, making simultaneous raids on the Club Trinidad, the West Coast Camera Center, and in Detroit, the Vantucci mob was taken into custody. In Shanghai, Chinese Police made a sudden raid on a paper factory. The mysterious leader of the ring turned out to be Oscar Gaffney, masquerading as a dealer in rare antiques, posing as a philanthropist and civic leader. He is now serving a long term in a Federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Agent O'Brien recovered from serious wounds and is again on duty. And Mrs. Mary Genaro carries in her heart the memory of her husband, Tony, who died in the service of the people of this country."

Introductory Words From the Retired Treasury Department Official Elmer Lincoln Irey (as Himself)

Treasury Agent Dennis O'Brien (Dennis O'Keefe) - alias Vannie Harrigan

Treasury Agent Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) - alias Tony Galvani

In Detroit, O'Brien and Genaro Sifting Through Old Newspaper Archives

The Two Adopting Fake Backgrounds as Surviving River Gang Members

Hotel Proprietor Pasquale (Tito Vuolo) Speaking to Detroit Robbery Squad Detective

Genaro Beaten up in Vantucci's Warehouse

O'Brien Searching LA Streets for The Schemer

Sweating and Searching in LA's Steam Baths

O'Brien Surveilling The Schemer

O'Brien Beaten Up After Passing a Fake Bill

O'Brien Discarded in an Alleyway

O'Brien Seeking Revenge Against the Schemer

The Schemer Inspecting O'Brien's Superior Hand-Engraved Printed Bill (on Cheaper Paper)

O'Brien in Ice Cream Store Staking Out Evangeline

The Camera Store Photo Developer and Counterfeit Technician Paul Miller (William Malten) - With Thick Black Glasses

O'Brien Beaten Up by Moxie and Interrogated In His Hotel Apartment

O'Brien Meeting With 'Shiv' Triano In the Gangster's Home; Afterwards 'Shiv' Phoned Vantucci

Tony in Steam Bath With the Anxious Schemer

One of the Higher-Ups in the Organization - Miss Diana Simpson (Jane Randolph)

(l to r): Miss Simpson, "Shiv," Paul, and O'Brien

Moxie's Murder of Schemer in a Steam Bath

The Schemer's Check Room Claim Check for his Black Book at the Hotel Wiltshire - Found by Tony Just Before His Death

Contents of Schemer's Black Book - Coded Incriminating Information on the Gang

Teletype Alert About Face-Plate Engraver Bauman

Note to O'Brien With Instructions About Retrieving Face-Plate

O'Brien in Cramped Bathroom, Trying to Retrieve Hidden Counterfeiting Face Plate Taped Under Sink

Moxie, Brownie and Triano Forcing O'Brien to Go to the Gang's Docked Ship

O'Brien Accused of Being an T-Man Agent by Miss Simpson

Miller on the Docked Ship Inspecting and OK-ing the Engraving on Plates, as O'Brien Sat Sweating


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z