BrianRxm Coins in Movies 74/131
Mister 880 (1950)
Mister 880 makes counterfeit one dollar bills
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The 1950 Twentieth Century Fox film "Mister 880" is about the infamous 1940's counterfeiter of
one dollar bills and the ten-year search for him by the US Secret Service.
 
There are some references to the US Treasury Department's prohibition on showing real currency in films,
and this film's receipt of special perrmission to show it.
 
The film shows a few coins but is mainly about currency.
 
The film is set in New York City and was based on a New Yorker magazine article.
 
The counterfeiter's nick-name came from the US Treasury Department file on him.
Mister 880
1. Title
 
The United States Secret Service is the main Treasury Department government agency
who duty it is to prevent and stop counterfeiting of currency.
 
The film begins with and an explanation and some scenes of Treasury agents arresting counterfeiters.
 
The US Treasury Department had a prohibition on using real money in films from around 1933 to 1960.
This film was made with permission from the Treasury Department and was partly educational.
 
Mister 880
2. US Treasury Department permission and warning
 
The film displays the notice:
 
Photographs of currency were made by special permission of the Secretary of the Treasury
and further reproduction, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.
 
This picture was made with the assistance of the Treasury Department and the
United States Secret Service.
 
Secret Service agents are shown with confiscated piles of counterfeit currency.
 
Mister 880
3. Secret Service agents with piles of money
 
The file cabinet has files on closed cases and one on a still-open case.
 
Mister 880
4. The file on Mister 880
 
Mister 880 has been passing one dollar bills in New York City for ten years.
He hasn't been caught because people don't usually look at one dollar bills closely
and the passer never visits the same place twice.
 
Agent Steve Buchanan of Los Angeles reports to the New York Secret Service office.
The office was then located at the Federal Office Building at 90 Church Street in Manhattan.
(A later scene in the film shows a telephone directory page with the address)
 
Mister 880
5. Steve Buchanan receives his new assignment
 
He is the latest agent assigned to Mister 880.
 
He spends some time looking over the file and confiscated bills.
 
Mister 880
6. One of Mister 880's bills
 
The bills are crudely made and the word "Washington" is mispelled "Wahsington".
 
The identity of Mister 880 is revealed early in the film to be William Miller, who is known
to his friends as 'Skipper'. He lives in the attic of an apartment and keeps a dog,
also known as 'Skipper'. Skipper works as a junk dealer.
 
Skipper and Steve happen to be in the same tobacco shop.
Skipper carries real bills in one pocket and his fakes in another.
 
Mister 880
7. Steve and Skipper shopping
 
Skipper is carring a minature wooden spinning wheel which he plans to sell to his neighbor,
Ann Winslow.
 
Mister 880
8. Skipper sells Ann the wheel
 
He asks three dollars for it, she gives him five dollars, and he secretly puts two dollars
into her purse. Unfortunately, the two bills come from the wrong pocket.
 
A man who treated Skipper's dog demands a payment of $20 and Skipper tells him that he
will get the money from his rich "Uncle Frank" tomorrow.
 
Mister 880
9. Skipper sees his Uncle Frank
 
"Uncle Frank" is a small printing press.
Skipper prints a few bills and hangs them up to dry.
 
A cab driver who took Ann to her translator job at the United Nations turns in a counterfeit bill
to the Secret Service and identifies her as the woman who gave him the bill.
 
Steve gets some information on her and follows her to work.
 
Mister 880
10. Ann buys a newspaper
 
Steve checks the bill, and it is bad.
Steve uses a trick to meet Ann and takes her to a bar to get acquainted.
 
Mister 880
11. Steve and Ann get acquainted
 
 
A co-worker of Ann's tells her that Steve is a Secret Service agent and that he has been
following her because she probably passed a counterfeit bill.
The co-worker tells her that an agent followed him once and then lost interest.
 
Ann reads a old book on counterfeiting and when Steve shows up for a date, she implies that
she is involved with counterfeiting by using slang words such as "queer" and "boodle".
 
Steve tells her the words are old and they both realize that they like each other.
 
Back at the office, Steve now has a temporary crew of agents.
 
Mister 880
12. Steve points on map to where bills were passed
 
The agents are going to visit Coney Island amusement park because bad bills show up there
every year at that time.
 
Mister 880
13. Coney Island amusement park
 
Steve takes Ann and they are accompanied by Skipper and a group of neighborhood boys.
 
Mister 880
14. Skipper gets change
 
Steve inadvertently gets one of Skipper's notes and passes it to a carnival worker,
who later turns it in to the Secret Service.
 
Another agent is in a change booth when Skipper passes one of his notes and gets nickels in change.
Later the agent tells Steve that the note came from "an old geezer", who "wore the buffaloes off
while counting the nickels".
 
The Secret Service plans to put out warning notices to areas that the passer has visited in the past.
 
Mister 880
15. Warning notice - How to identify counterfeit one dollar bill
 
Skipper tries to pass a note at a change booth but sees a warning notice and leaves.
He sees more notices, then goes home, takes his printing press to the basement,
and buries it, the plates, and most the notes.
 
Coincidentally, someone has offered Skipper a legal job as a watchman.
 
Mister 880
16. Skipper sells Ann another antique wheel
 
Skipper tells Ann that he put two dollar in her purse earlier and she realizes who he is.
 
Later she asks Steve what will happen to the man once he is caught and he tells her
that it would be a long prison sentence.
 
Some local boys are spending counterfeit money and Steve interviews one of them.
 
Mister 880
17. Steve interviews boy
 
The boy tells Steve that a dog dug up some money in the building basement.
 
Steve and Ann go to Skipper's room and Steve looks around.
 
Mister 880
18. Steve finds Skipper's special map
 
Skipper arrives with some dinner items and finds he has company.
 
Mister 880
19. Steve confronts Skipper
 
Skipper confesses immediately and is taken to Secret Service headquarters.
Agents want to meet the famous Mister 880.
 
Mister 880
20. "This is Mister 880?"
 
Skipper refuses a lawyer and wants to plead guilty.
Ann brings over an attorney friend who Skipper allows to assist him.
There is a short trial and the judge gets ready to pronounce the sentence.
 
Mister 880
21. Steve approaches the judge
 
Steve asks the judge for a lighter sentence as Skipper is an old man and a US Navy veteran.
 
Skipper gets a year in prison but will be paroled in four months.
The judge also requires a fine and the judge set it at one dollar.
Skipper pulls out a note, which, of course Steve checks.
 
Mister 880
22. Steve checks Skipper's note
 
It's good.
Notes:
 
Cast:
Burt Lancaster as Steve Buchanan
Dorothy McGuire as Ann Winslow
Edmund Gwenn as William 'Skipper' Miller
 
Director: Edmund Goulding
Writers: Robert Riskin St. Clair McKelway (article)
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