SpyCast 8.23.22
Ep 553 | 8.23.22

“The Beverly Hills Spy” – with The Hollywood Reporter’s Seth Abramovitch

Show Notes



Seth Abramovitch (Twitter; LinkedIn) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss the British war-hero who spied on behalf of the Japanese during Hollywood’s Golden Age. This is a story-and-a-half, by jingo! 

What You’ll Learn


  • How a British war-hero became a spy for the other side
  • Japanese espionage in Tinseltown 
  • How the story involves Boris Karloff, Charlie Chaplin and Yoko Ono’s father 
  • The spy ring’s activities before and after Pearl Harbor


  • Playing the game for yourself vs. for a country or a cause
  • Hubris & Nemesis 

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

Sqn. Ldr. Frederick Rutland, AM, DSC and Bar, was the first person to fly a seaplane from a ship in history. He was also the first man to spot the German fleet from his seaplane, thereby precipitating the largest naval battle of the First World War, the Battle of Jutland

After leaving the military because of indiscretions with a fellow officer’s wife, he tries to live an ordinary vanilla life, but still craves his action-packed days of old…ultimately, he is approached by the Japanese to spy on their behalf, which leads him to relocate to LA during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

To discuss this doozy of a story, I am joined by Seth Abramovitch from The Hollywood Reporter – i.e., the definitive interpretive voice of the entertainment industry – where he has worked for ten years. 


There are some incredible Hollywood movies from the interwar period, capturing some of the tension and suspicion of the era, as well as the faint drumbeat of approaching war. Hitchcock alone had, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Major stars of the era such as Marlene Dietrich, Great Garbo, and Madelaine Carroll helped solidify the spy genre with movies such as Dishonored (1931), Mata Hari (1931), and I Was a Spy (1933). Don’t forget Fritz Lang’s Spione (1928), which has been called a, “marvel of narrative economy in montage.” 

Quote of the Week

"At the very bottom of the list, it would be any kind of allegiance to any flag, because he's quick to offer to turn on Japan when push comes to shove at the very end of the whole story. I don't think he was doing it for any kind of nationalism or political, viewpoint. I think if anything he was apolitical." – Seth Abramovitch.


Headline Resources

Andrew’s Recommendation



Beginner Resources


  • Intelligence & the War Against Japan, R. Aldrich (CUP, 2000)
  • The Emperor’s Codes, M. Smith (Bantam, 2000)


Primary Sources

*Wildcard Resource*