Paul Julius Reuter (Edward G. Robinson) starts a messenger service using homing pigeons to fill a gap in the telegraph network spanning Europe, but has difficulty convincing anyone to subscribe. When poison is sent to a hospital by mistake, Reuter's message saves the day (and many lives). However, he is persuaded by Ida Magnus (Edna Best), the pretty daughter of Dr. Magnus (Otto Kruger), to keep it quiet, as a scandal would undo all the good work the doctors are doing.
Finally though, with some hot news about Russia invading Hungary (which would depress the stock market), Reuter is able to convince bankers that he can provide them with financial information much more quickly than by any other means. He is particularly pleased and surprised by how reliable his lifelong, lackadaisical friend Max Wagner (Eddie Albert) has become at the Brussels office, until his associate Franz Geller (Albert Bassermann) informs him that Ida had, while there on a visit, taken over and run the place. Reuter sends a message by pigeon, asking her to marry him. She sends one back with her assent.
When the telegraph network finally fills the gap Reuter's business had been exploiting, he realizes that he can use the employees he has in place all over Europe to gather the news and sell it to the newspapers. Once again, he encounters resistance, particularly from John Delane (Montagu Love), influential editor of The Times, but overcomes it by persuading Louis Napoleon III (Walter Kingsford) to allow him to disseminate the text of an extremely important speech at the same time as it is being presented.
Later, a rival company appears; Anglo Irish secretly builds a telegraph line in Ireland that gives it a two-hour lead in getting news from ships coming from America. Reuter borrows money from his client and good friend, Sir Randolph Persham (Nigel Bruce), and builds his own line, one that extends further west and gets the news even quicker. Its first use is to announce the assassination of President Lincoln. As nobody knows about Reuter's new telegraph line, he is accused of making the tragedy up in order to manipulate the stock market; even Sir Randolph believes the rumors at first. The matter is brought up in the British Parliament, but Reuter is vindicated when slower services confirm his story.
- Edward G. Robinson as Paul Julius Reuter
- Edna Best as Ida Magnus Reuter
- Eddie Albert as Max Wagner
- Albert Bassermann as Franz Geller
- Gene Lockhart as Otto Bauer
- Otto Kruger as Dr. Magnus
- Nigel Bruce as Sir Randolph Persham
- Montagu Love as John Delane
- James Stephenson as Carew
- Walter Kingsford as Louis Napoleon III
- David Bruce as Mr. Bruce
- ↑ Variety film review; September 25, 1940, page 15.
- ↑ Harrison's Reports review; November 2, 1940, page 174.