Death lurks in Tehran

While they were in Tehran, Marguerite did not stay with Merian Cooper or Ernest Schoedsack. The men lodged with American vice consul Robert Imbrie and his wife, Katherine. Marguerite stayed with American financial adviser Thomas Pearson and his mother on the outskirts of the city.

The arrangement is perplexing. She described the Pearsons as two friends, yet she and Imbrie had much in common. He had worked as an attorney in Baltimore for a number of years and still had family in the city. After the war, he had joined the American intelligence service and oversaw the American spy network in Petrograd until he was forced to flee the Bolsheviks in 1918.

But there was one notable difference between him and Marguerite: While Marguerite called Communism an interesting social experiment, Imbrie was rabidly anti-Communist. With his brash attitude and tendency to inflate his expense reports, he clashed frequently with his superiors in Washington. Imbrie was close to resigning from the service when the State Department came up with an assignment that satisfied him: He would open a consulate in Tabriz, Iran, where he would establish a spy network in the Soviet Caucasus. He would be in direct conflict with Solomon Mogilevsky, whose job was to recruit and direct pro-Soviet spies in the region.

But before Imbrie could move to Tabriz, the State Department asked him to fill in for the Tehran consul who was taking a leave of absence. He was in that position when Marguerite, Cooper, and Schoedsack arrived.

Cooper took an instant liking to the brash young political officer, whom he later called “clever, honest, true as steel.” Imbrie readily notarized a letter for the filmmakers on June 20, 1924, attesting that they were the first foreigners to travel with the Bakhtiari during their migration over the Zardeh Kuh mountain trail.

Three weeks later, Imbrie was murdered.

Robert Imbrie

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