AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Chetniks!
Alternate Title: Seventh Column
Director: Louis King (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Feb 1943
Production Date:   17 Sep--19 Oct 1942; addl scenes mid-Nov 1942
Duration (in mins):   73
Duration (in feet):   6,577
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Philip Dorn (Draja Mihailovitch)  
    Anna Sten (Lubitca Mihailovitch)  
    John Shepperd (Alexa)  
    Virginia Gilmore (Natalia)  
    Martin Kosleck (Colonel Wilhelm Brockner)  
    Felix Basch (General Von Bauer)  
    Frank Lackteen (Major Danilov)  
    Patricia Prest (Nada Mihailovitch)  
    Merrill Rodin (Mirko Mihailovitch)  
    LeRoy Mason (Captain Savo)  
    Henry Guttman (Gestapo)  
    John Banner (Gestapo)  
    Hans Moebus (Gestapo)  
    Nick Vehr (Gestapo)  
    Lisa Golm (Frau Spitz)  
    Arno Frey (Gestapo officer)  
    Sigurd Tor (Gestapo sergeant)  
    Edith Evanson (Mother)  
    Giselle Werbiseck (Grandmother)  
    Sven-Hugo Borg (Nazi officer)  
    Carl Ekberg (Sentry)  
    Otto Reichow (Sentry)  
    Hans Schumm (Sentry)  
    Robert O. Davis (Mounted officer)  
    Ernst Hausman (German corporal)  
    Louis Arco (Alpine officer)  
    William Vaughn (Colonel Schact)  
    Steve Darrell (Italian captain)  
    Gino Corrado (Italian lieutenant)  
    Nestor Paiva (Italian major)  
    Harry Cording (Sergeant)  
    Trevor Bardette (Peasant leader)  
    Constant Franke (German sergeant)  
    Albert D'Arno (Jailer)  
    Paul Burns (Veteran)  
    George Neise (German scout)  
    Hans von Morhart (Nazi soldier)  
    Victor Kendall (Nazi soldier)  
    Lester Sharpe (Aide)  
    Richard Ryen (Commentator)  
    Jack Mylong (Commander)  
    William Yetter (German officer)  
    Christian Rub (Tailor)  
    Peter Michael (Captain Powell Luther)  
    Egon Brecher (Chetnik soldier)  
    Charles Peck (Chetnik soldier)  

Summary: After the Germans overrun Yugoslavia in 1941, Serbian army colonel Draja Mihailovitch leads a small but fierce band of guerrillas known as the Chetniks. Mihailovitch's men succeed in wreaking havoc on the German forces, which have been joined by their Italian allies, and force seven divisions of the enemy to combat the Chetniks instead of fighting at the front. One day, the Chetniks capture an Italian supply convoy, and Mihailovitch radios German headquarters in the nearby town of Kotor and impudently offers to exchange his Italian prisoners for gasoline. Infuriated, General Von Bauer refuses, but when Mihailovitch threatens to notify the Italian High Command of his decision, Gestapo colonel Wilhelm Brockner orders Von Bauer to comply. Brockner, who has been frustrated in his attempts to find Mihailovitch, is convinced that the Yugoslavian leader's wife Lubitca and their two children, Nada and Mirko, are hiding in Kotor, and that he can use them to obtain Mihailovitch's surrender. Brockner warns the townspeople that anyone caught aiding the Mihailovitch family will be executed, and prepares for the transport of two thousand men from Kotor to Germany. Unknown to Brockner, his secretary Natalia is a spy for the Chetniks and is the sweetheart of Alexa, one of Mihailovitch's aides. Armed with Natalia's information, the Chetniks attack the train transporting the two thousand prisoners and free them. In retaliation, Brockner decrees that no food will be distributed to the citizens of Kotor until Lubitca and her children are turned over to the Germans. Lubitca tries to surrender to Brockner but is stopped by Natalia, after which Mihailovitch asks to meet with Von Bauer and Brockner. When Mihailovitch arrives at German headquarters, however, Von Bauer declares that, because the official Yugoslavian government capitulated to the Germans, international law does not prevent him from killing Mihailovitch, even though they are meeting under a flag of truce. Mihailovitch calmly informs the general that the Chetniks are holding his wife and daughter as hostages, as well as Brockner's mistress, and that they will be killed if the citizens of Kotor are not fed. The general angrily releases Mihailovitch and provides rations for Kotor, but regains the upper hand when Mirko's patriotism betrays his true identity to his German schoolteacher. After taking Mirko into custody, Von Bauer and Brockner escort Lubitca to Mihailovitch's mountain stronghold and there inform him that every man, woman and child in Kotor will be executed unless the Chetniks surrender within eighteen hours. After Mihailovitch sadly tells Lubitca that he cannot submit, she returns to Kotor to comfort their children. Mihailovitch immediately organizes a plan of attack and sends some of his men to the mountain pass to Kotor, where they will trick the Germans into thinking that they are surrendering, while the rest of the Chetniks attack the town via the mountains on the other side. Despite the capture of Alexa, who was assigned to infiltrate the German artillery, Mihailovitch's plan succeeds. After a bloody battle, the Chetniks gain control of Kotor and free all of the hostages, including Mihailovitch's family. Soon after, Mihailovitch broadcasts a radio message to his fellow Yugoslavs that the guerrillas will continue to fight until they have regained complete freedom for their people. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Louis King (Dir)
  Paul Le Pere (Dial dir)
  Noel Smith (2d unit dir)
  Sam Schneider (Asst dir)
Producer: William Goetz (Exec prod)
  Bryan Foy (Exec prod)
  Sol M. Wurtzel (Prod)
Writer: Jack Andrews (Scr)
  Edward E. Paramore (Scr)
  Jack Andrews (Orig story)
  Michel Jacoby (Contr wrt)
Photography: Glen MacWilliams (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Albert Hogsett (Art dir)
  Maurice Ransford (Art dir)
Film Editor: Alfred Day (Film ed)
  James B. Clark (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
Costumes: Billy Livingston (Cost)
Music: Hugo W. Friedhofer (Mus)
  Emil Newman (Mus dir)
Sound: Arthur von Kirbach (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Production Misc: Major Milivoj Mishovich (Military adv)
  Serge Krizman (Tech adv)
Country: United States

Songs: "Das Horst Wessel-Lied," music and lyrics by Horst Wessel, special English lyrics by Charles Henderson; "Chetnik Fighting Song," traditional.
Composer: Charles Henderson
  Horst Wessel

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 5/2/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12348

PCA NO: 8853
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Biography
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Germany. Army
  Guerrilla warfare
  Draja Mihailovitch
  Officers (Military)
  World War II
  Yugoslavia
 
Subjects (Minor): Battles
  Children
  Courage
  Germans
  Gestapo
  Hostages
  Italians
  Italy. Army
  Mountains
  Nazis
  Patriotism
  Radio broadcasting
  Rationing in wartime
  Secretaries
  Self-sacrifice
  Spies
  Threats
  War heroes
  Wives

Note: The working titles of this film were Seventh Column and Chetnik! The picture's title card reads, "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Chetniks! (The Fighting Guerrillas) ." After the opening credits, an onscreen dedication reads, "This picture is respectfully dedicated to Draja Mihailovitch and his fighting Chetniks--those fearless guerrillas who have dedicated their lives with a grim determination that no rest shall prevail until the final allied victory, and the liberation and resurrection of their beloved fatherland--Yugoslavia--has been achieved." Although contemporary sources refer to John Shepperd's character as "Alexis," he is called "Alexa" in the film.
       Chetniks! is based on the exploits of Draza Mihajlovic (1893--1946; spelled Draja Mihailovitch in contemporary sources), who led the Chetnik guerrilla forces against the German and Italian forces occupying Yugoslavia during World War II. Mihajlovic, a Serbian national, was promoted to general and appointed War Minister by the Yugoslav Government-in-exile in London, in 1942, and was supported by the Allies with supplies and troops. Mihajlovic clashed with the Partisans, another Yugslavian faction led by Tito, whose Communist doctrine was antithetical to Mihajlovic's beliefs. According to some modern sources, Mihajlovic collaborated with the Germans in order to minimize civilian losses and thwart his rival, Tito. In 1944, Allied support was officially withdrawn from Mihajlovic's cause, and after the war, he was captured by the Yugoslavian Communist forces, which had taken control of the country, and executed for collaborating with the Axis.
       According to studio publicity and contemporary news items, Twentieth Century-Fox obtained permission from Mihajlovic to film his life story, as well as details of his campaigns, with the help of his half-sister, who contacted him from her home in the United States. The studio also received the support and approval of the Yugo-Slav Legation in Washington, D.C., which supplied technical advisors Major Milivoj Mishovich and Serge Krizman. The following information comes from HR news items: In May 1942, Francis Lederer was to be tested for the role of Mihajlovic, while in Aug 1942, HR noted that Jean Gabin was "the top prospect" for the role. In Sep 1942, Philip Dorn was borrowed from M-G-M for the part. In Aug 1942, Luise Rainer and Lenore Aubert were under consideration for the part of "Lubitca." On 6 Nov 1942, HR announced that the studio, "confident it has an important property" in the film, was "building up some of the sequences" and would shoot added scenes at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA. The film received many positive reviews praising its timely action and effective acting. The HR reviewer proclaimed: "Seldom has Hollywood given attention to a motion picture that offered more stirring material than this first feature about a living military hero of World War II." For more information about the Tito-led Partisan forces' fight with the Chetniks, see the entry above for the 1972 film The Battle of Neretva

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   16 Jan 1943.   
Daily Variety   11 Jan 43   p. 3, 5
Film Daily   11 Jan 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 42   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   13 May 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 May 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Aug 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Aug 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Sep 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Sep 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Sep 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Oct 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Oct 42   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Nov 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Nov 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Dec 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jan 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jan 43   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   30 Apr 1942.   
Motion Picture Daily   8 Jan 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   9 Jan 43   p. 34.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Nov 42   p. 995.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Jan 43   p. 1115.
New York Times   30 Sep 1942.   
New York Times   19 Mar 43   p. 15.
PM (Journal)   22 Nov 1942.   
Variety   13 Jan 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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