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Watch on the Rhine
Director: Herman Shumlin (Dir)
Release Date:   4 Sep 1943
Production Date:   9 Jun--22 Aug 1942
Duration (in mins):   109
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Cast:   Bette Davis (Sara Muller)  
    Paul Lukas (Kurt Muller)  
    Geraldine Fitzgerald (Marthe de Brancovis)  
    Lucile Watson (Fanny Farrelly)  
    Beulah Bondi (Anise)  
    George Coulouris (Teck de Brancovis)  
    Donald Woods (David Farrelly)  
    Henry Daniell (Phili Von Ramme)  
    Donald Buka (Joshua Muller)  
    Eric Roberts (Bodo Muller)  
    Janis Wilson (Babette Muller)  
    Helmut Dantine (Young man)  
    Mary Young (Mrs. Mellie Sewell)  
    Kurt Katch (Herr Blecher)  
    Erwin Kalser (Dr. Klauber)  
    Robert O. Davis (Overdorff)  
    Clyde Fillmore (Sam Chandler)  
    Frank Wilson (Joseph)  
    Clarence Muse (Horace)  
    Violet McDowell (Belle)  
    Joe Bernard (Trainman)  
    Creighton Hale (Chauffeur)  
    William Washington (Doc)  
    Elvira Curci (Italian woman)  
    Anthony Caruso (Italian man)  
    Michele Fehr (Baby)  
    Jean DeBriac (Mr. Chabeuf)  
    Leah Baird (Miss Drake)  
    Howard Hickman (Cyrus Penfield)  
    Frank Reicher (Admiral)  
    Robert C. Fischer (German ambassador)  
    Walter Stahl (German embassy butler)  
    Glen Cavender (German embassy servant)  
    Wedgwood Nowell (American diplomat)  
    Alan Hale Jr. (Boy)  
    Jack Mower (Trainman)  
    Garry Owen (Taxi driver)  
    Hans von Morhart (German)  
    Herma Cordova    
    Gretl Dupont    

Summary: In 1940, the Muller family, German-born Kurt, his American wife Sara and their three children, Joshua, Babette and Bodo, the youngest, cross the Mexican border into the United States to visit Sara's family. In Washington, D.C., Sara's arrival is eagerly awaited by her brother, David Farrelly, her mother Fanny, family friend Anise and their house guests, Rumanian count Teck de Brancovis and his American wife Marthe. Sara has not seen her family for seventeen years, during which time Kurt, a former engineer, has responded to the Nazi threat in Europe by actively engaging in anti-Fascist work. Prompted by Fanny's questions to Kurt, Sara explains his work and adds that they have come to the United States so that Kurt can have a much-needed rest in safety. Kurt's safety is illusory, however, because the opportunistic Teck has been currying favor with the Germans in Washington. When Marthe refuses to question David, with whom she has fallen in love, about Kurt, Teck searches the Mullers' room and finds a locked briefcase containing a gun and some money. Shortly after Sara discovers the broken lock on the briefcase, the Mullers learn about the arrest of resistance worker Max Freidech. Later, after Teck and Marthe leave for dinner at the German embassy, Sara tells Fanny and David that she and Kurt are carrying money to aid the underground in Germany. She adds that because Max once saved Kurt from the Gestapo, Kurt will now return to Germany to try to save Max and the other people arrested with him. Later, Kurt turns down Joshua's offer to accompany him to Germany, explaining that his time will come when he is older. Upon their return from the embasy, Marthe denounces her husband and reveals that she is leaving him. Realizing that Kurt will be in great danger if the Nazis know that he is returning to Germany, Teck demands $10,000 for his silence. After Kurt summarily refuses him, David and Fanny agree to pay him off. While they are out of the room, however, Kurt pulls a gun on Teck and takes him outside, where he kills him. When Fanny and David return, Kurt explains his actions and asks them for two days to make his getaway. With a new understanding of the dangers Kurt faces, Fanny and David agree to help and give him the money they would have given Teck. Some time later, when no word has come from Kurt, Joshua declares his intention to search for his father after his next birthday, when he will turn eighteen. Although Sara is distressed by the thought of losing her son as well as her husband, she admits that when the time comes, she will do her best to be brave. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Hal B. Wallis Production
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Herman Shumlin (Dir)
  Edward Blatt (Dial dir)
  Dick Mayberry (Asst dir)
  Reggie Callow (2d asst dir)
Producer: Jack L. Warner (Exec prod)
Writer: Dashiell Hammett (Scr)
  Lillian Hellman (Addl scenes and dial)
Photography: Merritt Gerstad (Dir of photog)
  Hal Mohr (Dir of photog)
  Ellsworth Fredericks (2d cam)
  Roy Noble (Asst cam)
  Claude Hutchinson (Gaffer)
  Bert Six (Stills)
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl (Art dir)
Film Editor: Rudi Fehr (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Julia Heron (Set dec)
  Morris Goldman (Props)
Costumes: Orry-Kelly (Gowns)
  Ted Schultz (Ward)
  Mary Riley (Ward)
Music: Hugo Friedhofer (Orch arr)
  Leo F. Forbstein (Mus dir)
  Max Steiner (Mus)
Sound: Dolph Thomas (Sd)
Special Effects: Jack Holden (Dir spec eff)
  Edwin B. DuPar (Spec eff)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup artist)
  Bill Phillips (Makeup)
  Tillie Starrett (Hair)
Production Misc: Chuck Hansen (Unit mgr)
  George Stout (Best boy)
  S. K. Taylor (Grip)
  Florence O'Neill (Scr clerk)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman (1 Apr 1941).
Authors: Lillian Hellman

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 4/9/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12239

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Courage
  Family relationships
  Fascists and fascism
  Patriotism
  World War II--Resistance movements
 
Subjects (Minor): Blackmail
  Justifiable homicide
  Nazis
  Washington (D.C.)
  World War II

Note: The film begins with the following written foreword: "In the first week of April 1940 there were few men in the world who could have believed that in less than three months Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France would fall to the German invaders. But there were some men, ordinary men, not prophets, who knew this mighty tragedy was on the way. They had fought it from the beginning and they understood it. We are most deeply in ther debt. This is the story of one of these men." A 2 Dec 1941 HR news item reports that Warner Bros. paid $150,000 for the film rights to Lillian Hellman's play. The play was produced by Herman Shumlin, who directed the film version. Several of the actors, including Paul Lukas (who won the Oscar for Best Actor and the New York Drama Critics award for his portrayal of "Kurt"), Lucile Watson (who was nominated as Best Supporting Actress), George Coulouris, Eric Roberts and Frank Wilson reprised their theatrical roles for the film. Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett's script was nominated for Best Screenplay.
       According to memos in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, the PCA objected that the murder of "Teck" by "Kurt" was left unpunished and made to seem justified. As a solution, the Hays Office suggested that the scene could remain if it were established at the end of the film that "Kurt" had been killed by the Nazis. Author Lillian Hellman called this attitude childish and the studio agreed that there was no need to justify the killing of a Nazi. Information in the Warner Bros. Collection notes that Margaret Sullavan and Irene Dunne were considered for the role of "Sara" and George Sanders was considered for the role of "Teck." A poll of film reviewers and critics conducted in 1943 by FD named Paul Lukas in this picture as their favorite actor. A 29 Jun 1942 HR news item reports that some scenes were filmed on location at the Graves Mansion in San Marino, CA. According to information in the Warner Bros. Collection, other scenes were filmed at Union Station in Los Angeles, the Warner Bros. Ranch and at Busch Gardens in Pasadena, CA. According to modern sources, Paul Henreid and Charles Boyer tested for the role of "Kurt Muller." The film was named one of the FD Ten Best Pictures of 1943 and also was the NYFC choice for Best Picture. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   31 Jul 1943.   
Daily Variety   27 Jul 43   p. 3, 8
Film Daily   27 Jul 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 1941.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jul 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Aug 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Dec 43   p. 1, 10
Los Angeles Times   22 Dec 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   31 Jul 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Jul 43   p. 1454.
New York Times   28 Aug 43   p. 15.
Variety   28 Jul 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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