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Alec B. Francis
This is a sadly unknown and obscure film classic from the 1930s and one of my own favorites of all Frank Borzage's love stories.
A very sad and heartbreaking tale of a German couple surviving in a Nazi-occupied town in 1920s Germany, "Little Man, What Now?" was the first Borzage film to attack Hitler and the horrors of Nazism, prefiguring the director's later anti-Nazi masterpieces like "Three Comrades"(1938), "The Mortal Storm"(1940) and "Till We Meet Again"(1944).
"Little Man" is a painfully realistic and terrifying experience, especially the second half; and yet strangely full of hope and affirmation. Margaret Sullavan is as always luminous and touching in her portrayal of Lammchen Pinneberg. It is interesting to compare "Little Man" with Sullavan's other Borzage films like "Three Comrades" and "The Mortal Storm." There's something about her sweet innocence, devotion, and luminosity that works well with Borzage's soft-focus, anti-Nazi attitude. The glittering white dress she wears half-way throughout the film seems to suggest a symbol of light and hope (however transient) for Montgomery and against the brutal 1920s depression milieu, the same way Loretta Young's heartbreaking devotion and sweetness are intended to rescue Spencer Tracy's tough, smart-alecky personality in Borzage's 1933 masterwork "Man's Castle."
As with "Man's Castle", the Depression and, particularly in this case, Nazism are less physical than a spiritual or emotional threats to Borzage's lovers. Despite the bleak, depressing reality the characters have to surpass, both "Little Man" and "Man's Castle" retain Borzage's tender touch and humanity, inviting audience forgiveness for his characters' fragility and vulnerability.
This film will break your heart and should never be missed.
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