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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Poor Emil Jannings! The first winner of the Academy Award for Best
Actor, he was indisputably the most respected actor in Hollywood when
talking pictures arrived ... and this innovation ruined his career, as
his Teutonic accent limited his roles. This Swiss-born actor had worked
hard to ingratiate himself to American audiences: in a ghost-written
autobiography, Jannings falsely claimed to have been born in Brooklyn,
New York ... a statement which continues to get reprinted as "fact".
With his Hollywood career ruined, Jannings returned to Germany and soon
devoted his talents whole-heartedly to the film industry of the Third
Reich, starring in Nazi propaganda films. After V-E Day, the Allied
authorities briefly considered prosecuting Jannings as a Nazi war
criminal, then let him go: he was only a broken and embittered old man.
Yet Jannings's talents were still considerable during the Nazi period,
and he gave some fine performances in movies that served unpleasant
'Der Herrscher' (literally 'The Master') stars Jannings as Clausen, a wealthy industrialist who heads a dynastic munitions firm which has prospered for more than a century. (The fictional Clausen family are obviously inspired by the real-life Krupp dynasty.) Clausen is a widower, approaching retirement age, but he is in love with Inken, a young secretary in his office (the attractive Marianne Hoppe), and the two of them are considering marriage. Clausen's adult children had planned on inheriting the family business (and his wealth); now they're dismayed that these might go to Inken. The Clausens conspire to have their father declared insane so that they can seize his assets.
SPOILERS COMING. 'Der Herrscher' was based on Gerhart Hauptmann's play 'Before Sunset', but the screenwriters have changed the ending to fit Hitler's agenda of 1937. In the play, the Clausen character ended tragically: in this film, he disowns his family and then bequeaths his munitions factory to the German people, dedicating himself to rebuilding Germany's shattered economy. Jannings gives an impassioned speech: "He who is born to lead needs no other teacher than his own genius." (Hmm, does this refer to any person in particular?) The lesson for German audiences in 1937 is that the people should unite behind a bold leader (guess which one) who follows his own rules and ignores his detractors.
One of the screenwriters on this film was Thea von Harbou, former wife of Fritz Lang, who (unlike Lang) was a sincere Nazi. Von Harbou's other ex-husband, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, gives a riveting performance in 'Der Herrscher' as a director of Clausen's firm. The photography in this movie is excellent: a bit ponderous, but it suits the stately mood of the subject matter. Jannings is brilliantly sympathetic in a part which is meant to be a role model for citizens of the Third Reich. This movie definitely succeeds as Nazi propaganda, but it's a well-made and entertaining film which any intelligent and objective (non-Nazi) audience should be able to appreciate for its non-political merits. I'll rate 'Der Herrscher' 7 points out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Back then it was propaganda with entertainment.Today its just classic film entertainment in spite it's original intentions. It only offend the big corporate greed that would not distributed this film , or broadcast it ,for American home video cause of Controversy ,might slow their greedy profits down concerning classic films I'm not defending or condoning what happen in the past.It's already happened. Of course your sneaky communist,the politically correct ,get offended at films like this cause they are trying to spread communism through the scissors. l also don't defend Marianne Hoope being close to the Nazi officials ,more than Zarah and Marika was ever.Germany back then made a mistake.This is an excellent melodrama.Emille Janning, whom the big greedy broadcasters and distributes of classic films are politically correcting his past, just to save money and so no one won't boycott The blue angel,plays an industrialist ,Matthias Clausen.As a lonely widow of greedy self centered adult children ,one son a bit young,Kathy Haak,Hannes Stelzer Hilda Korber, Paul Wagner, Maria Koppenhofer and in laws Hurbert Hubner.They are selfish to the hilt.They hope he dies so they can sell the estate and business and keep the money. Clausen only comfort is his loyal secretary, Peters played by Marianne Hoope.He decides to marry her and the spoiled kids try to declare him insane so to makes sure they will get his inheritances.It back fires.the movie woulds have been a good early t.v series for German t.v. later on.It had that potential.Avaialble at Reichskino and Germanwarfilms
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