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Benny Goodman and His Orchestra,
The shocking truth of Czechoslovakian oppression by the Nazi's.
Long before the United States got into the war already going on in Europe, the Hollywood propaganda machine began to take a dramatic look at the horrors going on overseas. Here, the setting is the German/Czechoslovakian border with four young men finding different paths in their destiny as their widowed mother (legendary stage actress Eugenie Leontovich) struggles to face the path that her family's life has taken. One son goes off to America, two become rivals over the same girl, and one of them refuses to accept the fact that his Czechoslovakian blood outweighs the German blood from their ancestorage as he sides with the Nazi's.
While Don Ameche gets top billing as the oldest of the sons, it is Miss Leontovich who steals the film as the strong but loving matriarch who is determined to keep her sons together at all means, even standing up for the Nazi (Alan Curtis) making plans with other sympathizers in the back of their home. She even stands face to face with the barrel of two guns between brothers, demanding that one of them kill her so she won't have to witness brothers becoming enemies. Pretty dramatic stuff and a performance that remains strongly believable today.
Beautifully filmed and directed by Archie Mayo, this is a sound remake of a 1928 film set in World War I, and the changing of the times is more than appropriate for its story. There's the usual amount of Eastern European schmaltz, including a festival scene with its entire cast in Liederhosen and other traditional garb. The problem with this film, having been rarely seen until fairly recently, is the fact that it was overshadowed by the very similar "The Mortal Storm" which also had a strong parental figure (in that film's case, patriarch Frank Morgan) fighting to keep their family together in spite of divided loyalties. As the war threatened to engulf the world, however, Hollywood saw a need to get the message of impending danger out there, and even if so many films of this time seem alike, they all have the patriotic theme of getting America ready "just in case", which in this case, they already knew was inevitable.
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