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The mind-numbing horror of Fascism in Germany was bad enough, even before the ultimate horror of the Holocaust was eventually made known, and "So Ends Our Night" was an extremely brave attempt in 1941 to bring home to the people of the USA, (before they entered WW2), the extent of repression and State-sanctioned bigotry that Nazi Germany had imposed on its people from the 30s onwards. Set within the context of a conventional Hollywood drama, it nevertheless pulled few punches and showed how tyrannical governments subject their people by gradually increasing degrees, and how freedom is eroded rather than outlawed overnight. Seeing it with post-Holocaust eyes makes its warning that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, even more powerful and cogent, and it is a film that also manages to show that it is not governments that "bestow" freedom, but the determination and will of people themselves to maintain it. Well directed by John Cromwell, and with excellent performances from Frederic March and Margaret Sullivan, (who particularly seems to infuse her performance with genuine conviction), with welcome appearances from Anna Sten (a much better actress than has ever been fully recognised), and Erich von Stroheim, as well as a very young Glenn Ford. Although seldom remembered nowadays, this is a film that is well worth seeking out, and I don't think you will be disappointed if you do so. Highly recommended, and long overdue for critical rehabilitation.
This is a most depressing but well done adaptation of Remarque's novel FLOTSAM - dealing with those who are without passports and therefore at the beck and call of all nations' police forces, always hiding, always in fear of being deported, set in WW II Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Margaret Sullavan shines in one of her finest performances as a Jewish chemist who must flee the Nazis. A very young Glenn Ford gives a fine performance as the idealistic young man in lover with her. Fredric March stars but his story is far less interesting than theirs. The score was nominated for an Oscar. One riveting scene early in the film occurs when Fredric March is following his estranged wife (Frances Dee) in the market place, saying farewell to her as he walks behind her. She is unable to turn or respond to him in any way as she is under surveillance and this might lead to his arrest. Dee's face in this sequence is astonishing to watch - a great moment in cinema.
Stateless refugees from Hitler's Germany must move from one country to the next in this realistic film from 1941. The realism is in the cast of actors other than the well known Glenn Ford, Frederic March, Frances Dee, and Margaret Sullavan, those playing the smaller but important parts of spies, sympathizers, officials, restaurateurs, nurses, etc...all with a keen eye for authenticity and details. As well, one of the best parts in the film is played by Erich Von Stroheim as an intelligent, sympathetic, and cunning SS officer who's out to arrest the non-conformist played in a terrific part by Frederic March. So while we follow the main characters and a touching love story and a biting role for March, the real value of the picture is the portrait it paints in its portrayals of the other people caught up in the pre-war manoeuvrings.
I would recommend this film to be watched by anyone. I first saw it at a teenager and have never forgotten it. The film handled a hopeless situation in a very humane and touching way. With the problems in Kosovo now the film is just as up to date as it was in 1941 when it was made. I would give this film a 10+ rating in my opinion.
The engaging,idiosyncratic genius of supporting players Leonid Kinskey, Sig Ruman ,et. al. is worth the viewing. The earnest, beseeching , concerned and compassionate soul of Margaret Sullavan is worth the viewing. The affable, unwontedly blithe and youthful Glenn Ford is worth the viewing. The fortitude , hope, courage ,and quiet valor of Frederick March is worth the viewing. The scene wherein March desperately seeks a last fleeting view of his wife, the ethereally beautiful Frances Dee ere the darkness of the Holocaust descends to engulf him beggars description.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just saw this over the weekend for the first time on DVD, though I'd
seen it in college and never quite forgot it. The impact of Erich Maria
Remarque's story of German refugees in Europe must've been enormous to
those few who saw this sparsely distributed movie in 1940/1941.
The Historical Context: This film, made prior to the American entry to the war but after the fall of France, may have helped to prepare the American public for the coming war, as in "The Mortal Storm" and "The Man I Married" and like the later movie, "Watch on the Rhine", gave the issues involved a human face, but is much more profoundly fatalistic than any of those other movies. Even at the somewhat hopeful conclusion, and especially since we view this movie today after the Holocaust was revealed, the doomed atmosphere that pervades a lot of the action is still sobering over a distance of 65 years.
I couldn't help thinking that the theme of the movie is still sadly relevant throughout the world. Another interesting aspect of the film is something that I cannot answer but hope that some well informed individual might be able to help with eventually. I don't see how this movie could've gotten a production code approval. Some of the outré aspects of the story include a woman offering herself quite frankly to a March and removing her outer garments, the fact that two characters live together--in sin, as they used to say, and the fact that a sympathetic character commits suicide, an event that the film treats as an act of heroism. The print that I saw says that the movie was made by David L. Loew-Albert Lewin, Inc., and distributed theatrically by United Artists--but could movies really be distributed much of anywhere without the explicit okay of the production code at that time? I realize that Loew and Lewin had deep connections to MGM and big-time money in Hollywood and NY, but I really doubt if the filmmakers would've been willing or able to pay any of the fines that the Production Code office may have imposed for a violation of their principles.
Best Aspects: I found the restrained and touching performance of Fredric March as an Aryan German who was opposed to the Nazi government to be the centerpiece of this movie, even though he's only in about half the scenes. The expression on his face in one scene in which he's trying to catch a glimpse of his wife's face in a crowd just before leaving her to go into exile is very moving. Frances Dee as the wife is very expressive in her brief, nearly silent but haunting scenes. March's resilient spirit, and his deeply effective final scene, the antics of Leonid Kinskey, and a lovely, relaxed performance from Anna Sten, add to the interest of this film for me.
Good Aspects: Margaret Sullavan, whom I usually find to be a magnetic actress, seems at somewhat of a low ebb in this film. Yet, there is one vibrantly delivered speech that she gives about why she loves the puppy-like Glenn Ford that shows a flash of her ability to breath life into material. She is suddenly, for that one sequence an actress who makes the viewer understand that politics aside, its the connections of Sullavan, March, Ford and Dee to one another that keeps each of these characters tethered to their humanity despite everything that they are going through. Ford, playing a very believable teenager who is the child of an Aryan & Jewish marriage, is earnest and most affecting in his reminiscences of home and longing for a peaceful existence.
Technical Aspects: The script is heavily reliant on flashbacks and narration, and at times it was a bit hard to keep track of which nation the refugees found themselves in, though overall, the strong leads and great supporting players, who also include Erich Von Stroheim, Sig Rumann, and Roman Bohnen, manage to rise above the sometimes disjointed script . The issuance of the film on DVD is welcome, but unfortunately, the picture quality of the transfer is sometimes overly bright and occasionally fuzzy, and the sound is a bit muddy at times, but it is adequate, and the good acting, compelling story and excellent direction by the underestimated John Cromwell still make it quite watchable.
In general, I'd hope that others might comment on this movie, and suggest it for viewing by those interested in that period's "premature" anti-fascist films.
Not best written (choppy) yet realistic melodrama depicting very real times during WWII. Movie is notable for Anna Sten's brief appearance (admittedly, one of my favorites) who was more or less done-in by Hollywood yet never failed to deliver superb performances. Either Glenn Ford's first or one of his first movies. Depressing yet worth seeing. Good luck, because I think I got one of the last VHS copies around.
So Ends Our Night is based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel Flotsam
which describes the plight of refugees in Europe, dislocated from their
homes and sometimes families as a result of the politics of tyrannical
European states, specifically Nazi Germany. Any place they went the
refugees were not welcomed becoming a drag on the economy of any place
they lived. The film concentrates on a group of several now stateless
Germans who seem to keep running into each other. The novel came out in
1939 before a formal war started, but the German intentions were
becoming clearer every day.
Specifically it concentrates on Fredric March who was an underground member in Germany who had to leave in a hurry, he could not take his ill wife Frances Dee. March becomes a surrogate parent to both Glenn Ford and Margaret Sullavan who find a difficult path to love when they're first concern is survival.
Previous to So Ends Our Night coming out, Remarque novels such as All Quiet On The Western Front and Three Comrades were filmed with marked success by both Universal and MGM. All Quiet On The Western Front won a Best Picture Oscar and a Best Director Oscar for Lewis Milestone and Three Comrades got good critical reviews in 1938. Margaret Sullavan was in Three Comrades and she was the love interest of one of the comrades, Robert Taylor. Would that So Ends Our Night was as good.
The performances by the players were all good, Glenn Ford was lent out from Columbia Pictures for his first A film and got great reviews as a tender callow youth. He and Sullavan seemed to have good chemistry, but the film lacked the production values that a major studio could have given it. And the script seems to drag and the direction is sluggish.
Margaret Sullavan who specialized in playing tragic heroines who are escaping from the Nazis, she just came off doing The Mortal Storm for MGM which is about folks about to become refugees. Compare that film with MGM quality on it to this one and you'll see what I'm talking about. According to a biography about her by Lawrence Quirk she resented the way the title was changed, preferring that it be called by the novel's rightful name. This name implied all kinds of innuendo that the film never delivered. True, but that was a common enough practice back in the day. And So Ends Our Night needed any and all help to get the movie going public into the theater.
In that same book Fredric March and Glenn Ford both praised Sullavan's abilities and considered a milestone to have been able to work with her. Sullavan in fact got director John Cromwell to direct Ford as a callow and clumsy youth in matters of love whereas he'd come off like Cary Grant in earlier takes. I think she was on target there.
Still the film definitely needed major studio backing to have put it over better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"So Ends Our Night" is an anti-Nazi film based on a novel by Erich
Maria Remarque--the man whose works were banned by the Party due to his
insistence in his writings (such as "All Quiet on the Western Front")
that war was not at all fun but actually quite bad (imagine that!). As
he himself had been forced to flee Nazi Germany, it's not at all
surprising that this story is all about German expatriates who also
fled the nation for their lives. The film came out 10 months before the
US entered WWII and was actually among the first to be critical of the
fascists. Despite the war in Europe having been raging for a year and a
half, the US film industry was very slow to produce films condemning
the Nazis--mostly due to stupid anti-First Amendment legislation that
forced neutrality in films.
The film stars three actors who didn't seem the least bit German--Frederic March, Glenn Ford and Margaret Sullavan. And so, it seemed more like three Americans trapped in Europe. However, despite being strong American accents (which is odd, as the supporting characters all have European accents), the actors did a fine job in the film and the story was compelling.
As for the story, it's about three people who have fled Germany and are forced to wander about Europe, as they have no passports and are always one step away from deportation (where it would mean almost certain death). The three did not know each other until their exile but are now becoming good friends--thanks to the bind of shared misery. Again and again it looks as if one of them might somehow escape but repeatedly their efforts to legally remain outside Germany are thwarted. I was surprised, however, that March was given a much smaller role than Ford, as in 1941 Glenn Ford was definitely a newcomer and March was an established star.
While this is a very good film, I couldn't help but notice that there were a few better anti-Nazi films from the same era--in particular, "Mortal Storm" (also starring Sullavan) and "Arise My Love". Still, it was quite compelling and I am sure it did a lot to solidify the American public towards the notion of one day joining in the war.
This film focuses on the plight of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. It is fairly well made but the script, based on a novel by famed writer Remarque, tends to wander rather aimlessly, making for a less than compelling film. March is fine as a man who has escaped from a concentration camp, leaving behind his beloved wife in Germany. In one of his earliest roles, baby-faced Ford turns in an impressive performance as March's fellow escapee. Sullavan, in one of her last films, is also good as Ford's love interest. Dee gets third billing, but has only a few minutes of screen time as March's wife. The film looks good visually, but the pacing leaves something to be desired.
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