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For a brief period, by dint of the Oscar he won Paul Lukas became leading man material. In Watch On The Rhine he played an anti-Nazi fighter. In Address Unknown Lukas tries the other side of the fence, playing a man who is seduced by Nazi ideas and makes a Faustian bargain for expediency.
Lukas and Morris Carnovsky play partners in San Francisco with their art dealing business. Nursing a bit of nostalgia for Germany, the Wilhelmine Germany he grew up in Lukas moves back to Germany as he says it might be better business wise for him to acquire the art on the scene and for Carnovsky to sell it in America. With the exception of his oldest son Peter Van Eyck who stays with Carnovsky, Lukas moves wife Mady Christians and his children back to Germany post World War I. Later on Carnovsky's daughter K.T. Stevens goes to Europe to pursue her acting career. Carnovsky is also Jewish.
Which is not looked kindly on by people who are rising in power. But Lukas who probably was not all that political is seduced by all the promises the Nazis and their leader. He gradually loses his entire moral compass. In that he was far from alone. K.T. Stevens is the one who loses her life tragically.
Lukas and Carnovsky are an interesting story of old friends torn apart. Carnovsky registers well as a man who cannot believe his old friend has turned on their past friendship and what it meant for business and personal reasons. Carnovsky cannot comprehend what is happening in the old homeland. In that he wasn't alone, those targeted by the Nazis including Jews couldn't quite believe it either. Remember Address Unknown was made before the concentration camps were liberated, but rumors were growing stronger by the day about what was happening.
As for Lukas he's brilliant with what he does as a man who loses it all. The ending is a truly original piece of vengeance and betrayal of Lukas, fitting payback for all he betrayed.
Address Unknown got two Oscar nominations for Art&Set Design and for music score. With William Cameron Menzies directing I'm sure he had a big hand in creating the set that got said nomination. But with what he does with Lukas and Carnovsky, Menzies shows how well he can direct people too.
One of the better films to come out of the World War II era it holds up brilliantly for today.
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