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Unusual World War II-era drama set in a Berlin hotel during the closing moments of the war. Unusual because this film presents some Germans as good and tries to separate the Nazi regime from the ordinary population who just tried to survive the madness. Very reminiscent of "Grand Hotel" -- not surprising since the author of the novel upon which the screenplay is based is the same Vicki Baum who wrote "Grand Hotel" and "Weekend at the Waldorf." Characters and sub-plots come and go with a central theme of the search for an escaping prisoner and the moral and physical decay of the Nazi regime. Raymond Massey is quite good as General Arnim von Dahnwitz, an old-school officer who participated in the plot against the Corporal and is offered the honorable way out. Peter Lorre has a brief role but why he was released from prison and other transformations must have been left on the cutting room floor. Made during the war and released after its conclusion, this is an excellent example of propaganda. Viewers are conditioned to the punishment (not justice) of the enemy, fifth columns that would have left the dying Germany to carry on the war from within North America, and the need to build a new Germany when all of the chaos ends. Not a light movie, but one that would serve well in a Film and Political Science course. Recommended.
This war film offers a unique slant on the German political/social climate during early 1945. Because it was conceived without the benefit of hindsight it's that much more interesting to view 60 years later. While the story is necessarily compacted to allow for the drama of various characters to be inserted, there is a solid story at the core. Good performances...Raymond Massey was particularly fine in a relatively low key role while Peter Lorre plays a repentant Nazi with equal effectiveness. The female leads here are also great, especially Faye Emerson as the hotel "hostess." There are some dated elements of propaganda (a painting of Hitler hanging in hotel lobby prompts one guest to comment "I'd like to see him hanging another way") All the same this film offers thoughtful character studies of human beings at their best and worst while under duress. Some plot loopholes exist but they do not greatly detract from story; the brisk pace holds viewer attention from beginning to end. A worthwhile way to spend an hour and a bit.
Entertaining melodrama that revolves around an upscale hotel as the Nazi regime is tumbling down and the rats are deserting the sinking ship. What makes this film so much above the other anti Nazi propaganda films of it's time is that the whole Jewish prejudice issue is actually dealt with, (can only think of one other film in the WW2 era that even mentions it---The Mortal Storm (1940) another 4 star movie). Even has one character having to wear the yellow star on her chest. Another exploding in a bomb shelter at the Nazi who tormented her Jewish lover to death because she was a gentile in love with a Jew. I was never bored in this movie as plots and subplots are unravelled. Warners B roster of character actors including Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Andrea King, Alan Hale, Philip Dorn, Faye Emerson (who steals the movie as the hotel prostitute)and all the rest are very good. Never released on VHS or DVD. Wish it was. Forgotten film but was brought up in McCarthy Witch Hunt trials of 1950's getting the writer into trouble and some jail time. Recommend this film highly.
Warner Brothers used none of their box office stars in making Hotel
Berlin. What they did do is use a whole lot of second line character
players who had been playing Nazis throughout the World War II years.
The only two who didn't get into this film were Bobby Watson who played
Hitler several times and Martin Kosleck who essayed Goebbels perfectly.
If this film has a familiar look to it the author of the novel on which this is based is Vicki Baum who wrote MGM's Oscar winning Grand Hotel which covered Germany in the days before the Third Reich. In Grand Hotel the Weimar Republic was crumbling and now in 1943 the Third Reich was crumbling. The book was written in 1943 and Warner Brothers barely got the film out as events were overtaking the story.
Some of the most sinister of character players like George Coulouris, Kurt Kreuger, Alan Hale, Raymond Massey, Henry Daniell play various Nazi types. Peter Lorre is a Nobel Prize winning scientist whom the Nazis have broken. Helmut Dantine who played some really nasty Nazis in Mrs. Miniver and Edge Of Darkness is our protagonist/hero in the main plot. He's escaped from a concentration camp, but he's wise to the fact that the SS let him escape so that Dantine could lead them to other underground leaders. Still he has to shake their efforts to keep on his tail. He does do so in the Hotel Berlin where all these folks are staying, but has to get out undetected.
Raymond Massey has an interesting role as a Nazi general who got caught up in a plot against Hitler. When Vicki Baum wrote the book the assassination attempt against Hitler by Von Stauffenberg hadn't occurred. But by this time it had. Massey is portrayed as a brutal Prussian type who is no hero, but was looking to save his own skin post war. Now he's playing for time.
For all the men in the story, the two main women's roles really dominate Hotel Berlin. Hotel hostess Faye Emerson works as an informer for her survival. She turns out to have a bit more character than supposed in the end.
Best in the film though is Andrea King in what might have been her career role as Fraulein Lisa Dorn, celebrated German actress who hobnobs with the high and low of the Third Reich. She's a Nazi through and through, but a realist who just wants out of Germany and will use anyone to achieve her ends be it Massey, Dantine, Major Kurt Kreuger, or any whom she tries to charm.
A bit over the top in wartime propaganda, Hotel Berlin holds up very well for today's audience.
Entertaining war drama with a darker tenor than most studio films at
the time. The cast performs well but with the source material being
from the author of Grand Hotel and a decent script it's a surprise that
the players are more or less B level performers.
That's not a swipe at any of them since they all play their parts well, although a more charismatic actor than Helmut Dantine, someone like James Mason, would have given better focus to the lead character's plight. Andrea King, a good actress with an unusual quality but often stuck in nothing parts, has one of her best roles that she perhaps received because of the character's murky ethics. The audience is never fully sure what side her duplicitous Lisa Dorn is playing for which might have caused bigger stars such as Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan and Alexis Smith to decline the role.
The supporting cast is stocked with great character actors all getting the most out of their parts. Faye Emerson's role of Tillie, an opportunistic hotel employee, somewhat shadows Joan Crawford's Flaemmchen in Grand Hotel though she's not as sympathetic. She offers a fine interpretation of the role making her moral quandary relatable and touching. Likewise Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre also stand out fleshing out their roles surely more than what was on the page.
Not readily available but well worth seeking out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I expected a schematic diagram of German stereotypes and their
evolution in this war-time film about the good folks in a classy Berlin
hotel towards the end of the war. You know, lots of heel-clicking and
"Heil Hilers" and Nazi officers shooting each other to save their own
skin, and not to forget the Gestapo and the burning bamboo splinters
under the fingernails.
Actually it's more thoughtful than that. The Germans -- Nazi and underground alike -- are trapped in the hotel like fish in a box net. Some of them are genuine douche bags, like George Couluris's Gestapo Commissioner. He gets the best lines and gives the best performance. Some are clearly good guys, like Helmut Dantine's escaped member of the underground.
Others are, well, in-between, in a manner of speaking. Raymond Massey, for instance, is an aristocratic general who has been involved in the plot against Hitler's life and is forced to take the gentleman's way out, though without giving up his Teutonic identity. Faye Emerson is the hotel whore who will do anything with anybody for a pair of shoes but undergoes a major change of values upon finding that her Jewish lover is still alive. Alan Hale is miscast and wasted.
Helmut Dantine, the traitor whom the authorities are desperate to capture, was a strange figure in the cinema. I can't think of an actor of the period who was more sternly handsome and less able to act, despite his looks and his great voice. Compared to him, a tree stump is operatic. His career was lengthy but undistinguished. I think his last appearance was in one of Sam Pekinpah's lesser works. Maybe Hollywood had no room for attractive German men. Martin Kosleck's career flourished. He looked like a rat and played nothing BUT treacherous Nazis. I think he was Goebbels three or four times.
The most complex character is Andrea King's as Lisa Dorn ("thorn" in German), the famous actress with powerful friends and a suite in the hotel that includes a bed the size of a football field. She switches allegiances with the speed of a pinball. At first she seems genuinely in love with Raymond Massey's dignified general. When his goose is cooked, she kisses the runaway Helmut Dantine. In each case her emotions are shown as genuine. I attributed this ambiguity at first to poor writing. Then I realized that some people actually ARE like this -- exploiting others and appearing to be incandescent with rectitude at the same time. It dawned on me that I've known people whose affections were ephemeral but whose self interest was the Rock of Gibraltar. Clever beyond the bounds of ordinary credibility. She's finally murdered in cold blood by Helmut Dantine. Good.
The film hardly drips with sentiment. It's pretty tough minded. And if it begins a bit deliberately, the pace picks up as the stories progress and the end is suitably both ambiguous and satisfying.
I just saw this for the first time on TCM and found it fascinating. It's one of the few movies made during WWII that distinguishes between ordinary German citizens and Nazis. There's very little overt wartime propaganda, until the end (which has a small surprise twist). Although made with a so-called "B" cast, it's every bit as engaging as Grand Hotel. A shame it's not on VHS or DVD, but surely TCM will be showing it again.
Most cineastes have seen 'Grand Hotel' (1932) at least once, if only because of Greta Garbo. It was based on the play and novel 'Menschen im Hotel' by Vicki Baum, whose novels were the basis for numerous Hollywood movies, and who was a best-selling novelist in several languages. Here we see a highly complex ensemble drama set in a hotel again, but this time the action takes place in Berlin just as the Second World War is ending and the Nazi regime is falling apart. The film is well directed by Peter Godfrey, and contains some wonderful performances, one of the best being by Raymond Massey as a German general of the old school, who had been involved in one of the plots to kill Hitler which failed. He sports a monocle with applomb but never over-plays, and portrays the man with distinction and impeccable judgement. Henry Daniell as a keen Gestapo officer also does not over-play, and the restraint he shows is admirable, as Gestapo officers are such obvious targets for over-acting. The numerous dramas and sub-plots in this highly complex film are all satisfactory and convincing. The film has a tremendous dynamism as a multiple-drama, we are swept away by the dilemmas of all the characters, both noble and ignoble, and it all works. This must rank as one of the most successful wartime film dramas, and it is all about people, real people this time rather than cardboard cutouts. This film should be more widely known.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Initially, Germany might seem the last place for a story about the Nazi
resistance, but that was the setting for "Hotel Berlin." After the
success of the MGM movie "Grand Hotel," Vicki Baum sought to capture
the public's interest with another bestseller Hotel Berlin '43, which
was a similar tale about life in a hotel. This time the hotel teemed
with intrigue in the bomb-shattered German capital. Warner Brother
bought Baum's novel and assigned Jo Pagano and Alvah Bessie. Earlier he
had co-scripted the Errol Flynn war film "Northern Pursuit." "Hotel
Berlin" was director Peter Godfrey's seventh film. He shot it between
November 15, 1944, and January 15, 1945.
Fearing World War II would end before he could release "Hotel Berlin,"Jack Warner wanted this melodramatic opus completed as quickly as possible. "The Hollywood Reporter" of January 1, 1945, published an article about the frenzy of activity. The Reporter stated, "Continuing production momentum geared to put "Hotel Berlin" in release coincidental with Russian and Allied drives on German capital, Jack Warner has alerted all departments of the studio with objective of giving the Vicki Baum story a Broadway opening within a month."
Scenarists Jo Pagano and Alvah Bessie made several important changes to Baum's novel. First, the bestseller contained an English character under house arrest who broadcasts propaganda to Great Britain. In addition, he needs medical attention requiring the use of morphine. Warner Brothers eliminated this character. Second, the movie changed the background of resistance protagonist Martin Richter, a former Nazi enlisted man who runs an anti-Nazi underground movement, to that a Jewish man who has escaped from a concentration camp and works with an anti-Nazi resistance group. They also shortened the span of the action from several days to a 24-hour period in the elite Hotel Berlin.
During the 24-hour period, Martin Richter (Helmet Dantine of "Northern Pursuit") is a Jew who has escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. Richter hides in the hotel elevator shaft, later obtains a waiter's uniform, and circulates throughout the hotel. The famous German stage actress, Lisa Dorn (Andrea King of "Mr. Skeffington") tries to extricate herself from a bad situation by rescinding her Nazi beliefs and helping Richter until she discovers a way of out her problems with the Nazis by informing on Richter. A hotel waiter who is a member of the underground informs his compatriots and Richter reluctantly kills Lisa. Gestapo Commissioner Joachim Helm (George Coulouris of "Citizen Kane") discovers Richter in Lisa Dorn's room. Richter and Helm get into a fistfight; Richter strangles Helm, and drops his body into the elevator shaft.
A blond hotel hostess, Tilli, (Faye Emerson of "Lady Gangster") yearns for a new pair of shoes. She is prepared to do whatever it takes to acquire them. She has an on-again and off-again affair with an arrogant Luftwaffe pilot, and simultaneously struggles to get a pair of shoes from another German officer. He finds himself in trouble with the Fatherland because he has too much money invested outside of Germany, and he refuses to bring it home. General Dahnwitz (Raymond Massey of "Desperate Journey"), an arrogant Nazi who participated in a plot to kill Hitler, learns he must commit suicide or suffer a worse fate from the Gestapo. Dahnwitz delays his suicide until Gestapo officers arrive and stand guard outside his room.
The Production Code Administration warned Warner Brothers "with regard to the suicide of General Dahnwitz, it is important that it not in any way be glorified, or justified, but played practically as an execution ordered by the Gestapo." Joseph Breen reminded the filmmakers that the suicide must be an order. "To get away from any flavor of glorifying suicide," the chief PCA censor also told the studio to omit a line of Dahnwitz's dialogue in which he said, "And a bullet is a much more elegant way out than a stomach cancer or a prostate operation." Breen reminded the filmmakers not to show Lisa undressing any farther than her skirt and that they not expose Lisa's person when she bathes. The studio obliged Breen and simply deleted the undressing scenes. Breen demanded that Tilli never be filmed in a kimono, which the PCA considered the visual equivalent of sexual immorality. He also wanted the filmmakers to play out intimate scenes in sitting rooms rather than bedrooms.
With one exception, Warner Brothers eliminated the scenes showing a bed. The studio, however, must have hashed out an agreement with the PCA because Tilli and the Nazi Major are shown in her bedroom fully dressed but never in bed together. Breen also wanted Warner Brothers to explain where Martin Richter spent the night in Lisa's room. The studio removed this scene. The only time that Richter spends anywhere overnight is in the shaft of the out-of-order elevator.
After having read the incomplete revised Hotel Berlin script of August 29, 1944, Breen reminded Warner Brothers about General Dahnwitz's suicide and the problems it could pose which Breen had addressed before. They wanted nobody left in doubt about the reason for Dahnwitz's suicide and stressed that he must be ordered to die. Warner Brothers accommodated Breen on this point. In another storyline ultimately deleted from the script, Breen told the studio that it could not talk about supplying morphine to a dope addict. Not only was the reference to morphine removed, but also the studio deleted the character. Breen also warned the filmmakers about characterizing Tilli as a hotel prostitute.
"Hotel Berlin" bristles with intrigue, but this wartime film is totally forgettable today. The lack of charismatic actors and actresses and the shortage of cool violence make the film seem almost boring by comparison to better Warner Brothers features. Mind you, the performances are top-rate and Peter Godrey's direction is crisp and efficient. War movie buffs will appreciate this more than the typical viewer unless "Hotel Berlin" is a late night treat for an insomniac.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** The movie "Hotel Berlin" was Made in early 1945 and
released on March 2nd of that year exactly two months before Berlin
fell to the Red Army on May 2, 1945. The film is about the fearful and
chaotic times in that great German capital in early 1945 when it was
under attack from the air by the USAAF and RAF and at the same time as
the Red Army was closing in on it from the east. It was then that the
Soviet Union assembled it's divisions for it's massive 1,000,000 man
armored and infantry assault that it launched on April 16, 1945 to put
the final nail on the coffin of Nazi Germany.
Inside the Hotel Berlin are a number of anti-Nazi German resistance fighters led by Martin Richter, Helmut Dantine, who just escaped from a German concentration camp. Richter is now planing to start a revolt against Hitler's Germany in order to help put an end to the war before the vengeful and murderous Red Army captures the city. Richter is also being helped by the former German newspaper publisher Walter Baumier, Wolfgang Zilzer, and his young son, Richard Tyler, who's a bellhop at the hotel.
There's also Richter's science professor who taught him at the University of Leipzig Prof. Johannes Koenig, Peter Lorre, who until the final few minutes seemed to be dead drunk during the entire film. Richter is given cover from being captured by the Gestapo headed by the hotel's security chief Gestapo Commissioner Joachim Helm, George Coulouris, by top German actress Lisa Dorn, Andrea King. Lisa is really a loyal Nazi and is i fact setting him up to be captured by the Gestapo. There's also General Von Dahnwitz, Raymond Massy, who was called back to Berlin from the front and is also Lisa's lover. Gen. Von Dahnwitz doesn't know that he's to be arrested for trying to overthrow the Hitler regime after he was ratted out by one of his officers who he trusted. Other stories at the hotel is about the hotel hostess Tillie Weller, Fay Emerson, and Nazi big shot Herman Plottke, Alan Hale. Plottke is trying to skip out of the country with all the money he looted from the German treasury that amounted to four million Marks. There's also Nazi big wig Von Stetten, Henry Daniell, who's also trying to get out of Germany via a U-Boat. Stetten is planing to start up a new Nazi movement after the fall of the Third Reich in North America! And last but not least there's Sara Baruch the mother of Tillie's Jewish boyfriend Max who was arrested and sent to a concentration camp but unknown to Tillie Max was just liberated by the US army.
Mrs Baruch wants Tillie to get her medication for her sick and dying husband to relive the pain that he's suffering from terminal cancer. Tillie is shocked to find that her lover Max is alive since thinking that he was dead she became an informer for the Nazi's at the hotel besides being the hotel hostess.
The movie ends with both Gestapo Commissioner Helm and pro-Nazi and double-crossing Lisa Dorn getting their just deserts from none other the the person who they tried to do in heroic German freedom fighter Martin Richter. General Von Dahnwitz end up killing himself, with a bullet to the head to avoid being tortured and murdered by the Gestapo. Van Stetten's U-Boat is captured by the allies and with that his ticket to freedom and dreams of starting up a new Nazi Germany going down the drain together with him. Prof.Koenig finally stops drinking and sobers up enough to join the anti-Nazi resistance movement. The greedy and arrogant Herman Plottke gets arrested by the Gestapo for Commissioners Helm's murder which he was innocent of! Still he got what he deserved for the other rotten things that he did in the movie.
The Film "Hotel Berlin" ends with Richter and his band of resistance fighters in the hotel including a number of downed US Army Air Force bomber pilots, where did they come from?, escaping to freedom. "Hotel Berlin" is a well acted and directed film that doesn't hit you so hard over the head with the propaganda that your use to seeing in most Hollywood WWII movies. This may be because when it was made the war against Germany was just about over and there was no reason to go overboard with the anti-German propaganda in it. Among other pluses in the movie "Hotel Berlin" is that there were also a few good Germans in it.
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