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Aside from some dated music and ponderous narration, this is a nearly
perfect film. It's surprising, then, that people rarely talk about this
being among Montgoery Clift's best work. I, for one, prefer this over
From Here to Eternity, Raintree County or even The Heiress. This is
because I rarely have encountered a movie that has so pulled me in
emotionally to the story. I'm a guy and I don't just start bawling at
everything, but I defy ANY person to watch this film with a dry eye! It
just doesn't seem possible.
The story is less about G.I. Clift than about a sad but adorable little boy he encounters wandering around in post-war Germany. At first, the boy is wild and doesn't trust anyone, as he and his family had been through the holocaust. Somehow in the concentration camp, he and his mother had become separated and at the end of the war, he had run away from the allied resettlement program because he had a natural fear of ALL soldiers. Despite these tragedies, the boy did not give up hope of one day finding his mother, though Clift plans on taking him back to the States because he knows it is hopeless to go on searching.
You've GOT to see this film! You've GOT to show it to your kids! Although the Diary of Ann Frank and Shindler's List have received a lot of attention, this little film is every bit as poignant and important for understanding the real impact of World War II.
THE SEARCH (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1948), directed by Fred Zinnemann, as
mentioned after the opening credits, was produced in Switzerland and in
the United States occupied zone of Germany through the permission of
the United States Army and through the cooperation of the I.R.O. It was
the first postwar movie to be filmed in an occupied zone. Looking at
the background of destroyed buildings and broken streets, it's just a
crucial reminder of the suffering amongst those European families and
how horrible a war can be. Currently shown on Turner Classic Movies and
once available on video, it's become one of the most requested from
viewers, and rightfully so. Running at 105 minutes, there isn't a
single frame wasted in the story, no scenes are unnecessary.
The plot in brief: Set in post World War II, a war orphan (Ivan Jandl, in his only movie role) is sheltered by an American G.I. (Montgomery Clift), while all that time, his mother (Jarmila Novotna), who has survived the hardship of the concentration camp, searches for him, knowing in her heart, that he is very much alive. And when the G.I. decides he wants to take the boy he calls "Jim" back with him to America, suspense builds for the viewers knowing that the mother is not that far away, and how they nearly miss each other in a couple of scenes. Aside from this being Clift's first movie to be released and his second film role, and that Ivan Jandl as Karel will steal one's heart, especially with his sad face, Aline MacMahon (1899-1991), as Deborah H. Murray, superintendent of the orphanage for war orphans, as well as the off screen narrator, gives possibly the best dramatic performance of her career, so sincere and natural, especially her devotion to those other children, one forgets that she's just an actress playing a role. Even her somewhat sad face adds to her personality and character. I only wished she had won, or at least been nominated, for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for this performance. She deserved it. Clift, whose gun chewing soldier character comes about 45 minutes into the movie, also gives a sincere performance, and was nominated for Best Actor. Wendall Corey appears in support as Clift's Army buddy, Jerry Fisher.
I rank THE SEARCH one of director Zimmermann's most admired films, and one I never get tired of seeing whenever it's shown. Thank goodness TCM avoids showing the colorized version of THE SEARCH. Be sure to have your tissue box handy. (****)
I first saw this film when I was 16. My country(Portugal)having escaped he horrors and devastation of WWII but not the ravages of long-enduring fascism, I immediately related to all the main characters in it - particularly the little boy in search of his mother. I think it is also one of the finest (and earliest) of Montgomery Clift's performances. A bit of an unknown gem nowadays. If you get the chance to watch it, catch it - some may think it too sentimental, but it's more than worth the effortlessness of seeing it. For the Pity of War alone...(Wilfred Owen dixit - WWI)
This film marked the feature film screen debut of Montgomery Clift. It
was not meant to be that way. Red River was made first, but held up in
release due to a threatened lawsuit. So The Search ended up being the
movie going public's first glimpse of Montgomery Clift.
They didn't get to see him until the film was only just about half way finished. The only character who is continuously on screen through out the film is little Ivan Jandl. What a performance too. The worst thing that could have happened to this film is to have some name Hollywood kid actor play that role. Young Ivan comes across as a real kid who went through horrors unimaginable in first world countries today.
Ivan is Czech and his family are singled out by the Nazis and put in Auschwitz. Father and sister are killed, mother and son are separated. The film is their search for each other.
Ivan after V-E Day is in another kind of camp, a refugee camp run by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. He's almost comatose from the shock of four years of horror. To him the men in uniforms are still to be feared even though it's not Nazi uniforms. He makes a break for it and GI Montgomery Clift picks him up and takes him back to his dwelling.
Ivan and Monty kind of grow on each other, but at the same time Ivan's mother played by Czech opera star Jarmila Novotna is pursuing her quest for her little boy. She comes to the UNRRA camp which is headed by Aline McMahon. This may very well be her best screen moment. McMahon also narrates large chunks of the film, describing the enormous task the UNRRA had in reuniting families all over Europe in addition to a whole lot of other things like food, clothing, and shelter.
Clift and Ivan have great chemistry. And no one ever portrayed sensitivity better than Montgomery Clift on the screen. You know how much empathizes with Ivan's plight with every look, every nuance, every gesture. Fred Zinneman got a great performance out of him and later on Zinneman directed Clift in his greatest film role in From Here to Eternity.
The film was shot in postwar Germany and the landscape itself and the looks of the people tell what they've been through. I wouldn't be surprised but that Clift's performance in The Search later on led him to being cast in The Big Lift, another film set in post World War II Germany.
Probably it was just as well Clift got his first exposure in this film. It guaranteed him co-star status with John Wayne when Red River finally did come out.
The Search 56 years later is a moving movie experience.
After watching Roberto Rossellini's 1947 final part of his war trilogy "Germania anno zero", Fred Zinnemann's "The Search" is in direct contrast. While Rossellini approaches a similar subject with absorbing objectivity, "The Search" opts for sentimentality, although Zinnemann tried to add a documentary dimension to the story. It's the tale of a boy who is rescued by an American G.I. in Berlin, while the boy's mother is looking for him in refugee camps, after they were separated in Auschwitz during the war. Mother and child are pretty close but do not know it, so the story goes from scenes of the soldier educating the boy, to the mother's giving love to surrogate sons in a UN home for war orphans. Zinnemann's tact (or lack of passion, as some may say) nevertheless makes it work, as well as the performances by Montgomery Clift as the soldier and young Ivan Jandl as the kid, who won a special Oscar.
I have been haunted by THE SEARCH since I first saw it when it first came out in 1948. I have since been on my own search to be able to see it again. Finally I saw it again at the July 2005 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival where they said they had to obtain a copy of the film from England. It would be interesting to know the circumstances around this film and why it is so rarely available to USAmerican audiences. I suspect that a key element in that obscurity is that its chief writer, Richard Schweizer, was one of the Hollywood Jewish screenwriters blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee so that the film suffered the same fate. I am very heartened by reading the comments of others on this site. I am not alone in holding this film in a kind of reverence. I hope it will become more generally available to USAmericans. Its neglect is such an injustice for Montgomery Clift who gave such a great naturalistic performance--doing it as well or better than James Dean who followed later. And none of director Fred Zinneman's works should be allowed to disappear.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a nice, touching story of a post World War II orphan in
Germany/Eastern Europe, his mother searching for him and an American GI
who takes him in.
The GI, played humanely by Montgomery Clift, teaches the kid English and looks after him until, hopefully, there is a happy ending for him, even if it means taking the kid back to the States with him. The ending is a little incredulous but I'm not complaining and won't say more to ruin it.
Suffice to say, it is a very involving film. You wind up really caring about all the major characters in here and yes, it does have a feel-good finish.
Ivan Jandl, the child actor who co-stars with Clift, only was in this one film, according to his bio here on IMDb. The actress who plays the child's mother, Jamila Novotna, was, in real life, better known as an opera star, but she also did other films. She was a talented lady.
Meanwhile, American actors Clift and Aline MacMahon are portrayed as extremely passionate adults. This movie is well-photographed and just cries out to be put on a DVD. Let's hope that happens.
I love the old WWII movies and how they portray what life was like for
the men and women who served - and what it was like for the families
etc. But of all the ones I've seen, I don't think I've seen a single
one that highlighted the plight of the children. I'm glad this one
chose to bring this sad effect of war to the public in this film.
The movie starts more like a documentary with a female narrator telling part of the story. At times the narration is a little annoying. But most of the rest of the film unfolds naturally without the narration. The film is a heartbreaking tale of the orphaned children of the war. They have nowhere to go and are shuttled from orphanages to resettlement centers. I was so shocked when I first saw the children - they looked so emaciated and dirty. They all seemed to have shell-shocked expressions on their faces. I think the director (Fred Zinneman)did a great job of casting and going for a realistic portrayal and not trying to gloss over the true realities. Being of Austrian Jewish heritage, the story no doubt hit close to home for him.
The actual location shooting in bombed out cities of Germany was also quite stark and realistic. I'm glad they chose not to try to replicate the devastation in a studio. Being filmed in 1948, 3 years after the end of the war - I was shocked to see how much destruction was still evident, with huge piles of rubble laying around. The cities looked deserted.
This was one of Montgomery Clift's first films. He doesn't appear until 36 minutes into film. He delivers a fine performance given his inexperience (although he was experienced on the stage). He is still in possession of his youthful good looks which deteriorated later. Too bad he lived such a young, tragic life as he was quite a natural talent. The young boy is quite a good actor for his age and manages to express his desperation through his body language and action since he doesn't speak for almost 2/3's of the film.
There are many memorable and shocking scenes: the drowning of one of the children, the young boy searching through a crowd of women for his mom, several scenes of his wild and desperate attempts to escape at all costs, and the hordes of children exiting from the train as they arrive at the settlement center. Many of these scenes are some I will never forget.
I'm shocked so few people have seen this (given only 37 comments and 1000+votes on IMDb at this time). I highly recommend this film if you are interested in movies about the sad effects of war.
I first saw this film when it was released in 1948. I was a teenager. At
that time, in my limited experience, it was the best film I had ever seen.
These many decades later I have seen as many films as a devoted movie buff
can see; even doing a stint as an usher!
"The Search" remains the best film I have ever seen.
MONTGOMERY CLIFT is the nominal star of THE SEARCH but it's little Ivan
Jandl that audiences were likely to remember after watching this
spellbinding story of his plight as a victim of war amid separation
from his mother. Clift is firmly in command of his role as a
compassionate soldier who takes the boy under his wing and teaches him
to communicate in English. Wendell Corey is excellent as a soldier
friend of Clift and opera singer Jarmila Novotna is totally convincing
as the boy's mother intent on being reunited with her son.
Another pivotal role is filled brilliantly by ALINE MacMAHON in a part that surely deserved an award nomination. At any rate, Clift deserved his nomination as Best Actor and Ivan Jandl fully deserved his special Oscar as the juvenile lead. His facial expression and eyes tell the whole story without a single bit of dialogue. The only other child actor I can compare him with (at that time) is Claude Jarman, Jr. who showed a natural skill for performing at a tender age.
The impact of the devastation of war on ruined buildings is caught by the camera vividly in on location footage shot in Germany under Fred Zinnemann's expert direction. But it's the impact of war on the very young children that is the focus of this film and to that end it succeeds brilliantly in capturing the grief and loneliness of all those victims of war in a way that is sure to stir your emotions.
Summing up: gritty post-war film, honest emotionally and powerful in its presentation. Highly recommended.
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