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The Mortal Storm (1940)

Passed | | Drama | 14 June 1940 (USA)
The Roth family leads a quiet life in a small village in the German Alps during the early 1930s. When the Nazis come to power, the family is divided and Martin Breitner, a family friend, is caught up in the turmoil.


Frank Borzage


Claudine West (screen play), Hans Rameau (screen play) (as Andersen Ellis) | 2 more credits »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Margaret Sullavan ... Freya Roth
James Stewart ... Martin Breitner
Robert Young ... Fritz Marberg
Frank Morgan ... Professor Viktor Roth
Robert Stack ... Otto Von Rohn
Bonita Granville ... Elsa
Irene Rich ... Mrs. Emilia Roth
William T. Orr ... Erich Von Rohn
Maria Ouspenskaya ... Mrs. Hilda Breitner
Gene Reynolds ... Rudi Roth
Russell Hicks ... Rector
William Edmunds William Edmunds ... Lehman
Esther Dale ... Marta
Dan Dailey ... Holl (as Dan Dailey Jr.)
Granville Bates ... Professor Berg


Interesting to note that the film was made in 1940, one year before America's entry into the European war against Hitler. The movie depicts Germany in 1933. In 1938 the 'night of broken glass' took place. Interesting to note the attitudes portrayed in the film, definitely anti-Nazi. Written by Matt Goodwin

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Did You Know?


Unusual for movies of this era, there is no music played over the end credits. See more »


Although the story takes place in 1933, Margaret Sullavan's hairstyle and clothing are strictly in the 1940 mode. See more »


[first lines]
[white clouds appear; they quickly turn to storm clouds]
Narrator: When man was new upon the earth, he was frightened by the dangers of the elements. He cried out, "The gods of the lightning are angry, and I must kill my fellow man to appease them!" As man grew bolder, he created shelters against the wind and the rain and made harmless the force of the lightning. But within man himself were elements strong as the wind and terrible as the lightning. And he denied the existence of these ...
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Featured in Hollywood: Style Center of the World (1940) See more »


Close Up the Ranks
(1864) (uncredited)
Written by S.F. Cameron
Sung by bar patrons
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User Reviews

20 May 2003 | by MISSMOOHERSELFSee all my reviews

Things we take for granted such as freedom to think as we believe and to express those thoughts were snatched away abruptly from the German people in 1933 when Adolph Hitler was "elected" chancellor of Germany. Freedom was replaced by the New Order and as most people know, millions of people were murdered simply because they didn't fit the racial "norms" or accept the dictates of what the government said one should believe,

It's 1933 and Professor Viktor Roth (Frank Morgan) lives with his wife, 2 step sons, daughter and young son in a comfortable home in a university town in the Alps. Although the word is never mentioned, it is clear Professor Roth is Jewish and his life becomes endangered when the Nazis take over. While his 2 stepsons join the party, as does Fritz, his daughter's fiance (played by Robert Young), his daughter and their old family friend Martin (played by Jimmy Stewart) defy the common tide and resist joining the party. And it is Jimmy Stewart who expresses it best - by saying freedom to believe as a person wants to is food and drink to him. And it turns out, it's food and drink to Freya Roth (played by Margaret Sullavan), the young daughter to whom he is attracted. She breaks her engagement to Fritz and escapes -- or tries to -- with Martin. He had already fled to still free Austria while helping a Jewish school teacher escape.

This movie says much about what we take for granted - the sacredness of the right to act, believe, speak and think as a person wishes to, unencumbered by government dictates or threats. These gifts are precious and we have no idea just how precious until they are threatened. If, God forbid, that should ever happen, it is only hoped we have the same courage as young Freya and Martin.

This movie is compelling in a quiet way. There are no shoot 'em ups, no gory prison or execution scenes, no barbarity is shown. But it is there nevertheless and perhaps that is what makes the viewer keep watching. The only drawback is that it was written in 1940 so viewers back then don't really know the ending because the war had another 4 y ears to go and victory was by no means certain in 1940. The U.S. hadn't entered the war yet but word was leaking out as to what was really going on in Germany at the time. It's a shame more people didn't listen and that more people didn't pay attention to the message delivered in such a subtle way in this movie.

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Release Date:

14 June 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mortal Storm See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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