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Margin for Error (1943)

It is a toss-up as to who is most displeased when Patrolman Moe Finkelstein is given the duty of guarding the German consulate run by Karl Baumer; neither Moe nor Baumer is too happy with ... See full summary »


Otto Preminger


Clare Boothe Luce (play) (as Clare Boothe), Lillie Hayward (screenplay) (as Lillian Hayward)


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Complete credited cast:
Joan Bennett ... Sophia Baumer
Milton Berle ... Moe Finkelstein
Otto Preminger ... Karl Baumer
Carl Esmond ... Baron Max von Alvenstor (as Charles Esmond)
Howard Freeman ... Otto Horst
Liesl Handl ... Frieda (as Poldy Dur)
Clyde Fillmore Clyde Fillmore ... Dr. Jennings
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ludwig Donath ... Hitler's Voice (as Louis Donath)


It is a toss-up as to who is most displeased when Patrolman Moe Finkelstein is given the duty of guarding the German consulate run by Karl Baumer; neither Moe nor Baumer is too happy with this turn of events. Moe, however, quickly becomes friends with the other residents of the consulate: Sophie Baumer, the consul's wife; the secretary, Baron Max Von Alvenstor; and a pretty maid named Frieda. Moe senses an underlying tension that is not entirely accounted for by the gathering clouds of war. The gambling-loving Baumer has lost a large sum of money belonging to the German government, Sophie has learned to hate her husband and what he stands for, and Baron Max has fallen in love with her. Max confronts Baumer with the discrepancy in the consulate's funds, and Baumer threatens to inform Berlin that one of Max's grandparents was not "Aryan." The arrival of a group of Nazi saboteurs and the insistence they be given the funds to finance their project stirs consulate affairs even further. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

german | baron | saboteur | nazi | evil man | See All (51) »


You'll Howl With Glee as This N.Y. Cop Takes Over! See more »


Comedy | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »





English | German

Release Date:

10 February 1943 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Margen de error See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The pinball machine that Finkelstein and Frieda play in the drugstore is an electro-mechanical "Twin Six" (1941) manufactured by J.H. Keeney & Co Inc. See more »


References Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Finkelstein guards the Nazis
15 October 2015 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

In order to bring this to the screen in 1943 Margin For Error had to be told in flashback. So it was by star Milton Berle as he relates to his fellow GIs his and Carl Esmond's story as they are about to hit a beach.

Margin For Error which was written by Clare Booth Luce had a run of 264 performances on Broadway during the 1939-40 season. Only Otto Preminger as the sadistic Nazi consul in New York before FDR broke diplomatic relationship with them and star of the story and Edward McNamara playing a police captain repeat their roles from Broadway.

Milton Berle takes the place of Sam Levene playing New York City policeman Moe Finkelstein who draws from McNamara the unenviable task of guarding the Third Reich embassy in New York. Can you imagine that in New York there are a sizable number of people not happy with the doctrines of the Third Reich, a lot of them with names like Finkelstein? Still Berle does his duty and at the same time is in a position to foil a few Nazi schemes.

Otto Preminger is looking like he's loving playing the villain here, a man without a single redeeming feature you can name. He's even stealing from the Third Reich because he has a nasty gambling habit which ultimately brings him down. He's married to Joan Bennett whose mother was American although she's in love with the embassy's secretary Carl Esmond.

Howard Freeman is in the cast as the leader of the American Bund in a characterization a whole lot like Fritz Kuhn. Kuhn had ambitions to be America's Hitler, but he was a bungler and a clod and just didn't have the right stuff. Still he was what later would be termed a useful idiot, but even Freeman's not putting up with Preminger for too much longer.

Watching Berle in another feature from 20th Century Fox it becomes even more abundantly clear that Darryl Zanuck saw in him a comedy star who could be as bankable at the box office as Bob Hope was with Paramount. He was certainly more convincing in this instant as a Jew than Hope would have been, but the lines and situations were pure Hope.

Margin For Error still holds up well as a World War II era item than a whole lot of others do.

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