Watch on the Rhine (1943) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A German-born engineer, his American wife and their children travel from Mexico to the United States to visit her family but their plans are complicated by a Romanian count.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • It is set around the World War 2 time.

    The Mullers are coming across the Mexican border to start their life in America...actually, to visit Sarah's (Bette Davis) family in Washington D.C. The family is made up of Sarah, the mother; Kurt (Paul Lukas), the German father; Joshua, the eldest son; Babby, the cute, innocent little girl; and Bodo, the baby of the family who likes to use big words and tries to act intelligent.

    Meanwhile, Sarah's mom, Fanny (Lucille Watson) is preparing for her daughter's homecoming. She has the help of the (housekeeper? mainly friend) named Annise.

    The third set of people is Sarah's brother, David (Donald Woods); and the Count Tek (George Colouris) and Marthe (Geraldine Fitzgerald). David is somewhat taken by Marthe and they admire each other from afar. Tek, we find, is a slimy character. He often participates in poker games at the Nazi Embassy with high-ranking Nazi officials.

    When the Mullers get to Washington DC, they are overjoyed to be there. We begin to learn about Kurt's job as the rest of the family does...he is a leader of the Underground Resistance Movement. Tek becomes suspicious of them when he finds that they have a loose looking suitcase but a carefully locked briefcase. One afternoon, he breaks into the briefcase and finds money, a gun, and a seal with the letters MF. Having remembered hearing a Nazi official talk of the Underground leader Max Friedenk, he calls the Nazi Baron von Ramme to see. Tek find that Max Friedenk was actually arrested recently. However, the count is still suspicious. He calls the Embassy and asks a man how much info about a Resistance leader would be worth. "If he were in the US, not so much. But if we could get him out of the country, you could name your price...within reason."

    Tek is liking how this sounds, considering how Marthe and him have run up quite a bill. Besides, he wants to go back to the ruins of the declining Europe. He gets a list of the Resistance leaders' descriptions.

    That night, when Sarah is getting ready for dinner, she opens a drawer to get a handkerchief or something of the sort when she sees the briefcase lock has been tampered with. She grabs it out and examines it. She finds that the gun was put back in the wrong place.

    She goes downstairs and tells Kurt. ...

    Tek tells Kurt that he thought Kurt was Max Friedenk. But then he starts reading off the description of a Gauter, matching Kurt to a T. Tek demands the money from the briefcase. Kurt won't give it to him. Fanny goes to the safe to get her money to pay Tek off.

    Meanwhile, Kurt knocks Tek down. He tells him that he knows that Tek is a slimy person and that he knows that if he lets him go now that Tek will just turn him in to the Nazis as soon as he gets paid by the Mullers. He leads him outside and shoots him.

    Inside, Sarah calls for a plane ticket for Kurt. She then explains to Fanny and David about what had to be done to Tek and how she knowsa she will never see Kurt again.

    Kurt comes in. He says he is sorry that he had to do it but that the man would've endangered many more people. He tells Fanny that they can give him a couple of minutes to say goodbye to his kids and then call the police, or that they can pardon him and give him a chance to get to Europe. Fanny blesses his voyage. Kurt goes upstairs and says goodbye to the children.

    Kurt gives his blessing and responsibility to Joshua. He says goodbye to Sarah. He leaves.

    A couple of months later...it is winter. Sarah is sitting by the fire while Joshua is sitting at a desk working on a map. He is drawing out a route on it. Sarah can only guess that Joshua is trying to plan a route to rescue Kurt and confronts him. Joshua admits that he is and that Sarah should've that this would happen and that it is his responsibility to do this. He also asks Sarah to send Bodo when the time comes. Sarah complies.

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