Watch on the Rhine (1943) Poster

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8/10
An excellent movie
homer_simpson9123 November 2001
It may (or may not) be considered interesting that the only reason I really checked out this movie in the first place was because I wanted to see the performance of the man who beat out Humphrey Bogart in his CASABLANCA (10/10 role for the Best Actor Oscar. (I still would have given the Oscar to Bogie, but Paul Lukas did do a great job and deserved the nomination, at least.) Well, I'm glad I did check this movie out, because I enjoyed it immensely. I think the movie did preach a little, but not only did I not mind, I enjoyed the speeches and was never bored with them.

The acting was outstanding in this movie. I especially enjoyed Paul Lukas, Lucile Watson (rightfully nominated for an Oscar), Bette Davis (wrongfully not nominated), George Coulouris and, oddly, Eric Roberts, who plays the middle child. I really enjoyed his character: an odd-looking boy who talks like some sort of philosopher. He just cracks me up. Even the characters name (Bodo) is funny.

The ending, in which Lukas's character was forced to do something he considered wrong even though he was doing it for all the right reasons, worked for me as well. I agreed with why he felt he had to what he did, and I understood why he couldn't quite explain it. The message this movie makes is a good and noble one, the scenery (meaning the house) is beautiful, and the acting is the excellent. Watch this movie if you ever get a chance.

9/10
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8/10
Fighting fascism
jotix1003 May 2005
Lillian Hellman, one of America's most famous women playwrights, was a woman with a mission. Her leftist views were not well regarded at the time in the country. In her memoir, she recounts her trip to the then, Soviet Union, as she was intrigued with the so called successes achieved by that system. "Watch on the Rhine" must have come as a result of those years. The left wing in America, as all over the world had an issue with the rise of fascism, not only in Europe, but in Japan as well.

"Watch on the Rhine" was a play produced on Broadway eight months before the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. In it Ms. Hellman was heralding America's entrance in World War II. The adaptation is credited to Ms. Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, her long time companion. As directed for the screen by Herman Shumlin, the film was well received when it premiered in 1943.

We are introduced to the Muller family, when the film opens. They are crossing the border to the United States from Mexico. They are to continue toward Mrs. Muller's home in Washington, D.C., where her mother, Fanny Farrelly, is a minor celebrity hostess. The Mullers, we realize are fleeing Europe because of the persecution there against the opponents of the advancing totalitarian regime in Germany. In fact, we thought, in a way, the Mullers could have been better justified if they were Jewish, fleeing from a sure extermination.

We find out that Mr. Muller has had a terrible time in his native land, as well as in other places because his outspokenness in denouncing Fascim. Little does he know that he is coming to his mother-in-law's house that is housing one of the worst exponents of that philosophy.

The film offers excellent acting all around. It is a curiosity piece because of Bette Davis' supporting role. Paul Lukas, repeating his Broadway role, is quite convincing as Kurt Muller, the upright man that wants to make a better world for himself and his family. Mr. Lukas does a great job portraying Kurt Muller, repeating the role that made him a stage luminary on Broadway.

The other best performance is by Lucile Watson, who plays Fanny Farrelly, the matriarch of this family. Geraldine Fitzgerald is seen as Marthe de Brancovis, a guest of the Farrellys, married to the contemptible Teck de Brancovis, a Nazi sympathizer, played by George Coulouris. Beulah Bondi, Donald Woods, and the rest of the supporting cast give good performances guided by Mr. Shumlin.

The film should serve as a reminder about the evils of totalitarian rule, no matter where.
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10/10
A Heart Touching, Tear Jerking,...A Real Movie
bonitachickia23430 June 2007
Ever since I can remember and I'm only 18 my mother and I have been and continue to watch older movies because well I find them much more rewarding in the long run (but hey don't get me wrong I do love the movies we have today just not as much as I love movies of the 40s and 50s) Anyways, now I have to say the moment I started watching the movie my eyes were glued to the TV. Of course my favorite character was the Grandmother played by Lucile Watson. But I loved the way Betty Davis and her family was portrayed. The children...did not act like children in the slightest. But there is good reason for that, having had to hid and run most of your life, seeing the awful things children saw those days destroyed their innocence. So people saying "oooo i hated how the kids acted...blah blah blah" read between the lines and know they saw things children should not see.

Paul Lukas...dear Paul did an amazing job!!! Now I know many people are mad that he go the Oscar and Bogie didn't but hey they both did amazing jobs so I think it could have gone either way. But Lukas' performance was so amazing that by the end of the movie I was reduced to tears. I loved this movie so much and recommend it to anyone!! :-D
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10/10
My favorite movie!
Trout-629 June 2000
Probably my all-time favorite movie, a story of selflessness, sacrifice and dedication to a noble cause, but it's not preachy or boring. It just never gets old, despite my having seen it some 15 or more times in the last 25 years. Paul Lukas' performance brings tears to my eyes, and Bette Davis, in one of her very few truly sympathetic roles, is a delight. The kids are, as grandma says, more like "dressed-up midgets" than children, but that only makes them more fun to watch. And the mother's slow awakening to what's happening in the world and under her own roof is believable and startling. If I had a dozen thumbs, they'd all be "up" for this movie.
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9/10
Vagabonds For A Cause
bkoganbing16 January 2009
Watch On The Rhine started as a Broadway play by Lillian Hellman who wrote the film and saw it open on Broadway at a time when the Soviet Union was still bound to Nazi Germany by that infamous non-aggression pact signed in August of 1939. So much for the fact that Hellman was merely echoing the Communist party line, the line didn't change until a couple of months later. Lillian was actually months ahead of her time with this work.

The play Watch On The Rhine ran from April 1941 to February 1942 for 378 performances and five players came over from Broadway to repeat their roles Frank Wilson as the butler, Eric Roberts as the youngest son, Lucile Watson as the family matriarch and most importantly villain George Coulouris and Paul Lukas.

Lukas pulled an award hat trick in 1943 winning an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and the New York Film Critics for Best Actor. Probably if the Tony Awards had been in existence then he would have won that as well. The Oscar is even more remarkable when you consider who he was up against, Humphrey Bogart for Casablanca, Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy, and Walter Pidgeon for Madame Curie. Every one of his competitors was a bigger box office movie name than he was. Lukas's nomination is usually the kind the Academy gives to round out a field.

Jack Warner knew that which is why Mady Christians did not repeat her Broadway part and the role of Lukas's wife was given to Bette Davis. Davis took the part not because this was an especially showy role for her, but because she believed in the picture and just wanted to be associated with it. It's the same reason she did The Man Who Came To Dinner, a much lighter play than this one.

Davis is the daughter of a late American Supreme Court Justice who married a German national back in the Weimar days. After many years of being vagabonds on the continent of Europe, Davis Lukas, and their three children come to America which has not yet entered the European War. They're made welcome by Lucile Watson who is thrilled naturally at finally meeting her grandchildren.

The fly in this ointment are some other house guests, a friend of Davis's from bygone days Geraldine Fitzgerald and her husband who is also from Europe, a Rumanian diplomat and aristocrat George Coulouris. Coulouris is a wastrel and a spendthrift and he smells an opportunity for double dealing when he suspects Lukas's anti-fascist background.

His suspicions are quite correct, it's the reason that the family has been the vagabonds they've become. Lukas fought in Spain on the Republican side and was wounded there. His health has not been the same since. His family loyally supports him in whatever decision he makes. Those decisions affect all the other members of the cast.

Adding quite a bit more to the Broadway play including some lovely fascist creatures was Dashiell Hammett who was Lillian Hellman's significant other. Coulouris playing cards at the German embassy was a Hammett creation with such loathsome types as Henry Daniell, Kurt Katch, Clyde Fillmore, Erwin Kalser and Rudolph Anders.

Coulouris is truly one of the most despicable characters ever brought to screen as the no account Runmanian count. He was a metaphor for his own country who embraced the Nazis with gusto and then equally repudiated them without losing a step after Stalingrad.

Lucile Watson was up for Best Supporting Actress in 1943, but lost to Katina Paxinou in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Dashiell Hammett was nominated for best adapted screenplay and the film itself lost for Best Picture to that other anti-fascist classic, Casablanca.

Though it's an item firmly planted in those specific times, Watch On The Rhine still packs a stern anti-fascist message that bears repeating infinitely.
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8/10
Lillian Hellman's World War II View
theowinthrop30 April 2005
Many of the criticisms on this thread seem to pick a comparison of this film with "The Mortal Storm" or "Casablanca". Everyone is entitled to compare films they choose, but the similarities of "The Mortal Storm" and "Watch On The Rhine" are clearly the problems of refugees threatened by the Nazi juggernaut, while the main comparative point brought out with "Casablanca" is the seeming unjust treatment of Humphrey Bogart in 1943 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, because they chose Paul Lukas instead for the Best Actor Oscar. It does not strike me as totally wrong. Lukas had a good career in film (both here and in England - he is the villain in "The Lady Vanishes"), and this performance was his best one. Bogart had more great performances in him than Rick Blaine (for instance, he was ignored for Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon" and Roy Earle in "High Sierra" two years earlier, both of which were first rate performances, and he would not get an Oscar for his greatest performances as Fred C. Dobbs in "The Treasure Of Sierra Madres", the writer/murder suspect in "In A Lonely Place", and Captain Philip Francis Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny" afterward - he got it for Charley in "The African Queen"). I think that Bogie should have got it for the role of Dobbs, but it did not happen. But Lukas was lucky - he got it on the defining performance of his lesser career. Few can claim that.

To me the film to look at with "Watch On The Rhine" is based on another play/script by Hellman, "The Searching Wind". They both look at America's spirit of isolationism in the 1920s and 1930s. "The Searching Wind" is really looking at the whole inter-war period, while "Watch On The Rhine", set in the years just proceeding our entry into World War II, deals with a few weeks of time. Therefore it is better constructed as a play, and more meaningful for it's impact.

The film has many good performances, led by Lukas as the exhausted but determined anti-Nazi fighter/courier, Davis as his loyal wife (wisely keeping her character as low keyed as possible due to Lukas being the center of the play's activities), Coulouris as the selfish, conniving, but ultimately foolish and ineffective Teck, Lucille Watson as the mother of Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald (as Coulouris' wiser and sadder and fed up wife), and Kurt Katch, who delivers a devastating critique (as the local embassy's Gestapo chief) about Coulouris and others who would deal with the Nazis. It has dialog with bite in it. And what it says is quite true. It also has moments of near poetry. Witness the scene, towards the end, when Coulouris is left alone with Lukas and Davis, and says, "The New World has left the scene to the Old World". Hellman could write very well at times.

Given the strength of the film script and performances I would rate this film highly among World War II films.
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5/10
A disappointment
richard-178713 January 2009
This is a movie with a noble heart and fine actors. Unfortunately, it is also a movie with a stiff and leaden script, painfully unnatural and not well directed. It is impossible not to feel for Paul Lukas' character, just as it is impossible not to feel for Paul Heinried's character in Casablanca, made the same year and dealing with similar issues. But whereas the script in Casablanca, one of that movie's many wonders, makes real people of its characters, the script in this movie fails miserably in that respect, as in others.

If you have never seen this movie, watch it. But it could have been so much better with a better script.

-----------------------

I watched this movie again tonight, 9 years after I wrote my review above. In rereading that, I find the tone is perhaps too harsh, but I do not regret my condemnation of the movie's script. The characters are very noble indeed, but they remain ideological figures rather than human beings. Perhaps the best illustration of that is seen by a comparison of Paul Luckas' Kurt with Victor Lazlo in *Casablanca*. Lazlo, too, is self-sacrificing and noble, but he is allowed to be more human, and therefore more sympathetic, than Luckas' resistance fighter. The latter's final speech is very moving, but he still seems a cold fish.

There are also problems of construction. Martha and David are never really woven into the main story.

Again, the movie is worth watching. It must have been very powerful in 1943, when it was released, and resistance fighters were desperately trying to counter a successful Hitler in Europe. But the characters are too two-dimensional to make this a truly moving film
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3/10
Boring
clbh123430 December 2012
So tedious... what a shame. An important subject, great actors but... it's painful waiting for something to happen. I love Dashiell Hammett too, but his fine hand is not perceived in this movie. The first hour of this film is comprised mostly of incessant small talk, stilted dialog and self-important strains of "America (My Country Tis of Thee)". Finally the action is set in motion one hour into the film. At that point it becomes compelling for about 15 minutes, then lapses into preachy monologues.

Despite the significance of the topic (Nazi resistance) especially in 1943 when the film was released, its mawkish sentimentality does not render this a robust examination of the theme in 2012. There is another film, released the year before, on this subject that we've all seen a few times at least... better to view that classic again than spend two vexing hours on this one.
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This movie should be shown in our high schools
zen115 February 2001
I saw Watch on the Rhine when I was in my twenties and fell in love with the movie. It came on recently and from the vantage point of my fifties it was like watching the movie for the first time. This time, however, I found the movie interesting from the perspective of the unaware Americans who allow Nazi sympathizers not only to live in their home but to become so familiar as to almost be part of the family. It's entertainment value lies in the fact that in the early 1940's most Americans were unaware of the serious menace Hitler and his evil henchmen presented to the world. The ensuing 'final solution' would have been beyond the imagination of the every day Joe. This movie should be shown in our high schools as an object lesson in history and to correct those who are trying to revise history and deny the more sinister aspects of the Third Reich. Please if you get the opportunity watch this movie because the story dominates the actors, to the benefit of the viewer, and to the credit of those who made it.
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10/10
Machts gut, Papa
blanche-219 June 2006
An American woman, her European husband and children return to her mother's home in "Watch on the Rhine," a 1943 film based on the play by Lillian Hellman, and starring Paul Lukas (whom I believe is repeating his stage role here), Bette Davis, Lucile Watson, George Coulouris, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Donald Woods. An anti-Fascist, a worker in the underground movement, many times injured, and wanted by the Nazis, Kurt Muller (Lukas) is in need of a long vacation on the estate of his wealthy mother-in-law. But he finds out that there is truly no escape as one of the houseguests (Coulouris) is suspicious as to his true identity and more than willing to sell him out.

Great performances abound in this film, written very much to put forth Lillian Hellman's liberal point of view. It was certainly a powerful propaganda vehicle at the time it was released, as the evils of war and what was happening to people in other countries reach into safe American homes. The movie's big controversy today is that Paul Lukas won an Oscar over Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca." Humphrey Bogart was a wonderful screen presence and a fabulous Rick, but Lukas is transcendent as Kurt. The monologue he has about the need to kill is gut-wrenching, just to mention one scene.

Though this isn't what one thinks of as a Bette Davis movie, she gives a masterful performance here as Kurt's loyal and loving wife, Sara. Her acting tugs at the heart, and the love scenes between Kurt and Sara are beautiful and tender.

The last half hour of the film had me in tears with the honesty of the emotions. Lillian Hellman is not everyone's cup of tea, but unlike "The Little Foxes," she has written some truly sympathetic, wonderful characters and a fine story given A casting and production values by Warner Brothers. Highly recommended.
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3/10
NOT PREACHY?!!!?
Eric Chapman9 December 2000
It as absolutely incredible to me that anyone could make the comment that this film is not preachy. It is not only oppressively preachy, but absurd, stagebound, dramatically straight-jacketed, and painfully overwrought. Watching it, one feels like an 8 year old child being punished by having to write "I will not become a fascist" on the blackboard 100 times.

Now I understand that it was made during the height of WW2, and was intended to be a brave condemnation of Hitler and the terrible suffering he brought about, (which anyone would whole-heartedly applaud) and I'm sure it accurately captured the mood of the day. But it is presented in such an immature, over-obvious, sledgehammer way, it fails abysmally as a work of art.

The only good performances here are from Paul Lukas, who brings sincerity and intensity to his role as a quietly heroic anti-fascist; and Lucile Watson as the amusingly ill-mannered rich grandmother who slowly comes to realize how dangerous the world has become. Though their rootless upbringing has subjected them to all kinds of hardships, the children are ridiculously shown as robotically well-behaved little snips. They do not even remotely resemble real human beings. And Bette Davis, a great actress, here is so one dimensionally noble I cringed every time she was on screen. Her every word, her every gesture is meant to convey how SUPPORTIVE and UNDERSTANDING she is of the SACRIFICES her husband has to make and the great CAUSE he is fighting for, that she must've been wired to receive a painful electric shock if she dared allowed any hint of doubt or shading to surface in her portrayal.

So yes, this is a very IMPORTANT film, just not a very good one.
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4/10
Turgid Warner Bros. do-gooder...
moonspinner559 August 2009
Lillian Hellman's play, adapted by Dashiell Hammett with help from Hellman, becomes a curious project to come out of gritty Warner Bros. Paul Lukas, reprising his Broadway role and winning the Best Actor Oscar, plays an anti-Nazi German underground leader fighting the Fascists, dragging his American wife and three children all over Europe before finding refuge in the States (via the Mexico border). They settle in Washington with the wife's wealthy mother and brother, though a boarder residing in the manor is immediately suspicious of the newcomers and spends an awful lot of time down at the German Embassy playing poker. It seems to take forever for this drama to find its focus, and when we realize what the heart of the material is (the wise, honest, direct refugees teaching the clueless, head-in-the-sand Americans how the world has suddenly changed), it seems a little patronizing--the viewer is quite literally put in the relatives' place, being lectured to. Lukas has several speeches in the third-act which undoubtedly won him the Academy Award, yet for the much of the picture he seems to do little but enter and exit, enter and exit. As his spouse, Bette Davis enunciates like nobody else and works her wide eyes to good advantage, but the role doesn't allow her much color. Their children (all with divergent accents!) are alternately humorous and annoying, and Geraldine Fitzgerald has a nothing role as a put-upon wife (and the disgruntled texture she brings to the part seems entirely wrong). The intent here was to tastefully, tactfully show us just because a (WWII-era) man may be German, that doesn't make him a Nazi sympathizer. We get that in the first few minutes; the rest of this tasteful, tactful movie is made up of exposition, defensive confrontation and, ultimately, compassion. It should be a heady mix, but instead it's rather dry-eyed and inert. ** from ****
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5/10
There IS a good film on this topic, but it ain't this one
semi-buff17 January 2005
The most enjoyable scene in this film is the one which has the least plot value: grandmother and her friend in the taxi. That was a delight. Too bad it came so early in the film; something like it was sorely needed after the halfway point to keep us from contemplating suicide. Oh, this film is T-E-D-I-O-U-S! Watson and especially Lukas are wonderful; the story is important; the message is clear. But I agree with everyone else--what a horrible way to get it across! And the children. Were any three kids ever less kid-like?! My own review would itself be less tedious if not for IMDb's 10-line-minimum requirement; time to end that silliness, in my opinion. For an involving, well-written, historically fascinating anti-isolationist film, do not miss The Mortal Storm (1940).
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2/10
Potomic Poisoning
telegonus23 March 2003
There seems to be little in the way of middle ground where Watch On the Rhine is concerned. One either likes it very much, applauding its sincerity, its liberal point of view and fine acting, or else loathes its obvious propaganda, mediocre dialogue, cardboard characters and overall tendentiousness. I fall very much in the latter category, and found the film and play,--concerning the activities of European refugees in Washington during wartime--a crushing bore, worthwhile mostly for the acting, and even then only intermittently. That author Lillian Hellman was on the side of the angels is irrelevant. Her plays were written for people who shared her point of view, and she seldom explored ideas that weren't already held by the author and audience except to point out how dreadful the "other side" is. Even when I find myself in one hundred percent agreement with what she has to say,--as in Rhine--I still can't stand the way she says it. Her characters are unreal, and while her ear for dialogue shows a certain facility for the way people talk she possesses no real brilliance or originality. She really had nothing new to say. I thoroughly agree with the late Mary McCarthy's long overdue dismantling of Hellman reputation some years ago. For those who think the theatre is dead or in extremis and yearn for the good old days, I urge a peek at Watch On the Rhine, as bad in its way as Angels In America, which only goes to show that the theatre had one foot in the grave sixty years ago.
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2/10
Cliched and predictable
roger-13414 January 2002
The characters are cliched and predictable, with everyone being either snow-white pure or wholly evil. The acting is too stilted for it to be bad in an amusing, over-the-top way. It's doubly disappointing if you're a Bette Davis fan, because her character is not a typically fun Bette-Davis-type character; she just gets to frown pensively a lot.

On the whole, neither my wife nor I found the movie to be interesting, moving or enjoyable at all.
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A Movie With Bette Davis And Nazis Should Be Way Better
cutterccbaxter2 May 2005
Before I started watching "Watch On The Rhine" I was thinking I hadn't seen it before, but then the opening scene looked familiar, and I realized I had seen it before only I had slept through most of it. Last night I was more determined to make it through the film, so whenever I felt myself nodding off I got up and jogged around the room. I got a good work out in. Movies adapted from plays frighten me because there is a strong chance that the performances and the dialog will not have been liberated from the stage on their way to the screen. I thought "Watch On The Rhine" suffered from a poor adaptation. It rarely felt like a movie to me. Much of the dialog and scenes went on way too long (and no I'm not judging this on the pacing of current movies). The actors entered and exited scenes like they were in a play. Most importantly I think the ending could have been stronger. I think it should have been revealed that Bodo was really Hermann Gohring in disguise.
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9/10
Excellent adaptation of a great play.
PWNYCNY14 July 2012
The is a great movie. The passage of time has not lessened its dramatic impact. Although set during World War Two, this movie, which is an excellent adaptation of the Lillian Hellman play, deal with themes which are relevant today and would resonate with a contemporary audience. Paul Lukas's performance is tremendous; his Academy Award is well-deserved. As for Bette Davis, she successfully tackles a role that was not a typical one for her. Here she is cast in a supporting role, yet she still stars, so good is her performance. The other member of the cast are also excellent. Special mention must go to George Coulouris and Irene Watson, both of whom have key roles in the drama. This movie conveys the feeling of determination and commitment to the struggle against Nazism, yet avoids becoming a polemic, which is why the movie is so strong as a drama. For anyone who likes strong stories and excellent acting, this movie is for you.
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5/10
Europeans awaken American family to Nazi threat
maurice yacowar15 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's easy to watch Watch on the Rhine (1943) as a call to America to acknowledge the danger of Naziism. That's loud and clear -- and very moving. But it functions as a historic document in its astonishing limitation, as well. Even as it extolls America's embrace of freedom on the world stage it portrays without irony or questioning America's own moral problem, the inheritance of slavery and its inherent dehumanization of its own people. While the heroes fight fascism abroad the film implicitly countenances the fascism of racism in America.

Dashiell Hammett wrote the screenplay, based on his romantic and writing partner Lillian Hellman's Broadway success, with her additional scenes and dialogue. Both were bright, liberal minds, sensitive writers, committed to the ideals of American democracy and militant defenders of humanity against the Nazis.

Yet despite those credentials, they set the Bette Davis's family home on a plush plantation a drive away from Washington. The family has black servants whom the matriarch orders around imperiously. If there's any liberalism in the writers' view of these blacks it's restricted to a bit of eye-rolling sass. Otherwise the blacks here are simply the plantation stereotype -- especially the two wide-eyed mutes brought from the garden to shuffle the sofa. The servants have no exchange with the Davis heroine or the Paul Lucas saintly hero.

When this film was made America's liberal intelligentsia had apparently not yet recognized the injustice of its racism. That's this film's real statement to us now. Like Hellman and Hammett we may think we've achieved a state of moral awareness and courage - - but what blinkers might we be wearing unawares today? For that we have to wake for future artists and critics to expose us. For more see www.yacowar.blogspot.com.
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10/10
A cautionary tale
jjnxn-130 April 2013
A cautionary tale about the insidiousness of evil and the dangers of complacency this film is as timely as ever. Bette is very subdued here as befits her character and so when she is moved to action it is all the more involving. Lukas is excellent recreating his stage role, as do all the adult actors here excepting Bette and Geraldine Fitzgerald, as a man fiercely committed to his cause. The wonderful Lucile Watson makes every second she's on screen count as the strong-minded Fanny Farrelly, while always good this is probably her best on screen work. A compelling film, it is at times verbose but what is being said is worthwhile so that isn't really a debit.
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8/10
Rises above the typical war film...and takes place in America
vincentlynch-moonoi23 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For all these years I have avoided watching this film because, although it had one feature I really like (Bette Davis), it appeared to about WWII along the Rhine River...and I usually detest war movies. So, last evening, I was quite delighted to learn that the movie was completely different than I had expected, and although it was about WWII and Nazis, it takes place primarily in Virginia (or is it Maryland).

In 1940, before the U.S. had gotten into WWII (although the film was produced in 1943, when the end of the war was approaching) German-born engineer Paul Lukas, his American wife Bette Davis, and their 3 children Joshua cross from Mexico into the United States to visit (or live with) Davis' mother in suburban Washington. For 17 years, the Lukas/Davis family has lived in Europe, with Lukas participating in anti-Fascist activities.

Will they live in peace in America? Or will Lukas continue his anti-Nazi activities through trips abroad? Of will a house guest who secretly favors the Nazi turn Lukas in for money from the Nazis. Well, the house guest won't do that, because ultimately Lukas shots him to death! At the close of the movie, one of Davis' sons announces that is planning to return to war-time Europe to find his father (Lukas). Davis, though heartbroken agrees to be brave when that time comes.

Davis is excellent here, perhaps all the more so because she is playing against type. In fact, this may be one of her better roles. Lukas, an actor from Austria-Hungary, did win the Oscar for Best Actor, and he turns in a decidedly different performance than would have been given by an American actor. Lucile Watson, as the mother, was excellent here...as she always was. Geraldine Fitzgerald turns in a good performance, as does Donald Woods as the son. George Coulouris is appropriately loathsome as the evil house guest. The one performance that disappointed me was from a character actress that I have the highest respect for -- the wonderful Beulah Bondi. Unfortunately, here she plays a French great aunt, and it just seems an unnatural role for her.

I give this film high marks. It rises above typical war-time movie stories, and is a superb drama. This may very well be one for your DVD shelf...a war story with a difference.
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Rich and Moving
inhonoredglory2 October 2011
What a truly, truly rich, moving experience. I love those films made in the war years, as they mean so much and teach so much and have so much more depth and meaning. This movie is no exception. I can see why Bette Davis took the role "for its importance." It teaches so much to the American people of its time - and even now - how we don't really know what it means to be a European in an Old World so often used to the kinds of conflict that created World War II.

The movie also strikingly doesn't feel like propaganda, even though the message was clearly to move its audience into action (aren't all worthwhile films aimed at personal change?). It presented a very enlightening, moving perspective on both the German menace and the Underground protagonists. Muller (Paul Lukas) explains how we will one day feel pity for those Germans who just "follow orders" and are really just fools, like De Brancovis (George Coulouris). And the perspective that Muller and the Underground may indeed be like the evil they fight - to see Muller admit he was bad. Situations like this are not black and white.

The acting in this are also marvelous. Paul Lukas is an inspiration to watch. The children are so very precious, as is Lucile Watson's character.

After seeing this, my sister wanted to learn more about WWII, the Underground, and the Holocaust. Through it, she's had the experience I've had so long ago.

In that time, I see character, selflessness, and purpose greater than self. I love it so, and I am saddened by the blatant selfishness that defines today's society. Movies like this inspire me and make me see continually that ideals and convictions can be attained and are indeed beautiful.
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6/10
Preachy writing & uneven acting mar what could have been an interesting melodrama
MiloMindbender6 December 2009
All the dialog in this movie is written as if it were a sermon. Not only is the movie too preachy, but the acting is either too stiff (the children) or too hysterical (Bette Davis, in one of her weaker performances). Another weakness of the movie is that all the dialog revolves around generalities rather than specifics. Fascism and Nazis are bad! Maybe in 1943 this was groundbreaking, but today the simplemindedness of the writing makes this a story of caricatures, rather than a story of real people. The plot of the movie could have survived if this had been filmed as a film noir with unknowns in the leads instead of a melodrama for actors pining to win an Oscar.
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1/10
Lillian the Communist
ferd_berfel_91 April 2006
The sign of a classic movie is that it ages like a fine red wine. This movie is no Cabarnet and certainly no Casablanca. I agree with the other reviewers that the children in the movie are an unfortunate mutation that now plagues us nightly in sit-coms and the dialogue is stilted and preachy. But let's look at the obsolete theme of the movie.

With the passage of sixty plus years of history comes wisdom. Since Watch on the Rhine, author Lillian Hellman has been exposed as a Bidenesque plagiarist with her so called real-life story "Julia" from her book "Pentimento". As one of the most odious of a plethora of Western-based USSR apologists, it is obvious her theme in the play and movie was to stir America to action to save the bloody Soviet dictator Stalin and international communism from the fascists, who had just proved their military superiority in Spain.

As one reviewer correctly noted, this is not a pro-American play and movie, as Lillian went to her grave an American-loathing communist. This film chronicles that familiar smug stupidity of the intellectual elites that made up the American Left then, just as now the full mooner Left of The Daily Kos and Michael Moore has bought into the conspiracy theories and once again given aid and comfort to those who would destroy America.
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10/10
A reminder of what we were and what we might be again
geoff-1611 May 2005
Say what you will about schmaltz. One beauty of this film is that it is not pro-American. It is a morality about some Americans being called to high purpose and how they rose to the occasion. It is inspiring because it is about people of noble purpose.

To me, the most interesting part of the film is the education of Fanny and David Farrelly (Bette Davis' mother and brother). As Fanny says, "We've been shaken out of the magnolias."

In today's political climate where, led by a president who shamelessly lied to us and used 9/11 to bring out the absolute worst characteristics of human beings, we sunk to the level of the 9/11 murderers to seek blood-thirsty vengeance. It can't all be blamed on Mr. Bush - after all, we allowed him to lead us in that direction and even re-elected him after his lies had been exposed. Now, with complete justification, we Americans are reviled throughout the world.

Today, we watch this film with a new awareness: That the rise to power of Nazis in Germany was not due to a flaw in the German character, but, a flaw in human beings that allows us to rationalize anything that will justify our committing immoral and heinous acts. I'm not comparing George Bush to Adolph Hitler. But, I am pointing out how a leader can whip us up into a frenzy of terror, hatred, and hyper-nationalism to do despicable things.

Sadly, the blackmailer, who will do whatever needs to be done for his own agrandizement, no matter how immoral, is most like the leaders of our country, those who support them, and those who have buried their heads so deep in the sand, that they can't even be bothered to vote.

A film like Watch on the Rhine reminds us of what we once aspired to be - a force for the betterment of humanity - and that we have it in us to once again aspire to lofty goals.

Geoff
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9/10
Outwitting the Nazi Foxes.
mark.waltz24 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Once again, Lillian Hellman takes on the fight against Fascism as she did with the analytical "The Little Foxes". Here, it is modern day Washington D.C. and German born Nazi hater Paul Lukas comes to the capitol on a mission while visiting his American wife's family. He is recognized by a traitorous Nazi sympathizer, calling into question his own values and bringing on a sacrifice that was necessary during the second world war. Bette Davis takes second fiddle to Lukas's showier lead, realizing how important this would be not only to her career but to the war as well. Propaganda, certainly, but well-written, definitely.

The villain of the story is George Coulouris, playing both sides against the middle as European Count with only one goal in mind: cash. He's the type of sleaze who would sell out his own mother in order to grab on to the green, and also the type that the Nazis would kill as soon as they got all of the information he possessed. He's there as a guest, married to Geraldind Fitzgerald who obviously loves Davis's brother. Lucille Watson, as Davis's regal mother, takes her lovable character through many different levels: demanding, bossy, opinionated, slightly meddlesome, cheery, worried, shocked and finally contrite. But never is she any less than practically perfect, in performance and character. In a smaller role, Beaulah Bondi is Watson's wise housekeeper who is amused by Davis's feisty younger son who declares to Watson's surprise, "Yes, I am not handsome."

War is never just on the battlefield, in the skies or on water. It is in the cities where all seems peaceful, in the country where hate grows like corn, and especially in the heart where it expands like a tumor. All it takes is one person like Coulouris to start the thread of intolerance and fascism spreads like plague. That's where Lukas must battle his own moral structure, coming to terms with the difference between being a pacifist and ridding the world of evil, whether it be one man or millions. The script leaves the story open, as was appropriate, as the theme states that the plot line of the world will never be completed as long as evil is allowed to roam the earth.
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