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The Red Danube (1949)

Passed | | Drama, Romance, War | 14 October 1949 (USA)
Shortly after the end of World War II, British Colonel Michael 'Hooky' Nicobar is assigned to a unit in the British Zone of Vienna. His duty is to aid the Soviet authorities to repatriate ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar
... Mother Superior ('Mother Auxilia')
... Major John 'Twingo' McPhimister
... Audrey Quail
... Olga Alexandrova / Maria Buhlen
... Colonel Piniev
... Colonel Humphrey 'Blinker' Omicron
... Private David Moonlight
... Brigadier C.M.V. Catlock
... The General
Roman Toporow ... 2nd Lt. Maxim Omansky
Kasia Orzazewski ... Sister Kasmira
Tamara Shayne ... Helena Nagard
... Professor Serge Bruloff
... Mickey Mouse


Shortly after the end of World War II, British Colonel Michael 'Hooky' Nicobar is assigned to a unit in the British Zone of Vienna. His duty is to aid the Soviet authorities to repatriate citizens of the Soviet Union, many of whom prefer not to return to their home country. Billeted in the convent run by Mother Auxilia, Nicobar, and his military aides Major John 'Twingo' McPhimister and Audrey Quail, become involved in the plight of a young ballerina who is trying to avoid being returned to Moscow. Nicobar's sense of duty is tested as he sees first hand the plight of the people he is helping return to the Soviet Union; his lack of religious faith is also shaken by his contact with the Mother Superior. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Beautiful Maria...the four lives that touched hers were never the same again!


Drama | Romance | War


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 October 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Case of Maria Buhlen  »


Box Office


$1,961,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,859,000, 31 December 1950
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 19, 1951 with Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford and Janet Leigh reprising their film roles. See more »


Melville Cooper's role is credited as "Private David Moonlight" but his uniform bears Sergeant's stripes throughout the movie. See more »


Mother Superior: [Referring to a previous conversation about religion and its inefficacy in wartime] Like that ladder...
Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar: The ladder?
Mother Superior: There is the ladder, there is the ceiling and there is the paint. If you want the ceiling painted, someone must climb the ladder.
Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar: Yes, you, um, need a painter.
Mother Superior: But suppose the painter remains at the foot of the ladder? You cannot say that the ladder has failed you, or the paint has failed you, or the ceiling has failed you.
Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar: No, no you can't.
Mother Superior: I know about you more than you know ...
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Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Sung by those in the car and the plane
Also sung by a chorus at the end
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User Reviews

Good on a few levels
21 August 2010 | by See all my reviews

"The Red Danube" is a strong 1949 film about post-war Europe, starring Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, and Ethel Barrymore.

There are several levels to this film. One is the agreement among the Allies to repatriate people to their native countries after the war. This film deals with the British sector, led by Pidgeon and his team, who are charged with aiding in the repatriation. Another level is the spiritual aspect - the Pidgeon character, "Hooky" Nicobar, has begun to doubt the existence of any entity that could allow such horror to happen in the world, including his own personal tragedy. And there's the love story between Maria (Janet Leigh), a Soviet ballerina, and Major 'Twingo' McPhimister.

When displaced Russians would rather commit suicide than return to Russia, Hooky begins to doubt what Colonel Piniev (Louis Calhern) is telling him about what awaits these people back in the homeland. But he has to follow orders, so in spite of protests, he turns over ballerina Maria to the Soviets.

MGM made a film later on, "Never Let Me Go" about a ballerina trying to get out of Russia; here a ballerina tries to keep from going back. This film has much more depth than "Never Let Me Go," and is more gritty, showing the old and weak DPs, unusable for slave labor, that the Russians foist upon the British sector toward the end of the film.

The spiritual angle in this film is interesting - has God failed man, the nun (Ethel Barrymore) asks, or has man failed God? Is "following orders" when you know you're sending people to certain death sufficient? "The Red Danube" is well acted. Discovered by Norma Shearer, Janet Leigh had only been in films two years when she made this, but she had already racked up some experience. She's fresh-faced, sympathetic, and sweet as Maria Buhlen. Peter Lawford doesn't have much to do; Angela Lansbury is delightful as part of the team, and Walter Pidgeon does an excellent job as the troubled colonel. As the Mother Superior where Audrey Quail, the colonel, and Twingo are billeted, Ethel Barrymore gives a superb performance as a woman of implacable faith who tries to help Hooky with his crisis and aid Maria.

I thought this was a very good film, thought-provoking, with good direction by George Sidney.

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