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The Red Danube (1949)

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 »


George Sidney


Gina Kaus (screenplay), Arthur Wimperis (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Pidgeon ... Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar
Ethel Barrymore ... Mother Superior ('Mother Auxilia')
Peter Lawford ... Major John 'Twingo' McPhimister
Angela Lansbury ... Audrey Quail
Janet Leigh ... Olga Alexandrova / Maria Buhlen
Louis Calhern ... Colonel Piniev
Francis L. Sullivan ... Colonel Humphrey 'Blinker' Omicron
Melville Cooper ... Private David Moonlight
Robert Coote ... Brigadier C.M.V. Catlock
Alan Napier ... The General
Roman Toporow Roman Toporow ... 2nd Lt. Maxim Omansky
Kasia Orzazewski Kasia Orzazewski ... Sister Kasmira
Tamara Shayne Tamara Shayne ... Helena Nagard
Konstantin Shayne ... Professor Serge Bruloff
Janine Perreau ... 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) See more »

Also Known As:

The Case of Maria Buhlen See more »


Box Office


$1,961,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In early 1947, Irene Dunne, Spencer Tracy Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse were set to star. See more »


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


Major John 'Twingo' McPhimister: Reverend Mother, you're well... you're a trump!
Mother Superior: Colonel Nicobar, you are a tramp!
Col. Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar: A tramp?
Mother Superior: Oh, a trump.
See more »


References Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) See more »


An der schönen, blauen Donau, Op. 314 (On the Beautiful Blue Danube)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played at the beginning of the Vienna segment
See more »

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User Reviews

Barrymore and Pidgeon in a B&W classic
20 February 2008 | by IzzyTreeSee all my reviews

I truly enjoyed this film. The themes of individual responsibility in an evil world, and the problem of faith in God, are handled sensitively and well. Although it is unclear at the beginning, the main characters are the Colonel played by Walter Pidgeon and the Reverend Mother played by Ethel Barrymore. The romance between Peter Lawford's adjutant and Janet Leigh's sylph-like Russian refugee ballerina is, in a sense, just an excuse plot to build the movie around, although that storyline is satisfying as well, mainly due to these two talented actors. Also noteworthy is Angela Lansbury cast against type (at least, compared to her debut in Gaslight) as a highly sympathetic, yet somewhat salty woman officer.

I found others' comments on the relationship to McCarthyism and/or anti-Communism in general to be interesting. I do believe this movie showed the evils of the Soviet system, which to me, is fine. I have no idea if it fed McCarthyism, since I wasn't alive during that period. However, to me, it seems to be more about anti-totalitarianism of all stripes, rather than merely anti-Communism. In particular, the scene of the refugees in boxcars seems to be a direct reference to the Holocaust.

That The Red Danube was nominated for best art direction speaks, as well, to the technical beauty of this black & white film. This film reminded me of The Third Man, in its location, art direction, and storyline. (Orson Welles always said that "Black & white is the actor's friend" -- how true, in both these movies!) Although this film is inferior to The Third Man overall, in terms of its acting, atmosphere, and skill of the director, it is still worthy of viewing. Whereas The Third Man focuses on the moral dilemma of dealing with the evil in one individual (in a corrupt society), this film deals more generally with the morality of living in a corrupt society. In other words, The Third Man asks: "Why do men turn evil in an evil society?" (which, when you think about it, may not be such a profound question; although the further question of "What can be done about it?" is also explored), whereas The Red Danube asks: "How can men stay good in an evil society?" (which is really a much more useful question). So, although there's no denying that The Third Man is the better movie overall, I would highly recommend The Red Danube due to its high production values, the collection of wonderful actors in its ensemble cast, and a very engaging, philosophical script.

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