The Young Lions (1958) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • WW2 drama that follows the lives of three young men, one German and two Americans, during wartime.

  • The destiny of three soldiers during World War II. The German officer Christian Diestl approves less and less of the war. Jewish-American Noah Ackerman deals with antisemitism at home and in the army while entertainer Michael Whiteacre transforms from playboy to hero.

  • WWII. Focuses on the military and personal lives of three men for the duration of the war. The first is Lieutenant Christian Diestl of the German SS. A self-professed non-political person, he, prior to the war, nonetheless believed that Hitler and the Nazis would be good for Germany by bringing a new prosperity to working class people like him, and that the few casualties of war are a necessary means to the desired end. The second and third are US Army Privates Michael Whiteacre and Noah Ackerman, who meet and befriend each other at the draft board office. Michael is a famous Broadway entertainer, who admits not wanting to see any action and who uses whatever means available because of his celebrity to get a non-combat posting away from the battlefields. Jewish Noah, slight of build, is a sensitive man and all alone in the world before meeting Michael, these items in combination which make him a seemingly easy target for those who are against him in any way. On the personal side, Christian, while posted in France, and a Frenchwoman named Françoise fall in love despite she despising he being one of the Nazi aggressors. He also embarks on a sexual tryst with Gretchen Hardenberg, the wife of his commanding officer, the marriage a cold one which has made both husband and wife cold people. Noah marries the former Hope Plowman, a gentile, just prior to being shipped overseas. Their marriage was one, solely on the surface, that was met with disapproval by her provincial father, who had never met a Jew before Noah. And Michael's girlfriend, socialite Margaret Freemantle, who is working in the USO, wanted to get married before his deployment like Noah and Hope did. Although Margaret doesn't want to see Michael get hurt, she also wants him to take responsibility for doing his meaningful part for the American war effort, especially as she had seen and despised Naziism when she was in Bavaria on vacation prior to the war. The war itself changes Christian, Noah and Michael in different ways, the former two whose biggest literal and figurative battles may be with forces on their supposed sides.



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  • Spinning three story lines into motion the film follows the activities of Christian Diestl (Marlon Brando) - Christian Diestl, a German soldier troubled by the drive of Nazism in his beloved country and his association via the war with Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift) a Jewish American soldier and Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin) a popular singer who is coerced by a loved one to join up and fight for his country. As the American soldiers Ackerman and Whiteacre go through training to eventually be sent to fight for their country, their story is balanced by the German soldiers Diestl and Capt. Hardenberg (Maximilian Schell) in their adjusting to the war defeating their country and their own unfounded beliefs in a national philosophy. Ultimately the forces at work are reduced to a personal level as the human quality in Man supersedes the ravages of war.

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