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The Mortal Storm


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I saw this movie for the first time last night and was spellbound. It was quite eye-opening to see the effects of the Nazi movement in Germany on actual families. I am not ignorant of history, and have a general understanding of WWII, but still pictures of the atrocities do not give the same effect as actually seeing the type of monstrous acts that were committed against innocent people. I'm really surprised that I have never even heard of this movie before, nor that anyone in it (Frank Morgan was superb) was nominated for or won an Academy Award. Robert Osborne did say that MGM was trying to get by the Nazis by not stating the country in which it was supposed to be taking place and by not stating that some of the characters were Jewish (although Frank Morgan had a "J" armband on when he was in the concentration camp), but it was very obvious what was it was Germany and by the surnames that some of the characters were supposed to be Jewish. They weren't able to get it past Adolph Hitler, however. Mr. Osborne said that he (Hitler) took one look at this film and banned all MGM films from the country. I feel that watching this movie with its wonderful cast has really opened my eyes about the Second World War. Anyone else have any comments?

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I planned on recording this one a little while back, but never got around to it somehow. When it jumped up to the number one spot for searches on this site, I was happy to see it back on the schedule. I'm afraid I still haven't seen it yet, but did record it last night. I can't wait to see it now... If my interest wasn't peeked before, it certainly is now.

 

Thanks,

 

bhf1940

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Hey BHF! How's your Christmas decorating coming along? I haven't been on the boards for a while because I finally decided to put up my Charley Brown tree ~ all 3 ft of it, finish shopping and put up a few decorations.

 

Anyway, just to give you some additional information ~ the subject matter of this film is so serious that there isn't even any music over the ending credits. Hope you are as fascinated as I was by it. What a cast!!

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Well gee BHF, what are you waiting for? today was a total day of reruns from the past couple of weeks that you must have seen. And believe me, The Mortal Storm was miles better than anything offered today.

 

Once having seen this movie, and actually a few others, I cannot believe the German people, to this day, although there aren't many left, still swear they were unaware that anything strange was going on. How can your neighbors, storekeepers, teachers, doctors and others disappear overnight without suspecting SOMETHING was going on. And the camps, although miles from towns couldn't have been hidden that well from the farmers around them.

 

Was that ski trip at the end possible? Has anyone ever been skiing between Germany and Switzerland enough to know if Stewart and Sullavan could have done it?

 

Anne

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I saw the movie for the first time yesterday. talk about a tear jerker .Jimmy Stewart was great as ever.I 'early never understand how any german ever deny that they never knew My Grandfather came from Berlin when he was eighteen back in early 1900 he had brothers and sisters there during wwII they had manage to escape and they never went back. They were afraid to admit they were germans because they were afraid for their lives because there were so many people in this country and other countries that had blame every german for what hitler did. not every german was Pro Hitler. they had carried guilt for what their own home had done to others even though they had help support the cause against Hitler.

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They knew very well that something was going on, but there wasn?t much they could do about it.

 

When I was younger I used to wonder how the Nazi thing got going in such a big way in Germany. I finally began to understand after I saw ?Triumph of the Will?, which was a documentary made about the 1934 Nazi Party Congress (the annual Nazi Party convention). That part was pure patriotism, just like a lot of American 4th of July stuff. Before Hitler developed a bad reputation.

 

And I also saw the drama film ?The Seventh Cross?. That film takes place in 1936 and is about the early concentration camps. People ? anyone ? who criticized the government would be arrested in the middle of the night and would disappear into a concentration camp, and they would never return. They would be killed there. That alone tended to cut down on open criticism of the government.

 

So, it finally dawned on me that the combination of these two concepts: 1) patriotism in the beginning, and 2) fear of being put in a concentration camp by 1936, influenced a lot of people in Germany, so it was better to just keep quiet and not criticize the government.

 

But I still thought that something was missing, since if any of my friends and folks disappeared in the middle of the night here in the US, if Nazis took power, I?d go out and knock off some of the Nazis responsible for it. So many Americans would do that, even if they got killed themselves, such a thing could not happen here (not right now, at least) because the masses would knock off the Nazis.

 

But we have guns, while the German and most other European citizens did not. Why was that so?

 

Finally, I saw an interesting documentary about the long tradition of ?no hunting? in Europe. It said that for nearly 2,000 years the rich and powerful people (Kings, Queens, Dukes, wealthy land owners, etc.) controlled all the land, and they would not allow hunting on their property. Hunting was reserved only for the vast land owners. So by the middle ages, even bows and arrows were banned among the peasants, and things like rabbit traps were banned. The rich people and the governments would hang poachers. They'd kill people for hunting rabbits and deer on rich people's property or for just having a bow and arrows.

 

The documentary said that this, and the fear of ?revolution?, is supposed to be why Europeans were never allowed to own guns in most countries, and why so few European citizens owned guns in the 1930s. So, then I realized, the people in Germany had no guns and no weapons in the 1930s, so they couldn?t go out and ?knock off? all the Nazis who were kidnapping their friends and relatives in the middle of the night. They didn?t even have swords or machetes. (A few Mexicans with machetes can knock off a lot of soldiers and cops.)

 

So, with rising patriotism, vicious Nazi ?police?, and no weapons among the citizens, I think maybe those three things were the most important factors that allowed the Nazi movement to grow in Germany. A similar thing happened in Russia under Stalin and in China under Mao. It?s going on today in North Korea.

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Peggy24 said:

 

Hey BHF! How's your Christmas decorating coming along? I haven't been on the boards for a while because I finally decided to put up my Charley Brown tree ~ all 3 ft of it, finish shopping and put up a few decorations.

 

Anyway, just to give you some additional information ~ the subject matter of this film is so serious that there isn't even any music over the ending credits. Hope you are as fascinated as I was by it. What a cast!!

 

Howdy, Peggy! Anytime you're on here is a pleasure. I haven't been decorating that much, but my parents have gone wild. Their whole house is covered with lights from the chimney to the rose bushes to the mail box. I haven't even started shopping yet! *clumps of hair fall to table* :P

 

I'm going to try to watch this one tonight, but I recorded Charade earlier today so to be honest, I'll probably be watching that. I was away most of the day today... I have to catch up on my viewing. I'm recording more dvds than I can watch. I love the chemistry between Stewart and Sullivan... That's what interests me. I enjoyed Once Upon a Honeymoon, so I think I'll enjoy this one about Germany. I like the subject, very interesting.

 

bhf1940

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They weren't able to get it past Adol[f] Hitler, however. Mr. Osborne said that he (Hitler) took one look at this film and banned all MGM films from the country. I feel that watching this movie with its wonderful cast has really opened my eyes about the Second World War. Anyone else have any comments?

 

Unlike Warner Bros., who weren't willing to soft-peddle their anti-Fascist sympathies with hard-hitting film like CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939), MGM bent over backwards to keep positive images of Germans in their films in a cercerted effort that was positively shameless. Louis B. Mayer actually did everything he could to placate the Nazi authorities to keep MGM's films playing in Germany and occupied Europe almost up to the point that the Japaense bombed Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941. That THE MORTAL STORM and THREE COMRADES got made at all is remarkable, considering Mayer's willful disregard of what was going on across the ocean (though the films do soft-peddle their message in comparison with Warner's product).

 

As for who decided that THE MORTAL STORM had gone too far (as had CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY more than a year earlier), it almost certainly didn't go all the way to Hitler; Nazi censors certainly alerted the Reich's propaganda minister, Josef G?bbels, to the film's content, and it was he who banned it.

 

The Nazis' censorship of foreign movies began almost from the moment they gained power in 1933: I own several original still photos from MGM's GRAND HOTEL (1932) in whose corners are the embossed Reichs Censor stamp, complete with eagle surmounting a swastika-filled wreath. Still chilling after seventy-three years...

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First time I had even heard of The Mortal Storm was also the first time I had ever seen it. Both happened when TCM showed it this week. However, The Mortal Storm and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seem like the same movie. Mortal Storm is a 1941 release (I believe) and the Four Hourseman first appeared in 1921 with another remake in 1961/62.

 

So is The Mortal Storm a remake of The Four Horsemen?

 

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Watchesmovies

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The Mortal Storm and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are from two separate written sources and deal with two distinct periods of European history, though they tell their respective stories through the lives of a family and the impact of the world outside on that familial group. The Mortal Storm was based on a novel by Phyllis Bottome which dealt with the events leading up to and following the rise of facism in Germany, (even though the movie never says its "Germany", the novel is very specific). The beautifully directed and acted film from Frank Borzage quotes from a poem that I've included at the end of this post. Both the 1921 & 1962 versions of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ib??ez which dealt with the circumstances around World War One.

 

Both films have similar themes in that they show the futility of war, the divided loyalties of individuals caught up in war and the ultimate consequences that come from acquiesing to the dehumanization of others. The first Four Horsemen was set in WWI, while the '62 version tried to adapt the story line to WWII.

 

Here's the poem that's quoted in The Mortal Storm with a brief explanation of why it would've been familiar to contemporary audiences when the film was released:

 

This poem was written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins, an American lecturer at the London School of Economics, who wrote as a hobby. It was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth the late Queen Mother, who showed it to her husband King George VI. He included it in his famous Christmas message broadcast in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. After the King's death the Queen Mother had it engraved on bronze plaques on the entrance to the King George VI Memorial Chapel, Windsor, where both are now interred. It was also read at the funeral service of the Queen Mother.

 

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

 

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

 

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God

Trod gladly into the night

He led me towards the hills

And the breaking of day in the lone east.

 

So heart be still!

What need our human life to know

If God hath comprehension?

 

In all the dizzy strife of things

Both high and low,

God hideth his intention.

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Interesting discussion in this thread regarding, "how could Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Poles, etcetera allow the death camps to exist...and deny knowledge of same decades after the end of World War II?"

 

"Shoah", a documentary from 1985, includes interviews with people living near Nazi concentration camps. "Shoah" is a 500 minute documentary (8 and 1/2 hours) and includes interviews with surviving victims, witnesses, participants and bystanders of the Holocaust. The part of "Shoah" I remember was the interviews with bystanders...those people who lived near concentration camps while the Holocaust was taking place and old enough to remember the Holocaust. The interviews of bystanders part of "Shoah" takes place in Poland.

 

When first questioned, the interviews with people living near concentration camps claim no knowledge of mass murder in the nearby camps. The filmmaker spent much time pressing the issue of, "what did you know, what did you not know" with interview subjects. I remember one fellow in particular...a farmer living next to a road where thousands of people travelled on their way to a nearby death camp. At first, the farmer claims ignorance of the fate of all those thousands of people. The interviewer persists with his questioning and, after a few minutes, the farmer "comes clean". He passes his right hand across his throat, silently indicating...yes, I knew they were on their way to their deaths. Interesting he could not say, "yes, I knew...", even four decades after the events.

 

"Shoah" is available as four DVDs and is worth finding and watching.

 

Rusty

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It's a marvelously well made and acted movie. I'm glad you liked it! Have you ever seen Three Comrades, also starring Margaret Sullavan and which takes place in WWII Germany. Although more of a romance it is still a very enjoyable, if sad, movie you may like. It's also the only sole screenplay credit F. Scott Fitzgerald ever received.

Miss G

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I watched it last night... It deeply moved me. Such a beautiful and well-acted film. I thought Jimmy Stewart did one of the best acting jobs of his career and Frank Morgan was splendid, though I have never seen him not be. I have to say Stewart surprised me... I like Jimmy Stewart but never cared much for his acting (that's not meant to be an insult mind you, just an observation). Here he was perfect.

 

I couldn't help but think it reminded me alot of The Pianist. I can't watch that again so this one will be no different. Very touching film...

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I do agree in the thematic similarities between The Mortal Storm and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

 

As for TFHOTA, I'm glad they showed the Valentino version recently, but it's been too long since they played the Glenn Ford one. It was conspicuously missing from the Glenn Ford tribute earlier this year.

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Hi, Anne.

 

Glad you appreciated the film, too. Yes, I've been up to my neck lately with work, the holidays coming (and I left everything until the last minute this year, which is very unlike me). Once the holidays are over, I will probably spend more time on the boards. Many nice folks here. At least we all like classic films. Most of the people I know are not into them, and my family think I'm a nut. They don't know what they're missing, right, Anne?

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I think this movie should've been included in the James Stewart Signature Collection - hopefully there'll be a Volume 2. Or release "The Mortal Storm" on DVD along with other WWII movies, I don't mean the "action" kind of war movies (many of which are already on DVD), but the kind that was meant to expose what the Nazis were like and educate Americans - I guess you'd call them propaganda films, but many of them are better quality than the word "propaganda" suggests. For instance, "The Mortal Storm" would fit nicely in a box with "Hitler's Children" (also starring Bonita Granville!) and "Escape" with Norma Shearer & Robert Taylor. Such great movies.

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I had the opportunity to see this film last weekend. I am not surprised with all of the attention that it has garnered. It is quite hard to forget.

 

Although the film is painfully sad, I find it gratifying to see Robert Stack's character renounce his formerly staunch beliefs and realize that what Hitler represents is wrong. I think that scene adds a great deal of hope, but of course, on the flip side of the equation, we see that others will probably never be convinced of the wrongfulness of their beliefs, as evidenced by the other brother's slapping the Stack character.

 

I look forward to learning more about Frank Borzage and look forward to TCM's upcoming presentation of The Spanish Main, featuring the inimitable Binnie Barnes. Who else is a fan of this lady?

 

--Jonathan :)

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It was interesting to listen to Mr. Mankiewicz's remarks following the closing credits of The Mortal Storm. He notes that the country "Germany" was never actually mentioned in the movie.

 

However, the film begins with titles describing the location: " A small university town at the foot of the Alps in southern Germany." So it may not be mentioned verbally, but the location is identified at the outset. Notwithstanding, the film is replete with the name Adolf Hitler and the swastika abounds on brown-shirted armbands. Additonally, if you are crossing an Alpine pass to Innsbruck in Austria, the only route would be from Germany!

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