- Germans in Hollywood Films: Part III
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 4, Number 3, September 1974
- pp. 40-44
- View Citation
- Additional Information
public and depraved in private from the Beast of Berlin to Che! and the General in The Green Berets. The recaptured sergeant shows up, and "German" Charlie roughs him up as he fills him in. Moving fast, they slip on German uniforms, Charlie disguising the French girl with a hubcap grease mustache. Now Charlie chauffeurs the Crown Prince and Kaiser away at full speed across the Allied lines. Charlie's triumphantly carried on everyone's shoulders until he wakes up in bootcamp again. This sequence, with its notion that the right man at the right time can solve everything, is a dark current running through American war films from the war hero who brings peace forever in Civilization to Walter Pigeon's Manhunt in which Pigeon almost kills offHitler early on to General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove who takes over because "war is too important to leave to the politicians." GERMANS IN HOLLYWOOD FILMS: PART IH By Richard Oehling Richard Oehling is Academic Dean at Assumption College in Worchester, Massachusetts. This article concludes his study of "Germans in Hollywood Films" begun in the May 1913 Film & History The most popular theme in Hollywood's vast array ofWorld War II pictures concerning our Germany enemy was the Nazi conquest and occupation of Europe. Among the more popular were The Cross of Lorraine (1943). The Edge of Darkness (1943), Hangmen Also Die (1943). The Moon is Down (1943). The North Star (1943). This Land Is Mine (1943). The Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942). Paris Calling (1942), and Hostages (1943). Although most ofthese are interesting and well produced, The Moon is Down is worthy ofparticular attention because its handling ofthe German characters in the film epitomized certain trends in Hollywood productions. The Moon is Down (7) is based on a John Steinbeck novel and a Nunnally Johnson screenplay. The setting was Norway and the time was that ofthe German invasion in the Spring of 1940. The film opens with scenes ofa small, happy, rustic town filled with cheerful and singing people on their way to the village picnic. Into this happy scene come German paratroopers murdering many ofthe men ofthe village as they try to get back to town to get their weapons. The Germans have seized this town in order to get the full benefits ofthe mines that are there. The German commander indicates that he would prefer to soften the occupation to get better work from the villagers; he remembers the poor results ofthe German occupation ofBelgium in World War I because ofthe cruelty and harshness ofthe German army. The German commander has no ethical hesitations about cruelty; it is simply a matter ofpracticality. The German commander, played by Cedric Harwicke, is portrayed in a style, which became very common in Hollywood movies: urbane, even genteel, and seemingly peaceful. Beneath the surface there is a ruthless and cruel interior. This interior quality becomes evident 40 when the village resists the German occupation. These formerly happy and peaceful people will not be pushed around. Some take up guerrilla resistance and sabotage. Others attempt a quieter and more philosophical resistance. The Germans, unable to find the guerrillas, take to murdering the quieter rebels. The picture ends with the simultaneous German execution ofvillage hostages and the guerrilla destruction, by dynamiting, ofthe mines. In The Moon is Down, we learn to identify what makes a Nazi a Nazi by seeing his actions compared with an anti-Nazi. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the essential meanness ofa Nazi officer until the contrast is developed in a situation, which reveals the inner flaws ofhis personality. Hollywood seemed unable to develop a psychologically plausible Nazi, a "human being acting on his irrational drives". (8) (The psychological studies ofBruno Bettelheim and Hannah Arendt—the latter on the banality ofthe Nazi personality at its evil best—these kinds ofsubtleties were over the head ofthe normal Hollywood producer.) The basically decent German who obeys the Nazi machine through cowardice was understandable. The audience, it was assumed, could understand the self-seeking and the avaricious who served the Nazi party for profit. The dedicated Nazi was a cardboard figure, and little was suggested about him except his power-hunger...