(director: George Sidney; screenwriters: Gina Kaus/Arthur Wimperis/from the novel Vespers in Vienna by Bruce Marshall; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: James E. Newcom; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Janet Leigh ( Maria Buhlen), Walter Pidgeon (Col. Michael ‘Hooky’ Nicobar), Ethel Barrymore (Mother Superior), Peter Lawford (Maj. John ‘Twingo’ McPhimister), Angela Lansbury (Audrey Quail), Janet Leigh (Maria Buhlen), Louis Calhern (Col. Piniev); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carey Wilson; MGM; 1949)

“Reflects the chilly atmosphere between the superpowers during the Cold War.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A red-baiting Cold War propaganda film, that fails to inform or entertain. What it does is stress the mistrust between the West and the Soviets. Director George Sidney(“Annie Get Your Gun”/”Show Boat”/”Scaramouche”), in a heavy-handed manner, bases it on the 1947 novel Vespers in Vienna by Bruce Marshalll. Writers Gina Kaus, an Austrian expatriate, and Arthur Wimperis, hammer out a tiresome screenplay. The film reflects the chilly atmosphere between the superpowers during the Cold War. Problem is that it’s never persuaive.

In Allied occupied post-war Vienna, the Russian refugees are being sent home, often to death squads and detention camps, in the totalitarian Communist country. Stationed in Vienna are Walter Pidgeon, the commanding colonel, and his aide Peter Lawford, a British major, who are the officers in charge of the Russian repatriation. The Russian ballerina (Janet Leigh) is pursued by Russian agents. She’s Lawford’s romantic interest. If you will, Ethel Barrymore plays the Mother Superior from Austria, who hides the ballerina.

This was Hollywood’s reaction to the HUAC hearings involving the “Hollywood Ten,” as it began turning out anti-Soviet films. This might not be a good film, but it was mild and skillfully done compared to many other Red scare films.

The Red Danube Poster