(director: Fred Zinnemann; screenwriters: story by Richard Schweizer & David Wechsler/Paul Jarrico/Montgomery Clift; cinematographer: Emil Berna; editor: Hermann Haller; music: Robert Blum; cast: Montgomery Clift (Ralph ‘Steve’ Stevenson), Aline MacMahon (Mrs. Murray), Jarmila Novotna (Mrs. Hannah Malik), Wendell Corey (Jerry Fisher), Ivan Jandl (Karel ‘Jimmy’ Malik), Mary Patton (Mrs. Fisher), Ewart G. Morrison (Mr. Crookes); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lazar Wechsler; MGM; 1948)
“A moving wartime drama about orphaned children that’s directed in a simple semi-documentary style.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A moving wartime drama about orphaned children that’s directed in a simple semi-documentary style by Fred Zinnemann (“The Men”/”High Noon”/”From Here To Eternity”). It made the world aware of the plight of orphaned children caused by the war and was responsible for raising money to help the worthy United Nations cause to take care of the displaced children. This is Montgomery Clift’s debut acting, even though he shot Red River first it was released six months after The Search. It was the first film to be made in Europe after WWII with an American director and cast; it was partially based on Europe’s Children, a book of photographs by Therese Bonney documenting the orphans of the war, and is written by Richard Schweizer & David Wechsler-with Zinnemann’s approval Clift, dissatisfied with his part, rewrote his own dialogue. It was filmed entirely in the American Occupied Zone of Germany and mostly around the bombed-out rubble of Nuremberg.
A Czech mother Hannah Malik (Jarmila Novotna, an opera star at the Met) and her five-year-old son Karel (Ivan Jandl, spoke no English and learned his lines by rote) are separated in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and after the war they search for each other throughout Germany. Hannah learns her medical doctor husband and daughter died in the camps. The traumatized Karel, now nine, has stopped speaking and has lived in the rubble since the end of the war. Karel arrives with other homeless children in Berlin on a train after the war and Mrs. Murray (Aline MacMahon), an American supervisor of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, takes them to a former German army barracks where they are fed and given beds. Interviews fail to get even Karel’s name. Mrs. Murray has the ragged children trucked the next day to a Displaced Person’s Camp, but they are afraid to ride in the Red Cross ambulances (remembering how the Germans gassed the riders) and some try to escape. Karel runs away with another boy, who drowns in a river while Karel hides. Steve (Montgomery Clift), an American soldier, sees Karel in the ruins and gives him food and takes him back to the base, where he bunks with married soldier Jerry Fisher (Wendell Corey). They spot the number on Karel’s arm and eventually contact the UNRRA, as Steve believes the kid is an orphan and wants to start procedures to adopt him. In the final act, there’s a dramatic reunion between mother and son. It left audiences reaching for their hankies to wipe back the tears.
REVIEWED ON 5/13/2008 GRADE: B