Three Movie Reviews: Policy, Politics, and Presidents

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Introduction

On this page, we review in a special manner three public-domain films – light entertainment, but with some just-by-chance mentions of famous surnames; with the addition of always relevant issues, especially in relationship to elections.  They are Larceny on the Air, Corruption, and The Big Lift. All are available at archive.org for on-line viewing or downloading in various formats – the latter in a shorter version (from which the dialogue was taken) and a full version with better video, but, for this writer, worse audio.  These films deal with dishonest marketing (but “legal”); dishonest politics (but necessary, according to the film, predating the same argument by Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1948 Les Mains sales); and the dishonesty that a tyrannical regime might engender in its citizens – in that order. The last one of these also gives lessons in the meaning of, tolerance, and possibly, emigration.

We end the article with a diagram which shows how these 3 movies not only relate to each other, but to a couple of similar works, each of which are given a passing reference in the main body of the article.

The allusion to political surnames mentioned in two of the movies is not meant to disparage anyone – we hold the deceased politicians to have been true statesmen of their time.  Rather, movie buffs might want to have their curiosity piqued, and for those who have seen the films before, they might want to see if they can remember … .

Furthermore, we believe that we can validly contrast the name in the first-reviewed movie with one in the second.  But the references do not stop there … .

Our reviews will not be typical; rather they will focus on the politico-historical aspects, and the value of the film as something more than B-movie escapist entertainment. The names of principal people were taken from the movie itself, and supplemented as necessary with information from Wikipedia entries.  Special emphasis is put on the dialogue.

Larceny on the Air

Our first review is of Larceny on the Air, produced by Nat Levine, made by Republic Pictures Corporation, 1937, and considered appropriate for all ages, according to the standards of the time.  Just by chance, it has, as the baddie, the name of a former president of the Democratic Party in its just under 1 hour running-time, in which the audience views a combination of crime, romance, and pseudo-documentary on the dangers of quack remedies for health problems.

In the light of current attitudes, the strongest objection is probably the portrayal of test-lab animals to determine just how dangerous a substance is.  An immigrant, played by a mostly type-cast actor, Byron Foulger, is shown in a sorry state of health and frame of mind; and looks too similar to many a survivor of a Nazi death camp.  (Looks can be deceiving, though, it is claimed that in real life, the actor, Byron Foulger, took violent exception to his wife’s being flirted with by Errol Flynn.)

We now let the reader feel what the movie is like, mostly with selected dialogue.  Near the beginning, we have a dangerous substance – but correctly labelled – in conformance with the then-existing legislation, to which a pre-[Ralph] Nader, crusader, Dr. Lawrence Baxter, incorrectly objects:  “There is a law!”

Upon trying to convince the purveyor of product to stop sales, he declares, “For the past 3 months, I’ve been feeding it to a chimpanzee. It died last night”.

Laughter. “Your monkey?  From the way you acted, I thought it might be a near relative. … I’m strictly within the law, and you know it. … … … this remedy brings in a 1000 testimonials a month.”

“You think I don’t know how testimonials are bought?”  Our crusader then broadcasts a speech against quack medicines, and gives a description of radium poisoning.

Our unnamed vendor, responding to the broadcast, phones his lawyer, through whom pressure is put on the radio station to drop Baxter’s program.  (Because a station of that name exists, the call sign is not given here.)

Rexford Sterling’s daughter, Jean, drops in, with an offer at a most convenient moment for Baxter, who just moments before had lost his air-time.  She says he would be offered sponsorship by her father on a more powerful transmitter, thus reaching a wider audience.  In fact, Rexford has his own racket, the first indication of this being a simulation of phone calls to his secretary, by his secretary, to be overheard by his boss’s visitor.

Rather illogically, in response to the appeal made on the first station, for any person with probable symptoms of radium poisoning to see Baxter, an individual comes in, seemingly healthy, except for what looks to this reviewer like malnutrition.  He is rushed to the hospital, where suddenly he looks as if he were dying. From that point on, he gets weaker and weaker.  It seems that he has but days left to live.

The modus operandi of the promoter, of which Baxter is unaware, is described as a modification of the shake-down.   We also discover that the former has some “muscle” to handle nuisances such as Baxter.  The announcement on a program of Sterling’s sponsorship on the more powerful station, that there is a patient who manifests the debilitating effects of a radium medical product, causes the goon to be put into action.  After provoking an accident with the doctor and Jean, the goon and the promoter kidnap Baxter’s patient from the hospital, a technique which, surprisingly, is still incorporated into some movies – but now, with police guards outside!  The patient was induced to accept his removal from the health facility by a quite convincing speech, which, considering his state of mind could seem highly convincing.

We then discover that Sterling and his secretary have a record with the FBI.

Jean, who apparently does not, wants her father to quit his dishonesty:

“We’ll help him, won’t we, and quit thinking about ourselves.”

Showing his paternal instincts, he lets loose this potential double entendre, “We’ll turn to the right,” to which his assistant replies, shocked, “Turn to the right?”  But Baxter has other plans.  We discover that some other vendors of quack products with radium are members of the syndicate of the namesake of the now-deceased Democratic Party president (whose father was accused of having similar connections – something which cannot be stated as fact).

The doctor and Jean are themselves removed from circulation by the criminals later on.  Around the 49th minute, the doctor writes a “prescription”, including words in Latin for one of the gang, who has been induced into thinking that he is ill.  This is the touch that puts this movie above most current entertainment, although whether the complicated mathematical formulae in The Simpsons can be understood by as many who once knew something of a classical language during the 30s might be doubtful.

Baxter's message

Latin message after line ending 6500. A means of salvation as dead as Morse Code, if not more so.

For those who do not know Latin, the sequence of events at the pharmacy will give the viewer a clue.

The movie concludes with lines such as the following:

“Breaking up this vicious racket should mean the passage of a law, a law which we all desperately need to protect us from the rest of the [namesake of President]’s syndicate.”

The Sterlings and Baxter

… from now on, the road to the right … and as a wedding present, I’m going to send you children my new magazine, The Conservative Investor.

The father of Jean: “I’ve learned my lesson … from now on, the road to the right … and as a wedding present, I’m going to send you children my new magazine, The Conservative Investor.

This reviewer imagines that the players are smirking when giving their politically-tinged lines.

How political can you get in a movie which never gets beyond showing anything more governmental than part of a door which suggests some kind of toothless food and drug bureau!

As a bonus, we get to learn the word “restorium”, … when you don’t want to say that you are about to spend money, this is the word to use!

Stars and Such:

Directed by the one-time blacklisted House of Un-American Activities Commission investigated Irving Pichel, who helped in the annual event at conspiracy-theory famous Bohemian Grove.

Original Story by Richard English.

Starring Robert Livingston as Dr. Lawrence Baxter. A namesake of the actor was an American statesman, 1746 – 1813; Grace Bradley as Jean Sterling; Willard Robertson, whom we have chosen not to name, as the head of “The Syndicate”; Pierre Watkin, as Jean Sterling’s father; Smiley Burnette, as the secretary to Mr. Sterling; and Byron Foulger as Pete Andorka, among others.  Foulger, who appeared in many programs well-known to the baby boomers, once worked in a film, which was an adaptation of the story, The President’s Mystery, conceived by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is also now public domain on archive.org, and given some extra reference below.

Corruption

This movie begins on a high note, quoting Cicero; “He that violates his oath profanes the divinity of faith itself.”  These words, according to our research, are inscribed on the Los Angeles City Hall.

The 6th named star is a name found in the Republican party, as a Cabinet member, and in a spelling and pronunciation variation, another president.  We have a District Attorney, an Assistant D.A., and one character, Voikov, some species of anarchist or communist.  Until he decides to reveal the truth – but not for the sake of honesty – through his novel way of dealing with those whom he identifies as enemies – an innocent party is left incarcerated.

The press, we might say, is also presented in a bad light, represented chiefly by two bumbling alcoholics engaged in paparazzi shoots – although, in a way, the drunks redeem themselves.  The flash technique is very old school, magnesium powder.

The first scene, though brief, shows a poster labeled, “Instructions for Voting”.  We then see what must be a voting machine.  A bit later appear Gorman, (first name never given) with his protégé: the supposed future son-in-law, Timothy Butler, with the following dialogue:

“How does it feel to be mayor, Tim?”

“To tell the truth, I never thought I’d be elected.”

“With the party behind you?  How could you miss?”

“You seem quite confident in the party.”

“Politics is another kind of a show business.  We picked you, because as a young attorney, you had color. … a champion of the underdog.  That’s what the people like.”

Our unnamed character functions as a campaign manager.  He has “to pay off some of the boys.”

” … he’s one of the best party managers in the country.  He knows where all the bodies in the state are buried, and who buried them.”

“Yeah, just a professional politician.”

“Well, you’ll soon get rid of feeling sorry for a bunch of sheep.”

Sylvia Gorman, his fiancée, wants to be the first to congratulate him: ” … Timothy Butler, the choice of the people.”

“Ha, the choice of the people, the old machine makes them choose right every time.”

….

“I’d like to see anyone elected in the city without the party.”

About the acceptance speech, Gorman observes: “I’d tone this down a bit if I were you.  You don’t have to make any promises now, you’re elected.  This stuff about cleaning up the town is all right before election, but don’t make any more promises, you might have to live up to them. … … We can’t afford to antagonize the men who put us into office.”

The political manager then has a beef, “You don’t suppose I’ve kept this party in office for ten years with kid gloves, do you? … … I’ve always told you, Gorman, when you put a man in office, to have a definite understanding with him.”

Intimidating the mayor

Butler strong-armed, but the scene is caught on camera. [Composite image, prepared especially for this article]

Though the party manager and a second thug are arrested for trying to strong-arm the mayor, the malcontented “machine” lays a trap in the form of a compromising situation.  Faster than you can say “Impeach him,” he is out of office, something which we probably rarely see in current events.  In spite of the set-back, the governor, pending proof of innocence on Butler’s part, offers the position of State’s Attorney.

Just as it would appear that Butler has a witness to his innocence, he finds himself in a situation worse than the previous one.  The way the situation plays out, would suggest that gun-control legislation would not have helped him, for the simple fact that he himself did not carry.  Wrenching away one’s potential murderer’s weapon just does not look good when the deck has been stacked against the innocent party.  Exonerative evidence is rejected.  The trial is a farce.

Of special interest to those who might like to know how communication was done before the era of cell-phone and similar, are the candlestick telephones, and the giant switchboard with  the dozens of operators.  These latter are kept busy by a crime wave, which was of such a nature that it should have made clear that the incarcerated Butler could not have been guilty.

In keeping with the style of the movies of that time, all ends well – ridiculously so, and some of the scenes are rather contrived.  The method of assassination of the corrupt politicians is effortless in the film, but in real life, for the incidents shown,  the question of time required for preparation of the bullet before execution does not seem possible.  The laboratory of the coroner’s assistant looks more like a combination old high school biology and chemistry lab.  Why frogs – and possibly snakes – are kept in a refrigerator, makes no sense.

While the rating system of the time relied heavily upon the opinion of a Legion of Decency, this movie is unlisted.  Based on criteria of that agency, the movie would be considered the equivalent of “Restricted”, or, in the terminology of that reviewing board, “morally objectionable for all,” because of a suicide.  Other than that, by modern standards, some not-to-rough scenes of violence, and the “honey trap” scene make it inappropriate for younger viewers. And for some, the movie may have gone from the sublime reflection at the beginning to bathos at the end, in that there is a completely unexpected – considering when the movie was made – vulgar gesture, which this viewer doesn’t remember ever having seen on screen until it was made in The Beverly Hillbillies movie back in 1993.

Stars and Such

Wm. Pizor presents, Corruption with Evalyn Knapp and Preston Foster, Produced by Wm. Berke Productions, Distributed by Imperial Distributing Co., written and directed by C. Edward Roberts; starring Evalyn Knapp [of Perils of Pauline fame] as Ellen Manning, the secretary to the mayor-lawyer-crusader Time Butler, played by Preston S. Foster; Charles Delaney as Charlie Jasper; Tully Marshall as Gorman – the man who would have Butler as his protégé; Warner Richmond as the political manager we have left unnamed; Natalie Moorhead as his daughter Sylvia, fiancée of Butler; Mischa Auer as Voikov; to which we might add  district attorney Blake, played by Huntly Gordon; his assistant, Lane Chandler; the police commissioner played by Jason Robards – son of a post-office inspector who managed Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign in Michigan, and who acted on Broadway in a 1916 play called Turn to the Right; Dr. Robbins, the coroner, played by Sidney Bracy. The judge of what can only be called a show trial more similar to the proceedings of a kangaroo court was left unnamed – protecting perhaps the actor from a bad reputation for both a wooden performance, and future casting to type.

This movie might be contrasted with Stranger in Town, where the corruption is less endemic, and its cure is the result of the intelligent machinations of the unknown visitor  who gives a patriotic, civics lesson at the end of this MGM movie from 1942, suitable for all ages, according to the criteria of the time.

The Big Lift

 Now, the candidate behind in any poll might need a pick-me-up, and the loser, and those who voted for him or her might need theirs, but the theme of this film, like the first, is, as it were, in the air, but by airplane, not radio. That is, if one of the candidates does not leave the result up in the air!

On the surface level, it does not deal with politicians – though we know that it deals with their policies and effects.

The revelation here is the authentic background of war-ruined Berlin, just held captive to the Soviet Blockade in 1948.  Fourteen years later, there would be a second crisis – with the erection of the Berlin Wall.  On that second occasion, President Kennedy declared in solidarity, in accented German, “Ich bin ein Berliner“, “I’m a Berliner”, incorrectly interpreted by some to be the translation for some kind of pastry.  It would be stranger, of course, had he found it necessary to be a hamburger, frankfurter, or wiener!  (The true meaning is made clear through correct grammatical usage.)

Nevertheless, American Justice Felix Frankfurter was not named, through his family, for a sausage – but for a city of that name.  The movie itself contains a real person named Freiburger, which is a nice play on words, which could mean, “of or from the city of Freiburg”, or “free burgher”, in which case, this itself becomes a political statement.

This 20th Century Fox movie from 1949 (1950 release) is called The Big Lift.  Its rating is A-II, suitable for adults and adolescents. The stars are Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas (not related to Kirk or Michael), all others in American uniform are personnel on active duty.  It seems to be claimed that all scenes are shot on actual locations in the American, British, French, and Soviet sectors of the city, which would make this movie unique if any of it was filmed on communist territory.  At the beginning, a newsreel shows Anthony Eden, the French military governor of Germany, General Marie-Pierre Kœnig, and his American counterpart,  General Lucius D. Clay all visiting the (western part of the) city in solidarity with its plight.

The devastated city is still being cleaned up four years after the end of hostilities.  An American airlift is being conducted to help prevent the population from starving.  (In fact, other countries were also involved, including Canada.)  We thus see the results of policy – that of the Nazis which provoked other nations into attacking Germany; and that of the West, which would not let the Soviets get the upper hand.

Except, then, for our two principal actors, the military in the film are mostly authentic American Armed Forces. For those who enjoy such things, there is a finely-honed and complex military marching routine. There are comments, whether fact or propaganda, about how the Soviets refuse to believe information about the times of arrival of American airplanes as printed in the newspapers, so they have an excess of spies to report on airplane landings. The one who reveals this,  claims to understate the actual amount of landings in order to give the Soviets reason to believe that their suspicions are true.  This reviewer has some doubts about the veracity of this contention – it would seem that from East Berlin a member of the Soviet Occupation Forces with binoculars or a telescope could have determined the truth without having to pay for the services of spies in the sectors occupied by the victors from the Western nations.

After the documentary with the representatives of the Western Powers, we see some cheesecake for the airmen, happy in Hawaii, but suddenly destined for duty in locations unknown. Master Sergeant, Hank Kolowski asks not to be exempted. “I’ve got an awful lot against Germany, and I’ve got a hunch that’s where we’re heading for.” His request his denied, “The Air Force isn’t run on hunches … .” Once over the Rhine, he reflects that “… maybe they should have used the A-bomb.” Getting into Berlin airport was like landing into the Rose Bowl. Others would refer to it as a graveyard.

Once there, Kolowski quickly shows his disdain.  His companion asks,  “Who do you think you’re shoving What do you wanna do … start another war?”

A bit later, the 100,000th shipment of supplies to the besieged city on No. 37 deplanes, with Flight Engineer Sergeant Daniel MacCullough, who had been practising his German. Captain and crew are met by the Honor Guard of the Office of Military Government, and a delegation of grateful citizens.  One of these is Friederike Burckhardt, who is asked by a reporter, in bad German to “Machen mit der Kusse“, literally, “Make with a kiss!”  Daniel gets an opportunity to meet Friederike in Berlin again through another newspaperman.

Incidentally, for anyone who thinks the Germans can’t be romantic, their better-known title of the film was, Es Begann mit einem Kuss, “It Began with a Kiss”.

After that second reporter’s photo-shoot, which was Daniel’s opportunity to meet Friedericke again, Hank comes on the scene. Every time a German says “Auf Wiedersehen“, he replies with a bored “Yeah, yeah!”  After these rough dismissals, he growls, “So now you know how they bake bread in Germany, a mess sergeant could have told you in 2 minutes.”

Upon obliging a couple of Germans to get of the sidewalk, and being asked what the idea was, he replies, “Look, they belong in the gutter, and if they don’t get out of my way, I’m going to push them there.”  A taxi is called by hailing, “Hey, Fritz! … Well, bring it over here, if I wanted it in the middle of the street, I’d have asked for it there.”  He advises Daniel, _” … Don’t start feeling sorry for them, they hate our guts.  If the situation was reversed, they’d kick our teeth in, twice a day.”  Arriving at the address of Friederike, we see nothing but rubble, which she is helping to clear as a member of a work gang.

Because of Daniel’s uniform having been soiled, he is in Friederike’s home, where he visits a neighbor, who has lent him a robe.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m a Russian spy.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m a Russian spy”.

Did someone watch this movie to think that this is why the Russians must be hacking e-mails in America? 

….

“Aren’t you afraid I’m going to report you?”

“Uh-uh!  Americans know I do this.  One time, they fix telephone for me.”

According to the dialogue, the Russians have 15,000 spies, the Americans 10,000, about 500 work for both sides.

While taking the subway, a Russian, in bad German, says to his companion that he smells coffee, and then demands to know who has it.  This scene is one of the most interesting in the film, so its content will not be divulged.  Passengers are asked, followed by a threat, “Also, wo ist jetzt Kaffee?, So, where’s the coffee, then?”

The subway cars, by the way, look like what this writer took in some Latin American country as late as 2010.

While they go about Berlin, we might surmise that something is not right when Friederike gives Daniel a strange look (behind his back), upon  his ironic comment that “Victory Avenue”, Siegesallee, no longer looks like such a victory.

Later, escorted to a night-club by Daniel, we find that Kolowski  refuses to shake Friederike’s hand.  Seconds later, he asks her point-blank, “Danny tells me your husband was killed in Russia. … What was he, S.S.?”

Actors, excluding O.E. Hasse, in The Big Lift

Nightclub Scene: From Left to Right: Montgomery Clift, as Daniel MacCullough, Cornell [Cornelia] Bouchers as Friederike Burkhardt, Paul Douglas, as Hank Kolowski, and Bruni Löbel as Gerda [no last name].

His philosophy is that in Germany, what Papa says goes, even if he is the biggest jerk in the country.  Then along comes another jerk like Hitler, and he becomes the Papa of all the Papas. Friederike challenges him on his views, doubting its truth, but saying that he acts just the same with his date, telling her when to shut up, just as he had previously accused German fathers of acting towards their children.  Daniel interjects, “You stupid lug, you’re treating Gerda practically the same way.  You tell her what to say, what to think.”

“You know something, you’re right. When I’m wrong, I admit it.  You’re absolutely right.  (Turning to Gerda) From now on you can disagree with me.”

“Out loud?”

“Sure.”

Later, we discover the reason for Kolowski’s bad attitude towards the local population.  In the bar, he saw a person whom he thought he recognized as “Felix”, a man either misidentified, or now going under a different name.   Felix was a prison guard who hated Americans and hated Poles, and Kolowski was both.  Felix would take Kolowski into the woods to teach him German, but of the most difficult sort, and mistakes would be met with a beating.  So the sergeant gives him and American tongue-twister, which Felix mispronounces at every turn, resulting in his being getting a similarly brutal “language” lesson.  Surprisingly, it gave Kolowski no satisfaction.

Another indication that Kolowski has a conscience comes later in the movie, when he does not feel like eating everything on his plate.  A sign in the diner or PX says, “48 men have been killed flying food to Berlin.  Don’t waste it.”  He reconsiders his rejection.

Later, we get the best lesson on freedom, American style, when Gerda accuses the Americans of being hypocrites about the Jews, since Hitler hated the Jews, but the Americans were also discriminating against them.  She is asked how she knows.  She read it in an American book from someone in the American PX.  She is told that if she could find an anti-Russian book written by a Russian, sent by the Russian government to the Russian sector, she would get a month’s salary. She replies that now she understands, in America, it is not wrong to be wrong if you say it’s wrong.

(The shorter version of the film misses some of Kolowski’s attempts to educate Gerda, as he cannot properly define the system, nor differentiate it from what the Soviets claimed about their own “government by the people.”)

Unfortunately, Kolowski digs up part of the truth about Friederike – her father was S.S., and other lies.  Confronted with these facts, she tries to defend herself – untruths were a means of staying alive.  Daniel is disappointed, but after viewing some scenes of misery, returns to her, and in an unbelievable sequence, decides he wants to marry her. This gives the film an opportunity to consider some of the complications that such a choice would entail.

Neither Gerdi nor Kolowski seem enthusiastic about the marriage of Daniel and Friederike.  The GCA tells his girl to prepare for a funeral; she says she doesn’t feel like going. “You treat me just like my father did.  Get your coat on! Do this, do that, sit down, stand up.  I’m tired of it and I’m not going to stand for it any more.”

“What’s the matter with you, are you plastered or something?  … What have you been drinking?”

“Words, good words. I’ve been reading this.  Your Constitution. the Bill of Rights.  What Lincoln said, and Wilson, and Roosevelt.”

“Ah, don’t let it go to your head!”

”   … I see something now.  You are a disgrace to America, and they shouldn’t send people like you here.”

“Who do you think you are talking to?”

” … It doesn’t matter.  I can say what I want.” She quotes from the Constitution, and hurls some minor insults.

“One more crack like that, so help me, I’ll knock you from here to Potsdam.”

”  … you storm trooper … ”

“Now wait a minute, I’m not some crummy Kraut, … I’m the guy who brings you the cigarettes and the candy and the soap and the stockings … …[Later, as she become defiant]:  … baby, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, don’t let anyone push you around, that’s democracy…  .”

After that, he politely asks her to put her coat on, so that they will not be late.

Meanwhile, the Russian spy makes discoveries about Friederike, which he transmits to Kolowski.  These findings throw a spanner into the works.  We see a letter she writes to someone in America in the old German script (see my article on the same, which states that American censors did not allow it after the war). The German text is in such a bad hand-writing, that this writer would not want to venture a guess as to whether it was a bad attempt at imitation of the German script, an attempt at the writing of an illiterate, or a clumsy attempt at trying to imitate an uneducated writer.

Illiterate or criminal hand-writing

Friederike’s Horrid Handwriting, showing (1) “mir” [me], which looks like “mer” or “mev”; (2) an underlined “w”, which looks more like “y”; and (3) the special letter for a double “s”, “ß”, but in the second example, it is preceded either by another “s”, or an “h”. The word “let”, “lassen” in German, is completely unrecognizable, this analysis had to be accompanied by the sound-track, and the neatly-copied English text in the scene following this one. More information on this handwriting in the author’s German Scripts, available here on WordPress.

Another doubt about the use of this writing, based on personal knowledge, is that based on her supposed age, she would probably only have used a form of writing similar to our own, even without its having been mandated by the occupation authorities.

The lying was justified by “… to tell the truth was to disappear.  Only the end was important, they told us.”

In the end, Gerda elects to stay in Germany, instead of going to America, wondering what would happen to her country if all the discontented tried to leave.

At the end of the movie, Kolowski again tells a German to watch what he’s doing. The latter apologizes politely.  This time, Kolowski replies civilly.  “I suppose if you’re going to sell these dupes  [?] a new way of living, you’ve got to be a pretty good salesman. (Shades of “hearts and minds”!)  Anyway, it won’t kill me to try it for a while.

In the parting scene, Daniel remembers them standing like that before, “… guess you were right.”

“No, we were both wrong.  You were too easy, and like Gerda said, I was acting like a storm-trooper.  I suppose the answer lies somewhere between us.”

Thus it is with politics, the truth must be somewhere between the opinions of the political parties, it is not the property of one.  But we could also argue that Daniel thought that the world was perfect, or could be – Daniel the Democrat, while Henry thought it had to be dealt with by a harsh hand, a “No!” to foreigners – although in the longer version of the film, he tries to convince Gerda that it is possible for various nationalities to live together without warring.

It is to be noted that there are some interesting parallels in real life to the  events related in the story.  Douglas would, by his own background, have been victimized in Hitler’s Germany.  The first choice of actress to play Friederike had to be rejected because her father had an S.S. background.  The choice of the actor for the Russian spy might have been a subliminal message about the reliability of people with the actor’s proclivities, for which he had been sentenced in the 30s.

The movie may offend some Germans, and even more so,   Russians.  It may be traumatic for women who have been victims of male bullying, and for survivors of war zones.  A few may have bad memories, such as those Kolowski had.

What might put off some potential viewers is that this movie has a heavy dose of German with no sub-titles!

Stars and Such

Directed and written by George Seaton, of Airport fame.

All players, excluding O. E. Hasse, as Herr Stieber, the Russian spy, are named above. In real life, he had been, for a short while in 1944, a member of the Luftwaffe.

 

Comparison of These 3 Movies and 2 Others:

The chart below emphasizes political and policy questions of the movies. Click on the chart for full size.

Film comparison

Comparison of Larceny on the Air, Corruption, The Big Lift, The President’s Mystery, and A Stranger in Town.

We would like some special lines from The Big Lift and A Stranger in Town.  As this is being written, the United States is mere days away from an election, but in one form or another, the following quotes will remain germane.

In the latter movie’s denoumenent, we get  the “stranger” explaining to an assembled audience by what right he is getting mixed up in local affairs. He asserts that citizens cannot remain indifferent after having voted,  “… we .., we cannot do it [elections] as lightly as flipping a coin.” Furthermore, reflecting ideas similar to those in The Big Lift, he declares:   “Government of the people, by the people and for the people can mean any kind of government.

Our remaining dialog is taken from the full version of The Big Lift.  Hank’s words are in ordinary type, Gerda’s are in italics.

America is run by the people … It’s a people’s government. …

Then, it’s like Russia, that’s a people’s government, too….

… Let’s say Russia is a people’s government, (…) but it’s the kind of people’s government where the leaders  decide what is best for the people.  With us, the people decide what’s best.

Oh, no, [Russians say] “a few wealthy men who own many newspapers  control everything, they tell the people what to say, what to think.”

Now, wait a minute, we had an election some time ago, 90% of the newspapers were against Truman, and the bookies were laying 50 to 1  he’d wind up back behind the shirt counter.  So who’s president? Truman, [whom] nobody wanted, but the people. …

For the historical record, Truman’s victory was pre-announced as a defeat by an over-confident newspapers.  Ronald Reagan was another candidate expected to lose.  As this is being written, history is again being made, but its direction is uncertain.

October 22, 2016, November 3, 2016.

© 2016, Paul Karl Moeller

A personal note by the author: While in autobiographical information elsewhere on this web-site I reveal, in addition to interests in history and political science, my one-time interest in radio, the last movie of the above group has a special resonance because of a now deceased American uncle, once in the U.S. Air Force, somewhat comparable in background to Kolowski, and who married a German girl.  Her brother was shot down in a plane of the Luftwaffe. That the latter was a pilot was disputed, so perhaps, like Daniel, he was a flight engineer.

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