Thursday, October 13, 2011
SO ENDS OUR NIGHT
"When she dies, I'm done for anyway."
Based on Erich Maria Remarque's novel Flotsam this deals with the plight of Jewish and other political refugees from Germany just before the Nazi occupation of Austria, and then France. Josef Steiner (Fredric March) is wanted by German authorities for political actions and is afraid that his wife (Frances Dee), whom he must leave behind when he flees, will suffer because of his actions. Their long-distance relationship takes a back seat to the burgeoning love affair between two of Steiner's friends, Ludwig (Glenn Ford) and Ruth (Margaret Sullavan), both of whom are Jewish. As we see the difficulties these and others have because they are official non-persons without passports, the film builds up to a situation in which both couples are in crisis, cruelly separated, with Steiner and Ruth each racing desperately to be with the one person in the world they love above all others. Ford and Sullavan make a more compelling team than you would imagine, and March, while he "acts" a bit too much, has some excellent moments as well; Sullavan is as splendid as ever. Dee hasn't as much to do as the others but makes full use of a very expressive face. There are a host of fine character actors as well, including Erich von Stoheim as a German police officer. This film is yet another that shows that Glenn Ford was not just a merely competent pretty-boy, but an accomplished and versatile performer. Louis Gruenberg's score is a little weird at times, but overall is very effective. Two scenes stand out: Ludwig trying to sell some meagre possessions to two extremely weird old sisters, and an unexpected and very dramatic murder-suicide that comes late in the picture.
Verdict: Imperfect, perhaps, but intelligent, adult fare with fine performances. ***1/2.