Watch On the Rhine


(out of 5)

Lillian Hellman’s play is adapted to the screen by Dashiell Hammett with respectable results, giving  another chance to prove herself queen of Warners dramas and winning  an Oscar for his noble performance.  They play a couple who leave Germany as Nazi terror is brewing ever more noisily, bringing their three children home to Davis’ childhood home in Washington, D.C. where her spunky mother (, terrific) still holds court as a social paragon.  Watson is also playing host to a Romanian count () of dubious political sympathies, his constant visits to the German embassy meaning that Lukas and Davis are sleeping next to the enemy, while the count’s wife (, wasted in a dramatically ineffective role) finds herself falling in love with Watson’s handsome son ().  The screws start to twist as the Coulouris recognizes the recently arrived guests and goes in for blackmail, while Watson realizes that having gumption and morality while living in the free world can do little against the encroaching threat of fascism from overseas.  It’s a gorgeously shot and emotionally involving drama (just try not to be moved when Davis is reunited with her mother after seventeen years) but it’s also dramatically inert in favour of political proselytizing.  This would have stirred audiences a lot more in 1943 (and earlier when the play was produced), but watching it after the good guys have won means the stakes are lower, and we need for some action to happen so that old blowhard Lukas (in a one-note performance) can give up on the sermons.

USA, 1943

Directed by

Screenplay by , additional scenes and dialogue by , based on her play

Cinematography by ,

Produced by Hal B. Wallis

Music by Max Steiner

Production Design by Carl Jules Weyl

Costume Design by Orry-Kelly

Film Editing by Rudi Fehr

Cast Tags:  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Academy Award
Best Actor  (Paul Lukas as “Kurt Muller”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role  (Lucile Watson as “Fanny Farrelly”)
Outstanding Motion Picture  (Warner Bros.)
Best Writing (Screenplay)  (Dashiell Hammett)

Golden Globe Award
Best Motion Picture Actor  (Paul Lukas)

National Board Of Review Award
Top Ten Films

New York Film Critics Awards
Best Film
Best Actor  (Paul Lukas)


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