All Quiet On The Western Front - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

USA, 1930

Director: Lewis Milestone

Production: Universal Pictures Corp.; Moviestone sound, black and white, 35mm (also silent version with synchronized music); running time: 140 minutes; length: 14 reels, 12,423 feet (with synchronized music 15 reels). Released April 1930, Los Angeles. Re-released 1939 but reduced to 10 reels; re-released 1950 in the United States; rereleased 1963 in France. Filmed 1930 in Universal Studio backlots; battle scenes shot at Irvine Ranch, California.

Producer: Carl Laemmle, Jr.; screenplay: Dell Andrews, Maxwell Anderson, and George Abbott; titles: Walter Anthony, from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque; photography: Arthur Edeson, Karl Freund, and Tony Gaudio; editors: Edgar Adams and Milton Carruth; sound technician: William W. Hedgecock; art directors: Charles D. Hall and William Schmidt; music and synchronization: David Broekman; recording engineer: C. Roy Hunter; special effects: Frank Booth; dialogue director: George Cukor.

Cast: Louis Wolheim ( Katczincky ); Lew Ayres ( Paul Baumer ); John Wray ( Himmelstoss ); George (Slim) Summerville ( Tiaden ); Russell Gleason ( Muller ); Raymond Griffith ( Gerard Duval ); Ben Alexander ( Kemmerich ); Owen Davis, Jr. ( Peter ); Beryl Mercer ( Mrs. Baumer; in silent version ZaSu Pitts is Mrs. Baumer); Joan Marsh ( Poster girl ); Yola d'Avril ( Suzanne ); Arnold Lucy ( Kantorek ); Scott Kolk ( Leer ); Walter Browne Rogers ( Behm ); Richard Alexander ( Westhus ); Renee Damonde and Poupee Andriot ( French girls ); Edwin Maxwell ( Mr. Baumer ); Harold Goodwin ( Detering ); Marion Clayton ( Miss Baumer );
G. Pat Collins ( Lieutenant Berlenck ); Bill Irving ( Ginger ); Edmund Breese ( Herr Mayer ); Heinie Conklin ( Hammacher ); Bertha Mann ( Sister Libertine ); William Bakewell ( Albert ); Bodil Rosing ( Watcher ); Tom London ( Orderly ); Vince Barnett ( Cook ); Fred Zinnemann ( Man ).

Awards: Oscars for Best Picture and Best Direction, 1929/30; American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Movies," 1998.



Andrews, Dell, Maxwell Anderson, and George Abbott, All Quiet on the Western Front , in Best American Screenplays 1 , edited by Sam Thomas, New York, 1982.


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All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front

Tuska, John, editor, "Lewis Milestone," in Close Up: The Contract Director , New Jersey, 1976.

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Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 November 1963.

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All Quiet on the Western Front made Lew Ayres a star and was responsible for the start of George Cukor's screen career and the establishment of Lewis Milestone as a director of international repute. Milestone directed four further films concerned with war, notably A Walk in the Sun , but none measured up to All Quiet , and, indeed, the director never achieved the same success as this film brought. The film also boded well for the production career of Carl Laemmle, Jr., a much derided executive, who turned out a surprising number of major artistic features at his father's studio in the early through mid-1930s.

A passionate portrayal of the horror of war, the film was the first to depict the "Hun" as simply a scared boy. All Quiet can be divided into four distinct parts. The first details the enlistment of the young recruits; the second their arrival at the front; the third the various incidents of war; and, finally, the hero Paul Baumer's homecoming, his hastened return to the front, and his death. The film remains faithful to the Erich Maria Remarque novel. It was the most successful of a trio of features released at this time which take a pacifist approach to World War I, the other two being the British Journey's End and the German Westfront 1918. All Quiet on the Western Front was the first sound film to use a giant mobile crane, particularly for filming the realistically-staged battle sequences, and one of the first talkies to boast a mobility of camerawork in general. Credit for this must, of course, go to Lewis Milestone, but George Cukor's contribution to the film should not be—as it is so often—overlooked. It was Cukor who rehearsed the actors and established a neutrality to their accents which is of inestimable value in putting across the production's emotional message.

There are no real stars in All Quiet , with each actor giving a passionate cameo performance, be it Louis Wolheim as the brusque yet sympathetic Katczinsky, Raymond Griffith as the French soldier killed by Baumer, William Bakewell as Baumer's pal, Albert, or Beryl Mercer as Baumer's mother (a role played in the silent version by ZaSu Pitts).

Released initially in a 140-minute version. All Quiet on the Western Front has been successively cut through the years, until most prints today run as short as 90 or 110 minutes. These truncated versions fail to capture the film's momentum as the recruits become more and more involved in the war and its horrors. The most extraordinary edited version of the feature, however, was a 1939 reissue which included an anti-Nazi narration.

—Anthony Slide

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