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The Mortal Storm

This film was released on June 14, 1940 and was one of the most direct anti-Nazi Hollywood films released before the American entry into the Second World War. Due to the antisemitism in the U.S. the family whose story is focues on is never identified as Jewish, but rather, only "non-Aryan." However, this film had a significant impact on American attitudes. The film was based upon the 1938 book by Phyllis Bottome. The Mortal Storm is the story of Hitler’s rise to power as seen through the microcosm of one German family. What may seem small and personal is instead towering, a bold revelation of the brutality of the Nazi regime that so infuriated propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that he banned all MGM movies in Germany. In their fourth and final teaming, Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart play sweethearts, evoking the tender, romantic empathy that always marked their work together. They lead a sterling cast in director Frank Borzage’s sweeping tale of the political and human chaos that rips a family apart, sets child against parent and lover against lover, and leads to savagery, to sacrifice and to heroism. In a small German university town in 1933, a birthday celebration for Professor Viktor Roth is interrupted by the news that Hitler has been appointed chancellor. Roth, who is non-Aryan, his daughter Freya, and Martin Breitner, a family friend who loves Freya, are apprehensive about Hitler’s rise, but Roth’s stepsons, Otto and Erich Von Rohn, and Fritz Marberg, Freya’s new fianc’, are enthusiastic. The town’s Nazis soon begin to inflict violence on their ideological adversaries and on non-Aryans, and Roth’s stepsons leave his house. Freya breaks with Fritz and comes to return Martin’s love, but the lovers are separated when Martin, who has helped a non-Aryan friend leave the country, is stranded in Austria. For refusing to acknowledge a difference between Aryan and non-Aryan blood, Roth loses his teaching position and is interned in a concentration camp, and his family’s frantic efforts to locate him result only in a brief visit before his mysterious death. On their way to Austria, Freya and Mrs. Roth are detained for carrying Roth’s manuscript, and Freya is forced to stay in Germany indefinitely. Martin, however, returns for Freya and as the couple make their way through a difficult mountain pass, they are in sight of Austria when a Nazi patrol, led by Fritz, locates them. The lovers reach the border, but Freya dies shortly after from a gunshot wound incurred during the chase. B & W. 100 mins.


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