Hollywood Flashback: ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Earned Two Oscars and a Ban in Nazi Germany

The new All Quiet on the Western Front, Germany’s Oscar submission for best international feature film, is an adaptation of the 1929 World War I novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. That best-seller, based on Remarque’s experiences in the German Army, moved 3 million copies in 22 languages in its first two years in print and remains one of the great works about the trauma of war.

It and its 1930 sequel, The Road Back, were banned and burned in Nazi Germany. In the U.S., All Quiet on the Western Front was adapted for the screen in 1930, produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. — son of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle — and directed by Lewis Milestone, who the following year would helm the landmark media satire The Front Page. Made in the days of pre-Code Hollywood, before censorship guidelines were enforced, All Quiet‘s visceral depiction of trench warfare — it ends with the famous image of the film’s wounded hero, Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres), smiling and reaching out to touch a butterfly on the battlefield, only to be shot dead by an enemy sniper — resonated deeply with audiences when it was released stateside in August 1930.

But when the film reached Germany later that year, the rising Nazi Party saw the anti-war property as an ideological threat to its warmongering and instigated riots wherever the film was screened.

“The showing of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ at the Mozartsaal is causing wild demonstrations, not only in Berlin, but throughout all of Germany,” read a Dec. 10, 1930, story in The Hollywood Reporter. “It has taken on a political aspect and is being used by the Nazis as a means to uproot the entire government.”

Nevertheless, the film was embraced by the Academy: It earned four Oscar nominations and became the first to win both outstanding production (i.e., best picture) and best director at the third Academy Awards, held Nov. 5, 1930, at the Ambassador Hotel.

THR reported Dec. 10, 1930, that Joseph Goebbels led a march on a theater in Berlin.

This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here