All Quiet On

The Western



Film: Review

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"Our bodies are earth and our thoughts are clay and we sleep and eat with death."
- Lewis Milestone


i m   w e s t e n   n i c h t s   n e u e s  :   r e m a r q u e  ]

  • Lew Ayres (Paul Baumer)
  • Louis Wolheim (Katczinsky)
  • John Wray (Himmelstoss)
  • George 'Slim' Summerville (Tjaden)
  • Raymond Griffith (Gerald Duval)
  • Russell Gleason (Muller)
  • William Bakewell (Albert)
  • Scott Kolk (Leer)
  • Walter Rogers (Bohm)
  • Ben Alexander (Kemmerich)
  • Owen Davis Jr (Peter)
  • Beryl Mercer (Paul's mother - sound version)
  • ZaSu Pitts (Paul's mother - silent version)
  • Edwin Maxwell (Paul's father)
  • Harold Goodwin (Detering)
  • Marion Clayton (Paul's sister)
  • Richard Alexander (Westhus)
  • G. Pat Collins (Lieutenant Bertinck)
  • Yola D'Avril (Suzanne)
  • Poupee Andriot, Renee Damonde (French girls)
  • Arnold Lucy (Kantorek)
  • William Irving (Ginger)
  • Edmund Breese (Herr Mayer)
  • Heinie Conklin (Hammacher)
  • Bertha Mann (Sister)
  • Bodil Rosing (Wasing)
  • Joan Marsh (poster girl)
  • Tom London (orderly)
  • Vincent Barnett (cook)
  • Fred Zinnermann (man)

    All Quiet On The Western Front


  • prod co: Universal
  • prod: Carl Laemmie Jr

  • sc:

    Del Andrews, Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, from the novel Im Westen Nichts Neues by Erich Maria Remarque

  • dial: Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, C. Gardner Sullivan
  • dial dir: George Cukor
  • titles: Walter Anthony
  • photo: Arthur Edeson
  • sp eff photo: Frank H. Booth
  • ed: Edgar Adams, Milton Carruth, Maurice Pivar
  • art dir: Charles D. Hall, W. R. Schmitt
  • sync/mus: David Broekman
  • rec sup: C. Roy Hunter
  • sd: William W. Hedgecock
  • sd sys: Movietone
  • ass dir: Nate Watt
  • r/t: 138 minutes
  • new york premiere: 28 April 1930

    All Quiet On The Western Front


    Erich Maria Remarque wrote Im Westen Nichts Neues to free himself from his memory of the Great War and from 'my thoughts and those of my companions'. Like the leading character of the novel, the author was one of a class of 18-year-olds who enlisted in the infantry and suffered the brutality of life in the trenches. The book was a best seller. Soon after it appeared in the United States, the rights were snapped up by Carl Laemmie, head of Universal. Laemmie had intended to use the story for a silent movie, and a silent version with synchronized music still exists - running a reel longer than the complete talkie copy and with ZaSu Pitts in the role of Mrs Baumer instead of Beryl Mercer, who played the part in the sound movie. (Perhaps Miss Mercer's stage experience was thought to fit better for talkies.)

    Lewis Milestone set himself uncompromisingly to reproduce the realism of the novel. It is arguable that no film - whether fiction or fact - has given such a vivid account of the physical actuality of World War I; and fragments of All Quiet have frequently turned up in later compilations credited as documentary.

    The battle scenes were shot on an area of almost 100 acres on the Irvine Ranch, 69 miles south-east of Los Angeles. Over 5 miles of water pipes were laid to provide the authentic water-logged appearance of the battlefields. And 2 miles of road were built for the operation of Universal's high new camera crane which was assigned to the picture. In all, 35 different sets were built for the film - those representing frontline France being destined for destruction during filming.

    Unerringly, Milestone reconciled the realism of the setting with the deliberately lyrical style of the dialogue:

    'Our bodies are earth and our thoughts are clay and we sleep and eat with death.'

    He also blended the extreme stylization of some performances with the easy naturalism of Louis Wolheim (Katczinsky) and Slim Summerville (Tjaden).

    Milestone used his facilities with incomparable flair. He brought all the fluidity of silent films to the camera - which freely tracked and panned and soared over the battlefields or the little German town from which the hero and his schoolboy friends march out to war - and to the editing. At the same time Milestone imaginatively explored the possibility of sound, from the beginning where the bellicose harangues of the schoolteacher are drowned by the noise of a band outside, to the haunting echoes of the battlefield as the cry of 'Mind the wire' goes down the line.

    All Quiet On The Western Front


    At the outset of World War I, a group of German boys leave their desks for the army, inspired by the marching soldiers in the streets and by the uplifting rhetoric of their schoolmaster. Only one wavers but he too is eventually persuaded.

    Sent to the front, their illusions are shattered by the cynical stoicism of seasoned soldiers and by their own first experience under fire. They share the terror and exhaustion of constant fighting as well as the bewilderment of watching their schoolfriends die on the battlefield.

    The central character is Paul Baumer. His first experience of killing a man, face to face, is traumatic. In other circumstances the Frenchman could ave been a friend and comrade rather than an enemy.

    After being wounded, Paul is sent home on leave to find a world with which he now has little contact. False romantic ideas of war still persist in the school and among the belligerent old men in the beer cellars.

    Almost with relief he returns to the front. A few old comrades are stil alive in his unit but it is mostly filled with new recruits - as young and green as he was once, not so many months ago.

    Some time later Paul is peering through the loophole of his trench when he sees a butterfly. He reaches out to catch it. A french sniper takes aim. Paul's hand falls limp.

    Across the corpse-strewn fields of France march columns of ghostly soldiers - accusation in their eyes.


    all quiet

    marching soldiers in the street...

    all quiet

    inspire some german boys to join up...

    all quiet

    but seasoned soldiers shatter their illusions...

    all quiet

    as do their own experiences...

    all quiet

    which include seeing schoolfriends die...

    all quiet

    and paul kills, face to face, for the first time...

    all quiet

    but back home old men romantise the war...

    all quiet

    whilst back at the trench paul tries to catch a butterfly...

    all quiet

    but a sniper gets him...

    all quiet

    and across the corpse-strewn fields of france march columns of ghostly soldiers - accusation in their eyes...

    and all is quiet on the western front...

    L I N K S


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