Thursday, January 30, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR FEBRUARY ON TCM


The TCM annual celebration of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is about to begin. This year's 31 Days of Oscar includes None Shall Escape, a searing propaganda drama from Columbia Studios. Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than were nominated in the category of Best Writing, Original Story. The other nominees in the category were Lifeboat, The Sullivans, A Guy Named Joe, and the winner, Going My Way.

Filmed in 1943, the movie takes us to a time in the future when the war has been won and the allies set about bringing war criminals to justice.

The first criminal brought before the international tribunal is an unrepentant Nazi named Wilhelm Grimm played by Alexander Knox. Through testimony and flashbacks, we see the truth in the words of the first witness, Father Warecki played by Henry Travers. 

Father Warecki: "The trial of these criminals marks a milestone in human history. It is being argued today that we, having defeated the Nazis, should show tolerance and mercy; that these men are the victims of circumstance and history, and that they enjoyed no freedom to act in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience. I would like to relate an incident which occurred many years ago to prove that the accused acted of his own volition and that he had freedom of choice and will."


Marsha Hunt, Alexander Knox

A German-born teacher, Wilhelm Grimm, returns to Litzbakk, the small town in Poland where he lived prior to WWI. His job and his sweetheart are waiting for him. Embittered by the loss of a leg, and Germany's loss in the war, Grimm spouts political thoughts that will become all too common in the coming decades. His warped world view turns his fiancee Marja Pacierkowski played by Marsha Hunt away from the idea of marriage to such a man.

The town turns on Grimm when it is discovered that his assault of a teenager led to her suicide. The courts did not convict but he was driven back to Germany where he totally embraced Hitlerism.

The second witness at the tribunal is Grimm's own brother, Karl played by Erik Rolf. Karl is a writer for a socialist paper. He and his wife Alice played by Ruth Nelson have a son and daughter. They take Wilhelm lovingly into the family fold and laugh at his silly political ideas. Wilhelm's rise in the Third Reich involves the incarceration of his brother and the indoctrination of his nephew into the SS.

The third damning witness is Marja Pacierkowski. Widowed in the early days of the war, she and her daughter Janina played by Dorothy Morris have returned Litzbakk. Wilhelm Grimm is the officer in charge and in addition to the maniacal devotion to evil orders, there is the retribution he wants to extract from the townspeople for what he sees as his past mistreatment.


Grimm's rule is one of terror and slaughter. His devotion is to Hitler and to his nephew. When that nephew's eyes are opened to a different and kinder way of life by his feelings for Janina a personal tragedy strikes the Pacierkowski family.

The script for None Shall Escape is a combination of the literate and the lurid. The direction by Andre de Toth forces the audience to be aware of oppression through visuals and the use of sound. It is the sound of the Jewish citizens being rounded up for transport that is as heartwrenching as their doomed uprising.

The interesting premise of a look at the end of the ongoing conflict and the powerful performances from Ms. Hunt and Mr. Knox make None Shall Escape a film of interest and value.

TCM is screening None Shall Escape on February 6 at the end of that programming day, or the beginning of the next depending on your time zone.












18 comments:

  1. Thank you for noting this film - it's an underseen gem that needs to be brought to the attention of viewers.

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    1. Thank you so much. I feel the same way about this film. I think it is these that TCM should highlight with the prime time spots during 31 Days of Oscar instead of the more familiar and often-seen titles.

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  2. This is an amazing film, unusual in how grim and hard-hitting it is, even for today; it pulls no punches. It also has a terrific performance from Marsha Hunt, who's such an underrated actress. I'm surprised that she and the film are not better known.

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    1. It deserved it's Oscar nomination and it deserves to have a more widespread reputation. Prime time would have been the spot, perhaps with Marsha Hunt speaking.

      I am certain those who haven't seen None Shall Escape will be duly impressed.

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  3. ALEXANDER KNOX was nominated for an OSCAR for WILSON-1945. That same year a young actress was nominated in the supporting category for her first movie. The actress is ANGELA LANSBURY who is now 94. (The movie was GASLIGHT.) Knox lost to BING CROSBY(GOING MY WAY) and Miss Lansbury lost to ETHEL BARRYMORE(NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART). In the 80s MARSHA HUNT, who is now 102, did an ep of MURDER, SHE WROTE starring Angela. The ep had EVELYN KEYES and BETSY PALMER. It also had JOHN ASTIN who is now 89.

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    1. I'm proud to say that actor and writer Alexander Knox is a fellow Canadian.

      Sticks and Stones is one of my favourite Murder, She Wrote episodes. I'm partial to the "Cabot Cove" stories.

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  4. FRED SILVERMAN died on Jan. 30 at the age of 82. He was the president of ABC and then later the president of NBC. According to WIKI first he was the vice-president of CBS. (I thought he was the president.) He was responsible for putting on a lot of good/great shows including ALL IN THE FAMILY and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Later he was a producer. Some of his shows were MATLOCK, DIAGNOSIS MURDER and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. He also produced the PERRY MASON Movies. There were 26 with Perry and later there were 4 more-one with PAUL SORVINO and three with HAL HOLBROOK. Just think, Caftan Woman, if we had met Mr. Silverman we could have talked about Perry Mason and Diagnosis Murder. Also I could have talked about Matlock.

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    1. We certainly would have "bent his ear" for an hour or three about those favourite programs.

      I turn Superbowl Sunday into my own Perry Mason Marathon. I shall have to include one of the movies in honour of Fred Silverman.

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  5. ANDRE DE TOTH was once married to VERONICA LAKE. Sadly, Miss Lake died at the young age of 50(in 1973) as did her frequent co-star ALAN LADD on Jan. 29, 1964. That was 56 years ago. I really like Alan in THE PROUD REBEL. Did you see him in ONE FOOT IN HELL with DON MURRAY? I thought it was a good movie. Not counting SHANE, what movie would you give Alan the Oscar for? Could you pick two-a western and also a drama? Or at least an Oscar nom? As Ive mentioned before I really like THE CARPETBAGGERS which came out after his passing.

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    1. Andre de Toth directed Veronica Lake in a very interesting movie called Ramrod. The leading man is Joel McCrea, and Don DeFore gives a marvelous performance as a young gunfighter.

      I think Shane was Ladd's best shot at an Oscar. He certainly deserved a nomination. Perhaps O.S.S. and/or Botany Bay were worthy of a nomination as well. I haven't seen One Foot in Hell in ages. Thanks for reminding me of that movie.

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  6. I like the way this film is structured – although I haven't seen it – and it also sounds like a haunting film. I had to keep scrolling back to the first paragraph to remind myself it was filmed in 1943, because it sounds like it could easily have been made after the war. I need to see this one.

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    1. The glimpse into the near future was a very bold move on their part. And it works wonderfully well.

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  7. I haven't seen this one, but "a combination of the literate and the lurid" certainly sounds intriguing. Plus, Andre De Toth was an interesting director (I particularly liked his films PITFALL and, of course, HOUSE OF WAX). Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Mr. de Toth knew how to grab an audience. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen House of Wax - it may be reaching The Thing from Another World level!

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  8. Love this film and consider it a hidden gem. What I find most remarkable about it is that it was made at the height of the war,when the outcome of the war was anyone's guess. The film predicted the allies winning and putting the Nazis on trial.

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    1. It was a brave movie to make and well-deserving of that writing nomination.

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  9. I never saw PITFALL but I know LIZABETH SCOTT was in it. I saw her in RED MOUNTAIN( a western) with.....ALAN LADD. I also saw Lizabeth in the drama EASY LIVING with VICTOR MATURE, LLOYD NOLAN and LUCILLE BALL. Lizabeth played the wife to Mature, he played a football player. I was glad to see Lucy in it. JIM BACKUS was also in it as a doctor.

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    1. Easy Living is excellent and most appropriate for this Super Bowl Sunday.

      Lizabeth Scott's role in Pitfall is one of my favourites. She was an actress made for noir.

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