Cast & Crew
In 1948 Dan Haywood, an American judge recently defeated for reelection in Maine, arrives in Nuremberg to preside over the trial of several German judges accused of destroying law and justice to support Hitler's infamous mandates which took the lives of 6 million innocent people. From the moment the prosecuting attorney, Col. Tad Lawson, makes his emotion-packed opening statements, it is obvious that he is determined to obtain the maximum punishment for the judges. The defense lawyer, Hans Rolfe, counters by charging that if these men are guilty because they upheld the laws of their country, then all of Germany must be tried. To support his accusations of inhuman actions, Lawson offers the testimony of Rudolf Petersen, a victim of sterilization who, it develops, was castrated because of mental incompetence. During the long weeks of the trial, Haywood wanders about the city trying to "understand" the German people, trying to determine if they really understood what Hitler stood for. In particular, Haywood often chats with the aristocratic Madame Bertholt, the widow of a German general executed after the earlier war crimes trials. The proceedings reach a climax when a woman named Irene Hoffman is called to the stand. When she testifies that a former friend, an aged Jew, was falsely accused of being intimate with her (thereby "polluting the Aryan race") and then executed, Rolfe tries to break down her story by frantically accusing her of distorting the truth. As the distraught woman breaks into hysterical denials, one of the accused, Ernst Janning, interrupts the hearings and asks to make a statement. Throughout the trial he has remained silent, but he now voluntarily takes the stand and admits to being guilty of both ignoring and rationalizing the inhuman Nazi acts because he felt they were for the ultimate good of the country. As Haywood and his two associate judges ponder their decisions, the news that Russia has blockaded Berlin prompts military officials to hint that lenient judgments might be wise--and expedient. But Haywood, determined to stand for "justice, truth, and the value of a single human being," refuses to compromise, and he sentences the defendants to life imprisonment. The defiant Rolfe sneers that in 5 years the convicted men will be free.
Laci Von Ronay
Robert J. Schiffer
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
The Essentials - Judgment at Nuremberg
New England Judge Dan Haywood comes to Nuremberg, Germany, to preside over the trial of members of the country's judiciary accused of condemning people under Nazi law, actions that led to the genocide of the Holocaust. With those in the Nazi high command already in prison or dead, Haywood realizes he has a more difficult task - determining the complicity of the more ordinary German citizens, the ones who didn't necessarily formulate the Nazi policies but carried out their orders without question or opposition. On the one side, he has an American military prosecutor who believes in the guilt of an entire nation where no one wants to acknowledge responsibility. On the other side is a German defense attorney who sees far grayer areas; he points out how Allied leaders once praised Hitler and questions the "moral superiority" of a country that would kill thousands of innocent civilians in the service of war, such as in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Haywood also has to contend with growing pressure from U.S. military and political leaders for acquittals in order to gain the support of the German populace in the growing Cold War with the Soviet Union. With all these factors weighing heavily on him, Haywood seeks answers from the people of Nuremberg, notably the aristocratic wife of a German military man executed for war crimes, in an effort to understand what set their country on an unthinkable course.
Producer/Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: Abby Mann
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editing: Frederic Knudtson
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad and George Milo
Original Music: Ernest Gold
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Judge Dan Haywood), Burt Lancaster (Ernst Janning), Richard Widmark (Col. Tad Lawson), Marlene Dietrich (Mme. Bertholt), Maximilian Schell (Hans Rolfe), Judy Garland (Irene Hoffman), Montgomery Clift (Rudolph Petersen), William Shatner (Capt. Harrison Byers), Werner Klemperer (Emil Hahn).
BW-180m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
Why JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG is Essential
Producer-director Stanley Kramer's critical reputation has not weathered well over the years; even in his heyday in the 1950s and 60s, he inspired diverging opinions about his importance as a filmmaker, and it was often less than laudatory. In A Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson wrote of Kramer's output: "at worst, they are among the most tedious and dispiriting productions the American cinema has to offer." The best Andrew Sarris could say, in his landmark work on auteur theory, The American Cinema (Dutton, 1968), was "he has been such an easy and willing target for so long that his very ineptness has become encrusted with tradition." With such a drubbing, one would have expected Kramer and his work to have long since fallen into deep obscurity. Yet the films, which drew the participation of some of the finest talents in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera, continue to garner interest and inspire debate.
The reason may have to do with Kramer's standing as what Andrew Sarris called "the most extreme example of thesis or message cinema." Even those who slammed Kramer for a lack of cinematic artistry have noted his persistence and willingness to risk all in taking on what were once daring or controversial subjects: racism in The Defiant Ones (1958), nuclear holocaust in On the Beach (1959), censorship and the intolerance of fundamentalism in Inherit the Wind (1960), interracial marriage in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). The war crimes trials held in Germany after World War II, particularly those of the judges who carried out the most extreme Nazi laws against innocent victims, was first dramatized on live television in Abby Mann's penetrating script. It was a subject tailor-made for Kramer, and he threw himself into it despite the indifference of the studios and the general feeling that, in an era when Germany was an important ally against Soviet expansion, this was a subject better left untouched. He may not have been the critics' darling, but few directors at the time could have forged ahead with such a project. Along the way he gathered a powerhouse cast and award-winning production team, proving that more than one person had ample faith in Kramer.
At the top of that list was Spencer Tracy, by 1961 the Grand Old Man of American cinema, and the actor of his generation most respected by audiences and colleagues alike. Having recently received his seventh Academy Award nomination for Kramer's Inherit the Wind, the aging and ill Tracy jumped at the chance to work with the man he decided would be his sole director for the remainder of his career. Not a bad endorsement for Kramer, and for Tracy it was a guarantee of roles that would add to his carved-in-stone image as the solid, decent, liberal-minded American. His Judge Dan Haywood in Judgment at Nuremberg was perhaps the apotheosis of that image.
Kramer's shrewd casting also added to the film's appeal in the performances of Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift as the two key witnesses in the trials, ordinary citizens whose lives were shattered by the Nazi regime. The two performers were still young when they appeared in this movie - she was not quite 40 and he was almost two years older - but their looks and the wounded exhaustion of their demeanors spoke volumes about their tumultuous private lives. So much of what audiences remember about this film comes from these two Oscar®-nominated cameos, totaling scarcely a half hour of screen time, as the raw emotionalism of two respected but famously self-destructive actors brought an eerie resonance between their off-screen realities and the characters they portrayed.
Added to all this was the casting of Marlene Dietrich in an iconic role near the end of her long career; the young Maximilian Schell, breaking through to international fame with his Academy Award® performance; and the participation of such major stars as Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark. But beyond the work of the cast, what makes Judgment at Nuremberg essential viewing? Certainly Abby Mann's script deserves much of the credit by providing a structure and tone that not only fosters moral contemplation but ample opportunities for dramatic conflict. And the Motion Picture Academy recognized the steering contributions of a host of very experienced and creative talents behind the camera. Nevertheless, critical opinion of the film varies greatly.
There are those who praise its thematic intentions - and Kramer's courage in going after an unpopular subject based on highly unpleasant realities - while pointing out its failures purely as cinema - not least of which is excessive length and some flashy but pointlessly ineffective camerawork, a shortcoming even Kramer admitted. Ultimately, what makes Judgment at Nuremberg worth seeing and a notable addition to film history is its status as the supreme example of the type of cinema Stanley Kramer represented and strove for throughout most of his career, films with "something to say." With its all-star cast and its lofty ambitions, it is the Grand Hotel (1932) of message movies.
by Rob Nixon
The Essentials - Judgment at Nuremberg
Pop Culture 101 - Judgment at Nuremberg
Judgment at Nuremberg delivered on a frequent expectation of Spencer Tracy's film roles: powerful, long speechesfrequently captured in single takesthat usually state the films' themes and ideas as political or intellectual arguments. One such early example is the radio harangue his character, a presidential candidate, gives at the end of State of the Union (1948). As the Clarence Darrow-inspired character in Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind (1960), Tracy gives a single-take jury summation that lasts ten minutes. He beats his own record in Judgment at Nuremberg with a courtroom speech that lasts nearly 14 minutes. His last such speech would come at the climax of his final film appearance, again for Kramer, in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
During a stroll through the city that Haywood (Spencer Tracy) takes with Mme. Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich), the strains of the song "Lili Marlene" can be heard in the background. Dietrich, who made the song famous during World War II, hums a few bars and explains the German lyrics to Tracy.
The real-life American presiding judge on whom Tracy's character was based, Francis Biddle of Massachusetts, published a book about the trials in 1962, In Brief Authority. Among the many accounts written about the trials, one of the most praised has been Bradley F. Smith's 1977 book Reaching Judgment at Nuremberg: The Untold Story of How the Nazi War Criminals Were Judged.
Two documentaries were made about the war trials at the time they occurred That Justice Be Done (1945, US) and The Nuremberg Trials (1947, USSR).
The story was first presented on TV in 1959 as an episode of the live dramatic anthology series Playhouse 90. The cast featured Claude Rains as Judge Dan Haywood (played on film by Spencer Tracy), Paul Lukas as German judge Ernst Janning (the Burt Lancaster role), and Melvyn Douglas as General Parker, a character who does not appear in the film version under that same name.
Rains became so moved performing Judgment at Nuremberg on live TV that his eyes teared up and he almost couldn't continue.
Maximilian Schell played the role of defense attorney Hans Rolfe in both the television and film versions of the story. In a 2004 videotaped conversation with writer Abby Mann, Schell spoke highly of the TV version and wondered if it didn't do more justice to Mann's story than the film did.
In both versions of Judgment at Nuremberg, Schell has a line about Winston Churchill's praise of Hitler in the late 1930s; on television, he was so nervous that he got confused and said Churchill's statements were made in 1939; this resulted in stern comments from the British Embassy who corrected him, stating that 1939 was the year Great Britain went to war with Germany.
Schell is sometimes credited as the only member of the television cast to recreate his role on film, but there were three others: German-born Werner Klemperer, Dane Torben Meyer, and Austrian Otto Waldis, all of whom portrayed Germans in the film.
Werner Klemperer (1920-2000), who portrayed Emil Hahn, the most unrepentant of the German judges on trial, was in reality the son of a Jewish man who fled with his family from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Klemperer had a long career in American films and television between 1952 and 1993, but he is probably best known as the comical prison camp commandant Colonel Klink on the TV comedy series Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971). He recreated that role voicing the character of Homer's imaginary Col. Klink on an episode of The Simpsons animated TV show, his final acting job.
The story was presented as a stage play by the National Actors Theatre on Broadway in 2001 with Schell in the part of Dr. Janning, who was played on screen by Burt Lancaster. (Writer Abby Mann thought Schell's portrayal of the accused judge was better than Lancaster's). George Grizzard was cast as the American judge played by Tracy in the film and German-born actress Marthe Keller played Madame Bertholt, which was Marlene Dietrich's screen role. New York Times critic Bruce Weber found the subject as compelling as ever, but said that the play felt truncated, especially because it did not include Judge Dan Haywood's attempts to understand the horrible circumstances as he moves about the city and talks to its people. Weber did, however, have high praise for Schell: "Mr. Schell is an imposing figure onstage, and as he makes Janning's inner crumbling outwardly visible, it gives the audience a visceral tug. When he and Mr. Hayden [as the defense attorney Schell played on TV and film years earlier] are nose to nose, the idea of his staring back at his own formidable youth yields a palpable tremor. These are representative moments in a play that gives oratory the muscle, sweat and high stakes of a last-man-standing prizefight. One only wishes it were more of a character-driven story and not merely a debate."
A dramatized account of the trial of high-level Nazis was presented in the television miniseries Nuremberg (2000), featuring Len Cariou as Francis Biddle, the real-life judge on whom Spencer Tracy's character was based. Marlene Dietrich can be heard on the soundtrack singing "I Never Slept a Wink Last Night."
Shortly after Judgment at Nuremberg, Marlene Dietrich narrated a documentary about the Third Reich, Black Fox: The True Story of Adolf Hitler (1962).
Judy Garland's "comeback" role in Judgment at Nuremberg proved so successful that Stanley Kramer quickly came up with another project for her, A Child Is Waiting (1963). It was produced by Kramer and directed by John Cassavetes and cast Garland opposite Burt Lancaster, who portrayed the judge that condemned her in Judgment at Nuremberg. The screenplay was also by Abby Mann.
After completing Judgment at Nuremberg, Tracy told a small gathering that he had just made the finest movie of his career, and he was going to retire. He later amended that to say he would make no more pictures "except the good ones Stanley does." He was true to his word; except for the narration of How the West Was Won (1962), he made only two more films before his death, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), both produced and directed by Kramer.
As his feature film career wound down, Kramer turned to producing, co-directing, and hosting several television dramatizations based on other controversial court cases, with titles that deliberately called to mind Judgment at Nuremberg: Judgment: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (1974), Judgment: The Court Martial of the Tiger of Malaya - General Yamashita (1974), and Judgment: The Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley (1975).
by Rob Nixon
Pop Culture 101 - Judgment at Nuremberg
Trivia - Judgment at Nuremberg - Trivia and Fun Facts About JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
Kramer made the premiere of Judgment at Nuremberg into a world event, flying in more than 300 reporters from 26 countries (120 columnists, critics, and political writers from New York alone). It was one of the most expensive press junkets of all time, running $150,000. The premiere took place December 14, 1961, and reporters noted that this was shortly after the Soviets had erected the Berlin Wall and one day before Adolf Eichmann was to be sentenced in Israel for war crimes.
There was a stunned silence at the close of the Judgment at Nuremberg screening in West Berlin, followed by applause, but only from the non-German press. German critics and reporters loudly condemned Kramer for stirring up the ghosts of the past and fueling hatred against their country. He responded that truth and justice must be shown and challenged German filmmakers to make movies about the Third Reich.
"The film was totally rejected: it never did three cents' business in Germany. It played so many empty houses, it just stopped. People asked how could I, an American, try to rekindle German guilt? Well, I said that it would indeed have been better if the Germans had made it, but the fact is they didn't. So I did." Stanley Kramer
The German press called Spencer Tracy a coward for leaving the Congress Hall, where the film was premiering in West Berlin, before the movie was over. Kramer explained it was due to illness. It may also have been due to Tracy's disgust at Montgomery Clift's drunken behavior at the event.
Maximilian Schell said there was some negative reaction to him in Germany because of his part in this film. "Also people don't like it when one of their own has success in Hollywood," he added.
Despite the controversy it caused in Germany, Judgment at Nuremberg earned more than $5 million on its initial release. The production cost $3 million.
Some gossip columnists found it ridiculous that major stars like Clift and Garland were nominated in Oscar's supporting categories. Louella Parsons said it was like "a bank president reducing himself to the title of bookkeeper in order to get a coffee break," and Sheila Graham suggested the Academy institute an award for Best Star Cameo.
When actress Nancy Walker went to see the film, she got up after Clift's scene and said to a friend accompanying her, "Let's go, David. Nobody's going to beat that."
Garland cried when Kramer telephoned her to say that he, writer Abby Mann, and fellow cast members Richard Widmark and Spencer Tracy stood and applauded after watching her performance for the first time in the rough cut.
Although Garland won neither the Academy Award nor the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno took both for West Side Story, 1961), the Globes presented her with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for services to the industry.
"If you want to see some real honest-to-goodness acting, you should come to our set...and watch Spencer Tracy and Miss Judy Garland do some real emoting for you." Burt Lancaster to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association during production of the film
"We cannot deny the fact, and we do not want to deny it, that the roots of the present position of our people, our country, and our city lie in this factthat we did not prevent right from being trampled underfoot during the time of the Nazi power. Anyone who remains blind to this fact can also not properly understand the rights which are today still being withheld from our people. It will probably be difficult for us to watch and hear this film. But we will not shut our eyes to it. ... I hope that world-wide discussion will be aroused by both this film and this city, and that this will contribute to the strengthening of right and justice." West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the premiere of the film, December, 14, 1961
"It was a great privilege to say those words [you wrote]. All I can say is if the lights go out now, I still win." Spencer Tracy, in a telegram sent shortly after the premiere to screenwriter Abby Mann, who kept it hanging on his wall for years after
"I said to myself, who the hell can get any sympathy on the other [German] side after you've seen these [concentration camp] films? And you answered it because you played it with such humanity." writer Abby Mann, talking to Maximilian Schell in 2004 about his performance as the defense attorney
Judgment at Nuremberg was the first time Nazi concentration camp footage was used in a commercial film.
With his Best Actor award for this film, Maximilian Schell became the first performer to win an Academy Award® for a role he originally played on television.
After winning his Oscar®, Schell recalled coming to the U.S. for the first time and telling a customs officer he was an actor. "Good luck," was the official's response. "I can tell him now I had it," Schell said.
Maximilian Schell made his Hollywood film debut in the World War II drama The Young Lions (1958) playing a German officer opposite Marlon Brando, who wanted to play the role of the defense attorney in Judgment at Nuremberg that won Schell his Oscar®.
Maria Schell (1926-2005) was the older sister of Maximilian and already internationally known when he appeared in Judgment at Nuremberg. In America, she had appeared in The Brothers Karamazov (1958), in a part Marilyn Monroe had hoped to play; the Western remake Cimarron (1960); and on television in remakes of For Whom the Bell Tolls (1959), opposite Jason Robards, and Ninotchka (1960). Maximilian Schell said in 2004 that when he won his Academy Award® he thought he would finally be recognized for his own talents and not for being Maria Schell's little brother. However, according to him, in Germany a headline read, "Brother of Maria Schell Wins Oscar®." Schell made a documentary about his sister in 2002, My Sister Maria.
Schell also made a documentary about his Judgment at Nuremberg co-star Marlene Dietrich. The legendary actress, 83 and a reclusive invalid when Marlene (1984) was made, refused to appear on camera and is only heard on the soundtrack. The film won numerous Best Documentary awards, including ones from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Judgment at Nuremberg marked Tracy's eighth Academy Award® nomination. He would be nominated once more, for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). He won two years in a row for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938), the second actor to do so; the first was Luise Rainer, who won for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937).
Marlene Dietrich had not made a film for three years before she accepted a role in Judgment at Nuremberg. From the early 1950s until the mid-1970s, she concentrated more on her highly successful career as a cabaret and concert artist, touring the world with her show, wearing gowns designed to appear daringly sheer by Jean Louis (who did her costumes for Judgment at Nuremberg). After this, her screen appearances were confined to a very brief cameo as herself in Paris When It Sizzles (1964); a filmed record of her concerts, I Wish You Love (1973); and her final performance, heavily veiled, in Just a Gigolo (1978), shortly after an accident and illness ended her live performance career. Dietrich soon became a recluse in her Paris apartment, where she rarely went out or had visitors, preferring to keep in touch with family, friends, and colleagues through frequent and lengthy telephone calls. Dietrich was heard but not seen on film one more time in Maximilian Schell's biographical documentary Marlene (1984). She died in her Paris apartment in 1992 at the age of 90.
In her biography of her famous mother, Maria Riva noted how Dietrich's performance in Judgment at Nuremberg was "a meticulous, brilliant recreation of her mother.... How sad that her most vivid subconscious memory of her mother should be one of stoic self-aggrandizing loyalty to dutyin a black velvet suit."
Judy Garland was scheduled to appear at the London premiere, but after attending the opening in Berlin, she flew to Rome where she collapsed in the Excelsior Hotel due to exhaustion from her very heavy concert tour schedule in 1961 and a serious case of pleurisy.
Although Spencer Tracy greatly admired Montgomery Clift as an actor during the filming of Judgment at Nuremberg ("He makes most of today's young players look like bums."), he was less enthusiastic about his behavior at the Berlin premiere. As screenwriter Abby Mann later recalled, "Monty showed up stoned and drunk out of his mind, jumping on Spence's back. He freaked out in the theater, crawling on his hands and knees between the aisles and screaming out all sorts of crazy things. After Spence got up and left, it crossed my mind that seeing Monty in that advanced state of deterioration might have reminded him of his own drinking problem."
Stanley Kramer's career as a producer began in 1942 and included such films as Champion (1949) and Death of a Salesman (1951). He turned to directing with Not as a Stranger (1955) while continuing to produce, most often performing dual functions on his film projects. His final film as producer-director was The Runner Stumbles (1979). He died in 2001 at the age of 87.
Kramer once said, "If I am to be remembered for anything I have done in this profession, I would like it to be for the four films in which I directed Spencer Tracy." It was his intention to name his son after Tracy, but when the baby turned out to be a girl, he named her after Katharine Hepburn instead.
Judgment at Nuremberg was shot by Hungarian-born Ernest Laszlo, who began his career in silents and worked steadily through 1977, earning eight Academy Award nominations along the way. The first four of these were for Kramer films: Inherit the Wind (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and Ship of Fools (1965), which brought Laszlo his only Oscar. His final film, The Domino Principle (1977), was Kramer's penultimate production.
Composer Ernest Gold was another frequent Kramer collaborator, totaling ten films together. Gold's most famous screen work was his Academy Award-winning score for Exodus (1960).
William Shatner (TV's Star Trek, Boston Legal), who plays Captain Byers in Judgment at Nuremberg, was one of The Brothers Karamazov (1958) opposite Maximilian Schell's sister Maria.
George Roy Hill was a young director who had achieved success in live television dramas when he was hired to direct Judgment at Nuremberg on Playhouse 90 in 1959. A few years later, Hill was given his first shot at a feature film with the Tennessee Williams adaptation Period of Adjustment (1962). He went on to become the award-winning director of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973).
PROMOTIONAL COPY: Once in a generation, a motion picture explodes into greatness.
by Rob Nixon
Memorable Quotes from JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
JUDGE DAN HAYWOOD: Hitler's gone, Goebbels is gone, Goering is gone, committed suicide before they could hang him. Now we're down to the business of judging the doctors, business men and judges. Some people think they shouldn't be judged at all. ... No, I think the trials should go on, especially the trials of the German judges.
RUDOLPH PETERSEN (speaking about his forced sterilization): Since that day I've been half I've ever been.
MADAME BERTHOLT: I have a mission with the Americans...to convince you that we are not all monsters.
HAYWOOD: The trouble with you, Colonel, is you'd like to indict the whole country. Now that might be emotionally satisfying to you, but it wouldn't be exactly practical and hardly fair.
COLONEL LAWSON: There are no Nazis in Germany, didn't you know that, Judge? The Eskimos invaded Germany and took over. That's how all those terrible things happened. It wasn't the fault of the Germans, it was the fault of those damn Eskimos!
MME. BERTHOLT: Do you think we knew of those things? Do you think we wanted to murder women and children? ... We did not know!
HAYWOOD: As far as I can make out, no one in this country knew.
MME. BERTHOLT: We have to forget, if we are to go on living.
HANS ROLFE: Do you think I have enjoyed being defense counsel in this trial? There were things I had to do in that courtroom that made me cringe. Why did I do them? Because I want to leave the German people something. I want to leave them a shred of dignity. ... If we allow them to discredit every German like you, we lose the right to rule ourselves forever. Do you want the Americans to stay here forever? ... I could show you pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands and thousands of burned bodies, women and children. Is that their superior morality?
SENATOR BURKETTE: We're going to need all the help we can get [against the Soviets]. We're going to need the support of the German people.
HAYWOOD: Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.
ERNST JANNING: Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, you must believe it!
HAYWOOD: Herr Janning, it "came to that" the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.
ROLFE: I'll make you a wager. ... In five years, the men you sentenced to life imprisonment will be free.
END TITLE: The Nuremberg trials held in the American Zone ended July 14, 1949. There were 99 defendants sentenced to prison terms. Not one is still serving his sentence.
Compiled by Rob Nixon
Trivia - Judgment at Nuremberg - Trivia and Fun Facts About JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
Behind the Camera - Judgment at Nuremberg
Even though his aim was for bigger names, Kramer decided to cast relative unknown Maximilian Schell on the strength of his performance as defense attorney Hans Rolfe in the television version. Three other players were also retained from the TV production, including Werner Klemperer as one of the judges.
Mann said that Kramer was working with such an experienced powerhouse cast that he had little need to give detailed direction and just let them follow their instincts.
Despite being ill with a kidney ailment and other problems exacerbated by his longstanding alcoholism, Tracy agreed to go to Germany for exterior location shooting and even worked hard when he returned to the studio set in Hollywood. Katharine Hepburn was reportedly with him throughout the production, keeping an eye on him and caring for him. Tracy's biggest fear was that he would not be able to remember his lines. Kramer made special arrangements in the shooting schedule to keep Tracy from getting tired, such as agreeing to a contract stipulation that the actor would finish work promptly at 5:00 every day.
Tracy dropped his "no work after 5:00" rule for Maximilian Schell, staying on the set during shooting of Schell's big summation speech so that he could deliver his lines to Tracy as the presiding judge.
Tracy loved Abby Mann's script and was adamant about his fellow cast members performing it exactly as written, "and that goes for this guy and this guy and this guy," he'd say on the set as he pointed to all the big stars. He complained to Mann angrily that Marlene Dietrich was having Billy Wilder rewrite all her lines. So when she arrived on the set one day with her script marked with "little changes," Mann tore it up on the spot and told her to go out and read her lines in his words. Tracy then got angry with Mann for being too demanding with Dietrich in front of the crew.
Watching Maximilian Schell shoot a scene one day, Tracy said to Richard Widmark, "We've got to watch out for that young man. He's very good. He's going to walk away with the Oscar® for this picture."
Tracy enjoyed playing practical jokes on people and getting the goat of some of his fellow cast members. Entertainment writer Charles Hyams recalls Tracy telling him exactly how much Burt Lancaster was being paid for his role as a repentant German jurist and told Hyams to check with the actor to confirm it. When Hyams asked, Lancaster, who was never known for his sense of humor, was furious while Tracy sat back watching and laughing.
Tracy also had a bit of fun with Abby Mann. One day when Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas showed up on the set, Mann brought him over to meet Tracy. To his embarrassment, Tracy told Mann in front of Douglas, "Take your Communist friends and go to hell." It was only later at lunch that Mann realized Tracy and Douglas knew each other well for years."
Much as he liked to rib others, Tracy didn't always have a sense of humor about himself. When Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, a longtime friend of Tracy's, visited the set and asked Lancaster jokingly, in reference to the all-star cast, how he was dealing with all the "ham" on display, Lancaster didn't respond and walked away with a shrug. A few days later when Thomas returned to the set and said hello to his old friend, Tracy replied gruffly, "What the hell are you doing here?" He also made nasty comments about the journalist when Thomas tried to speak to other cast members. Attempting to interview Tracy, Thomas was met only with an angry, "I suppose you've come around to talk to the hams." Tracy didn't speak to him for six years after that.
Aside from his occasional off-camera pranks, Tracy took the work very seriously and expected others to do the same. When an actor playing one of the American judges continued to eat a pastrami sandwich between takes, Tracy blew up and said, "How the hell can we be passing judgment on four guys, imprisoning them for life for war crimes beyond comprehension, and knowing all that, how the hell can you munch on that sandwich?"
According to Kramer, a young New York stage actor in a small part held up production at one point. He was trying to understand his motivation in a brief shot which called for him to enter a room, cross to a table, and wait for Tracy to enter to hand him a folder. At 10:15 a.m., after sitting in his dressing room since 9:00 am, waiting to make his entrance, Tracy stormed onto the set and said, "Lookit, you come in the f***ing door and cross the f***ing room and go to the f***ing table because its the only way to get in the f***ing room. That's your motivation."
On the day Tracy gave his 14 minute summation speech, the set at Universal Pictures was packed to the rafters with celebrities and studio executives. Kramer shot Judgment at Nuremberg in a single take, not because he thought breaking it up would necessarily lessen the impact of the words but because he knew he would get the maximum emotional payoff out of Tracy without having to start and stop. To be sure he had the coverage he needed without scheduling a reshoot, Kramer had the speech filmed with two cameras simultaneously from two different angles.
Marlene Dietrich was reluctant to play her role until every detail was ironed out to her satisfaction. She insisted her frequent designer Jean Louis create all her clothes. Dietrich also had Kramer alter the painting of the man who was supposed to be her dead military officer husband because she didn't think he looked dignified enough. Each day she would march onto the set and immediately give orders about how she was to be lighted and where the camera should be placed.
Always in denial about her age and extremely careful to preserve her flawless image, Dietrich had cosmetic surgery (it was not the first time) before shooting began which, accentuated by the lighting, gave her sharp facial angles and a tight mouth that limited her expressions. She was very much displeased when she saw the completed film.
Much of Dietrich's dialogue had to be post-dubbed, purportedly because her voice was too low and thin for sync sound recording.
Judy Garland was cast in the small role of a woman who testifies before the court about her imprisonment in the 1930s for racial pollution because of her friendship with an elderly Jewish man who was subsequently executed for his closeness to her. She was alerted to the part by her business partners Freddie Fields and David Begelman, who learned about it through one of their clients, Marlene Dietrich. When they approached Kramer, he was interested but remained noncommittal, so they continued with plans for an extensive concert tour for the singer-actress. Like everyone in the business, Kramer was aware of her reputation for being difficult and unreliable and her long addiction to drugs. She had not made a movie since A Star Is Born (1954), but when he went to see her concert in Dallas, he was struck not only by the "tremendous emotional range" of her performance but by the fierce adulation she inspired in her audiences. Reasoning that it was only an 18-minute part that would take no more than eight days on the set, he offered her the role for an agreed-upon $50,000. Despite her reputation for being difficult, Garland proved to be punctual, cooperative, and professional throughout the shoot.
Garland had gained considerable weight since her last picture in 1954 (A Star Is Born) and wanted to trim down for the role, but since she was playing a poor German hausfrau, Kramer convinced her not to alter her appearance.
On Garland's first day on the set, cast and crew greeted her with warm and lasting applause. It was a welcome return to films for her, and her mood was further elevated by the lower pressure of acting in a cameo, rather than carrying a picture as she had done in almost every film she made since childhood. Still her joyful attitude made it difficult for her to perform her dark emotional scenes. "Damn it, Stanley, I can't do it. I've dried up. I'm too happy to cry," she said. He gave her a ten-minute break before continuing to great effect. "There's nobody in the entertainment world today, actor or singer, who can run the complete range of emotions, from utter pathos to power...the way she can," Kramer said.
Garland did exhibit some of her old behavior later when she was required to do some retakes on the same day she was scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. The prospect of ruining her voice before the concert terrified her, and she became hysterical. Kramer rescheduled her scenes, but it still took her friends and handlers four hours to calm her down.
Garland was coached in her accent by a linguist recommended by the German-born actress Uta Hagen.
Another actor with a bad reputation and a disabling substance abuse problem was cast in the other key cameo. Montgomery Clift played a "feeble-minded" laborer who was forcibly sterilized by the Nazis as a young man. Unlike Garland, Clift worked steadily through the 1950s in spite of his addictions and a near-fatal car accident that damaged his handsome face.
One source claims Clift was originally considered for the role of the prosecuting attorney played by Richard Widmark but he chose this cameo instead. "To be an actor is to play any partlarge or smallthat has something important to say," he told columnist Sidney Skolsky. Kramer offered him $100,000 to do the role; other sources say Clift's agents at MCA were sent the script for the part of the laborer and they asked for $200,000his fee on his previous picture, The Misfits (1961)for his seven minutes of screen time. Clift was so eager for the part he offered to do it for expenses only and no salary. "Since it's a single scene and can be filmed in one day, I strongly disapproved of taking an astronomical salary," he explained to the New York Times. "I felt it was more practical to do it for nothing rather than reduce my price or refuse a role I wanted to play."
Clift's deal didn't turn out to be such a reasonable break for the production budget since his expenses included an open tab for him and his friends at the Bel-Air Hotel, chauffeured transportation, and all the liquor he wanted.
When Clift showed up on the Judgment at Nuremberg set, his appearance was rather disturbinghair badly cropped, nervous, uncomfortable, and apparently at the end of an alcoholic benderbut Kramer thought that his condition made him look and speak exactly right for the role.
Since he was only scheduled for five days work (which stretched to ten due to Tracy's illness), Clift decided to avoid the agony of drying out, which he usually did for his other acting jobs. Instead he drank quite openly every moment of the shoot when he was not in front of the camera, dumping out most of the contents of an orange juice carton and refilling it with vodka.
Perhaps fearing he wouldn't be able to perform some of Mann's longer passages of dialogue, Clift asked Kramer if he could change some of the dialogue where necessary. Kramer told him he could have a certain amount of flexibility.
Clift did have difficulty with his lines, cues, and timing and told Kramer he didn't know if he could actually get through the scene. Kramer did his best to reassure him, but it was Spencer Tracy who eventually helped Clift through it. Perhaps drawing on his own years of alcoholism, Tracy spoke to the younger actor with sympathy but with firmness, even relaxing his own dictum about sticking strictly to the script: "Just look into my eyes and do it. You're a great actor and you understand this guy. Stanley doesn't care if you throw aside the precise lines. Just do it into my eyes and you'll be magnificent." Clift spent four days getting through the seven-minute sequence, stumbling through and performing each take differently. At the end of his last take, the set broke out into spontaneous applause. "Monty's condition gave the performance an aura as though it were being shot through muslin, the way the words tumbled out and the disjointed, sudden bursts of lucidity out of a mumble," Kramer said later. "It was classic! It was one of the best moments in the film!" Some film historians and critics have since suggested that Kramer knew exactly what he was doing by casting such broken and erratic performers as Garland and Clift in roles that called for expressions of pain, embarrassment, and terror.
Garland and Clift became close friends during filming. Clift hung around an extra week after his scene was completed, so he was able to sit in the corner and watch Garland do her scenes. (It also greatly inflated his "expenses only" agreement). As she broke down on the stand, he wept openly. When she finished her take, he went over to Kramer, his eyes and cheeks still wet with tears, and said, "You know, she did that scene all wrong."
Burt Lancaster was not the first or even second choice for the role of the judge on trial. Laurence Olivier was originally cast but dropped out to marry Joan Plowright, according to Kramer, and to pursue some theatrical work. Kramer then tried unsuccessfully to get another German for the part (the three other judges were played by German actors). Nevertheless, he and Lancaster worked well together, and the director said later the actor did "one hell of a job making a Nazi into a universal character."
The part of the prosecutor eventually taken by Widmark had been offered to Lancaster earlier, but he turned it down.
Before accepting the role, Lancaster insisted on a guarantee that he would not have to shoot outside Hollywood.
Part of the way through shooting, Lancaster won the Academy Award® for Elmer Gantry (1960). He brought his statuette to the set to show Spencer Tracy.
Kramer wanted to film Judgment at Nuremberg in the original courtroom where the real trials took place, but it was still in use and unavailable to him. He had a mock-up built in the studio, scaled down for greater efficiency in photographing the action.
In order to break up the monotony that often plagues courtroom scenes, Kramer decided to keep the camera moving, which was not always successful in his estimation. At one point, he decided to move it 360 degrees around Richard Widmark during a long speech. It took a lot of rehearsal to choreograph a maneuver that required everyone in the crew to carry cables and equipment around in a circle. "It feels a little indulgent to me now," Kramer said years later. "I'll just have to plead guilty to bad judgment here."
The space between the attorney's box and the witness stand was 40 feet in the real courtroom, which set designers compressed to 28 feet. Nevertheless, actors in the far distance had to have a lot of light cast on them to stay in focus, causing them to greatly perspire.
The exteriors for Judgment at Nuremberg (approximately 15 percent of the footage) were shot on location in Nuremberg and Berlin.
Some sources claim George Roy Hill, who directed the television version, served as an adviser on the set.
by Rob Nixon
Behind the Camera - Judgment at Nuremberg
The film project began with the father-son producing team of Michel and Alexander Salkind who first worked with Welles on their production of Austerlitz (1960), a historic epic directed by Abel Gance. A few years later, when they offered Welles a part in Taras Bulba (1962), their discussions led to an offer for Welles to direct a literary classic from a list of over a hundred titles. In This is Orson Welles by Peter Bogdanovich (HarperPerennial), Welles said, "They had Kafka's The Trial on the list, and I said I wanted to do The Castle because I liked it better, but they persuaded me to do The Trial. I had to do a book - couldn't make them do an original....They thought The Trial was public domain, and then had to pay for it - but that's another story."
Like most films Welles directed after he fled the studio system in Hollywood, The Trial encountered numerous production problems. Filming was scheduled to begin in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, but was soon abandoned for lack of funds. Welles recalled, "I spent months designing the sets for all the interiors. We were going to shoot the actual big office and the streets of Prague and Zagreb for the last walk with the murderers. And during the time we were in Zagreb, my sets were to be built in the studios. The art director who was to realize my designs had made all the blueprints, everything was ready to go, and, the night before we were to leave for Yugoslavia, Mr. Salkind....said there was no money to build any sets of any kind." But what appeared to be a huge setback for the film turned out to be a lucky break for the director. Welles said that "I was living here (in Paris), at the Hotel Meurisse - it was late at night - wandering around in the sitting room, trying to figure out how to shoot without sets, this story in particular. And the moon is a very important thing for me, and I looked out of the window and saw two full moons. And then I realized that they were the two clock faces of the Gare d'Orsay glowing in the night, and it was really a sign. I went down at four in the morning and got in a taxi and went to the Gare d'Orsay and went in. And from four in the morning until dawn, I wandered around the deserted old railway station and found everything I needed for the picture."
While securing the once famous French train station as the main set was a coup for Welles, there were other production headaches. For a sequence filmed on Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Anthony Perkins and Welles almost tumbled into the crater trying to get a shot. Scheduling restrictions and lack of money also played havoc with Welles' preferred choice of players and when he couldn't find a suitable actor to play Hassler, the defense attorney, he took on the role himself. He also had to loop the dialogue, music, and sound effects for the entire film in post-production.
After a less than favorable opening at the Venice Film Festival in 1962, The Trial has since grown in stature among film scholars over the years and even the director admitted that it "is the best film I ever made." Anthony Perkins, once considered an odd choice as Joseph K, is perfect in the role, conveying the character's paranoia and mounting desperation. In preparation for the part, Perkins was given some artistic motivation by Welles: "You are pinned to the wall with a thumbtack, you are like a sick moth." Throughout the film, Welles stays remarkably faithful to Kafka's novel with a few exceptions, such as the climax that ends with a nuclear explosion instead of a stabbing. Yet, in the end, Welles differs from Kafka in how he views Joseph K: "He is a little bureaucrat. I consider him guilty....He belongs to a guilty society; he collaborates with it."
Producer: Alexander Salkind, Michael Salkind
Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Orson Welles, based on the novel by Franz Kafka
Art Direction: Jean Mandaroux
Cinematography: Edmond Richard
Costume Design: Helen Thibault
Film Editing: Orson Welles, Yvonne Martin, Fritz Muller
Original Music: Jean Ledrut
Principal Cast: Anthony Perkins (Joseph K.), Jeanne Moreau (Miss Burstner), Romy Schneider (Leni), Elsa Martinelli (Hilda), Suzanne Flon (Miss Pittl), Akim Tamiroff (Bloch), Michael Lonsdale (priest), Thomas Holtzmann (Bert), Jess Hahn (Second Assistant Inspector), Orson Welles (Albert Hassler).
by Jeff Stafford
Judgment at Nuremberg
Abby Mann's Academy Award-winning script for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), a fictional account set during the 1948-49 Nuremberg trials, had previously been made into a 1959 teleplay for Playhouse 90, directed by George Roy Hill and featuring Claude Rains as Haywood and Paul Lukas in a standout performance as Ernst Janning. It was notable as one of the first attempts by Hollywood to address the crimes of the Third Reich, going so far as to incorporate actual concentration camp footage. The courtroom set was a detailed reconstruction of the actual Nuremberg court, set on rollers to facilitate the long takes and 360-degree pans which help distinguish the visual style of the film from the usual static courtroom drama format.
For Montgomery Clift, his role as the mentally and physically ravaged Rudolph Peterson was something of a personal triumph. His career had hit a low point due to his increasingly erratic behavior both on and off the set. This was no doubt compounded by the car accident in 1957, which resulted in facial scarring that damaged his legendary good looks. After meeting with Stanley Kramer, he offered to accept the part for only a token fee, mainly reimbursement of personal expenses. He explained in a New York Times interview: "Since it's only a single scene and can be filmed in one day, I strongly disapproved of taking an astronomical salary. But in the business I felt it was more practical to do it for nothing rather than reduce my price or refuse to do a role I wanted to play." During the shoot he drank almost constantly, trembled visibly and had difficulty remembering his lines. Thanks to the consideration and support of co-star Spencer Tracy, Clift's still considerable talent shines through in the brief role and ultimately earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Judy Garland, who struggled to overcome not dissimilar personal problems, was likewise nominated for Best Supporting Actress. However, they both lost out to George Chakiris and Rita Moreno in West Side Story (1961). Spencer Tracy and Maximilian Schell received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor; Schell won for his powerful performance as the defense counsel, a role which he had repeated from the original teleplay.
Kongress Halle in Berlin provided the setting for the premiere of Judgment at Nuremberg, and included a lavish press junket which flew in over a hundred journalists at the cost of approximately $150,000. Neither Burt Lancaster nor Marlene Dietrich attended the event, the latter most likely because of her history of tense relations with Germany ever since her departure to the US in the 1930s and her denunciation of the Third Reich. The film's reception was controversial, winning acclaim by the foreign press and loud complaints by the German press for its unwelcome scrutiny of the past. The Mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, said at the premiere: "The film Judgment at Nuremberg, which will raise a great many questions, is ensuring by its world premiere in Berlin that its own importance as well as that of Berlin as a center of spiritual conflict are heavily underlined... I hope that world-wide discussion will be aroused by both this film and this city, and that this will contribute to the strengthening of right and justice." In spite of the film's length and grim subject matter it was a solid box-office success, earning $5,500,000 in rentals.
Producer/Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: Abby Mann
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editing: Frederic Knudtson
Music: Ernest Gold
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad and George Milo
Costume Design: Jean Louis
Principal Cast: Spencer Tracy (Judge Dan Haywood); Burt Lancaster (Ernst Janning); Richard Widmark (Col. Tad Lawson), Marlene Dietrich (Mme. Bertholt), Maximilian Schell (Hans Rolfe), Judy Garland (Irene Hoffman), Montgomery Clift (Rudolph Petersen), William Shatner (Capt. Harrison Byers), Werner Klemperer (Emil Hahn).
by James Steffen
Judgment at Nuremberg
Critics' Corner - Judgment at Nuremberg
Judgment at Nuremberg received Academy Awards for Best Actor (Maximilian Schell) and Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Abby Mann). It also garnered nominations for Best Picture, Director (Stanley Kramer), Actor (Spencer Tracy), Supporting Actor (Montgomery Clift), Supporting Actress (Judy Garland), Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Rudolph Sternad, George Milo), Cinematography, Black-and-White (Ernest Laszlo), Editing (Frederic Knudtson), and Costume Design, Black-and-White (Jean Louis). Kramer was also given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, presented to producers whose work reflects "a consistently high quality of motion picture production."
Other honors included Golden Globe Awards for Schell and Kramer (Actor, Director) and nominations for Best Motion Picture Drama, Supporting Actor and Actress (Clift, Garland), Best Film Promoting International Understanding
- The New York Film Critics Circle Awards to Schell (Best Actor), Mann (Best Screenplay)
- Directors Guild of America nomination for Kramer
- The Writers Guild of America nomination for Mann's screenplay
- Laurel Awards (Producers Guild of America): 2nd Place Cinematography and Male Dramatic Performance (Schell), 3rd Place Drama Film, Nominations for Clift's and Garland's Supporting Performances
- British Academy Award nominations for Best Film from Any Source, Best Foreign Actor (Schell and Clift)
- American Cinema Editors nomination for Frederic Knudtson
- Bodil Award (Denmark) for Best Non-European Film
- Cinema Writers Circle Award (Spain) for Best Foreign Film
- David di Donatello Award (Italy) for Best Foreign Film
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Film Director
- Fotogramas de Plata Award (Spain) for Best Foreign Performer (Tracy)
by Rob Nixon The Critics' Corner: JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
"Stanley Kramer is one of the few men in Hollywood with the courage to face, to discuss and risk his time and money on pictures that have something to say."
Cue magazine, 1961
"Mr. Kramer and his incisive scriptwriter, Abby Mann, ... have cut through the specious arguments, the sentiments for mercy, and the reasonings for compromise, and have accomplished a fine dramatic statement of moral probity. They have used the motion picture to clarify and communicate a stirring, sobering message to the world. ... The major weakness, perhaps, of the whole thing is that it is inevitably compressive and sometimes glib. The strength and wonder of it is that it manages to say so much that still needs to be said."
Bosley Crowther, New York Times, December 20, 1961
"Defense Attorney Schell is permitted a pulverizing passage of eloquence in which he reminds the court (and the world) that in varying degrees the Soviet Union, the United States, the Vatican and even Winston Churchill (who as late as 1937 praised Hitler's 'courage, perseverance and vital force') must share with the German people the blame for Nazi times and crimes. At another point Schell makes a withering deprecation of the victor's right to judge the vanquished. 'Is Hiroshima,' he wonders, 'the superior morality?' And there are several scenes of punishing mockery in which U.S. authorities, worried by Russian aggressiveness and anxious to win the support of the German public, try to persuade Judge Tracy to acquit the defendants. Do they essentially differ, Kramer asks, from the Nazi politicians who put pressure on the very German judges Tracy is trying? Such moments come too seldom. On the whole, director Kramer has almost arrogantly exceeded his judicial warrant. He has also crudely mismanaged both actors and camera, and has carelessly permitted several reels of fat to accumulate around the movie's middle."
Time, December 15, 1961
"It is a powerful film, carefully wrought, soberly written, ably acted. It raises questions of great seriousness. It handles these issues with dignity and passion. Yet its impact is that of a brilliant but confused polemic. It has the raw force of an eloquent pamphlet without clear direction or logical conclusion. [Kramer] whirls the camera around the courtroom in an ingenious and generally successful effort to relieve the tedium of the trial format. He resists the temptation to use flashbacks, that hopeless cliché of the courtroom drama. Indeed, restraint marks the whole movie after the clumsiness of the first quarter-hour. ... The single departure from this restraintthe sequence of concentration camp shotsis wholly justified."
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Show magazine, 1961
"The reservations one may entertain...must be tempered with appreciation of the film's intrinsic value as a work of historical significance and timeless philosophical merit. ... Abby Mann's intelligent, thought-provoking screenplay is a grim reminder of man's responsibility to denounce grave evils of which he is aware. The lesson is carefully, tastefully, and upliftingly told via Kramer's large-scale production." Dick Williams, Los Angeles Mirror, 1961
"Tracy delivers a performance of great intelligence and intuition. He creates a gentle, but towering, figure, compassionate but realistic, warm but objective. Schell repeats the role he originated, with electric effect, on the TV program, and again he brings to it a fierce vigor, sincerity and nationalistic pride. Widmark is effective as the prosecutor ultimately willing to compromise and soft-pedal his passion for stiff justice when the brass gives the political word."
Variety "Miss Dietrich does remain herself as far as charm is concerned, but her performance is integral to the story. As a German aristocrat she has just the proper air of world-weariness, the veiled arrogance tempered with sensitivity."
Paul V. Beckley, New York Herald Tribune, 1961
"The success of [Kramer's] more than three-hour-long motion picture is twofold: he has put on the screen an entirely absorbing story, and he has provided thoughtful insights into the nature of Nazism and its hold on the German people." Hollis Alpert, Saturday Review, 1961
"An all-star concentration camp drama, with special guest-victim appearances."
Gavin Lambert, Film Quarterly, December 1961/January 1962
"An intrepid indictment not of authoritarianism in the abstract, not of the trials themselves, not of the various moral and legal issues involved, but of Nazi war atrocities, about which there would have seemed already to be some consensus."
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Simon & Schuster, 1968)
"If they notice your 'show off' camera, the mood goes out the window. Stanley Kramer's 360-degree pan in the courtroom...served only to distract attention from his tense drama."
director Frank Capra, 1971
"One of the strengths of the three-hour film is that it is painstaking in illustrating Haywood's German education. Mr. Mann's Oscar®-winning screenplay told its story largely through Haywood's experience, and in Spencer Tracy's somber and steely performance his delving into the lives of ordinary Germans who submitted to Hitler becomes a powerful narrative all by itself, the story of a fair man bending over backward to see the world from a perspective that baffles and horrifies him."
Bruce Weber, New York Times, March 27, 2001, in a review of the stage version then mounted on Broadway
"This assembly of star turns in the court...are often very impressive. Tracy puts in an effortlessly brilliant performance as the superjudge, and Clift as a confused Nazi victim is painfully convincing in his emotional disintegration. There are no surprises in the direction, and Abby Mann's screenplay plays the expected tunes, but there's enough conviction on display to reward a patient spectator."
David Thomson, Time Out Film Guide
Critics' Corner - Judgment at Nuremberg
TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer
With these films, Stanley Kramer built his reputation as a producer of important films. He made movies with a conscience, movies with a message. Although his films were sometimes criticized as being too simplistic in dealing with tough subjects, Kramer still deserves a great deal of credit for tackling sensitive subject matter no other director or studio wanted to address. His exploration of timely social issues is what makes his cinema unique and his recent passing leaves us with no one to fill his shoes.
Kramer learned his craft within Hollywood's studio system. He began as a production assistant on So Ends Our Night(1941) and was soon writing and editing. By the late forties, Kramer broke away from the studio hierarchy and formed an independent production company. Outside of the Hollywood system, he could tackle social issues head-on while producing well-crafted and meaningful dramas. In The New York Times obituary for Kramer, the director was quoted in accessing his own career and it's most appropriate here: "I decided that somewhere between the films on outer space and Sylvester Stallone, there is a place for me. I was always associated with films that had an opinion. I don't believe films change anyone's mind, but I was spawned during the Roosevelt era, a time of great change, and I still believe in trying to get people to think."
For his directorial debut, Not As A Stranger (1955), Kramer signed up the all-star cast of Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Olivia de Havilland and Gloria Grahame to reveal the trials and tribulations of doctors and nurses balancing medical school with their personal relationships. In The Defiant Ones (1958) shackled Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier together as escaped convicts. As they flee the law they're forced to confront each other's racism and ultimately discover that beneath their skin color, they are not so different. On the Beach (1959) was Kramer's anti-atom bomb polemic in which Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire survive an initial nuclear holocaust only to face a slow, painful death from fallout.
From the arms race to Biblical scripture, the following year Kramer turned his attention to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Inherit the Wind(1960). This famous courtroom trial was a true-life clash of the titans as Fredric March and Spencer Tracy face off on the issue of Evolution versus Creationism. Although names are changed, March gave a grandstanding performance as William Jennings Bryan, the mouthpiece for conservatism, while Tracy played Clarence Darrow, a tireless fighter for progressive thought.
Kramer's films were more than just entertainment; his stories were political platforms for the Civil Rights Movement, disarmament and liberal thinking. For audiences who thought the director couldn't take on an issue greater than the Scopes Monkey Trial, Kramer's next film would prove to be even more controversial. Again, Kramer booked a cast of Hollywood's hottest names to bring mass appeal to his very serious film.
In Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Spencer Tracy presides over a German war-criminal trial which delves into the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Burt Lancaster sits smugly on the stand as Ernst Janning, an unrepentant officer of the Gestapo, as Maximilian Schell mounts his defense. Montgomery Clift, as a Jew subjected to a sterilization experiment, nervously submits his testimony. Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich each take the stand. Hollywood's greatest stars came out to shed light on one of the darkest moments of the 20th century. The Academy responded with 11 nominations, including for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tracy), Supporting Actor (Clift), Supporting Actress (Garland), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing. Schell won Best Actor for his dynamic performance as Herr Rolfe.
However, Stanley Kramer wasn't "Mr. Message Film" all the time. In a lighter moment, he produced the surrealist anti-fascist fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T(1953) in which he enlisted the talents of Dr. Seuss. More famously, he pooled the greatest comics together for an insane Cinerama screwball farce - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
By Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer
Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come. Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. YOU must believe it, YOU MUST believe it.- Ernst Janning
Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.- Judge Dan Haywood
Laurence Olivier was originally cast as Ernst Janning.
Montgomery Clift had a habit of cutting his hair very short when he was between films and would not work until it had grown back. In fact, his scene in this film was shot right after getting one of those haircuts. He also had so much trouble remembering his lines, the scene had to be re-shot many times.
Locations filmed in Germany. Actual footage of concentration camps is used.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1961 National Board of Review
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1961 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States Winter December 1961
Released in USA on video.
Abby Mann's teleplay, "Judgment at Nuremberg", was first presented on "Playhouse 90" April 16, 1959. Actual footage from concentration camps was used in the film.
Released in United States Winter December 1961
Voted Best Actor (Schell) by the 1961 New York Film Critics Association.