Cast & Crew
At a session of the International Tribunal of War Crimes, a judge charges Nazi party leader Wilhelm Grimm with crimes against humanity. After Grimm pleads not guilty, the first witness, Father Warecki, is called to the stand. The reverend recalls the spring of 1919, just after the end of World War I: In his small Polish village, the news that Poland is to become a republic is greeted with cheers by the villagers, who eagerly anticipate their independence. When Grimm returns from the war after fighting on the side of Germany, the village graciously welcomes him and offers him his former job as a teacher. War has made Grimm, who lost a leg in battle, an embittered and cynical man who refuses to accept Germany's defeat. Schoolteacher Marja Paeierkowski, Grimm's fiancée, tries to comfort him, but Grimm resents being relegated to a small backwater village and scorns the townspeople as "village idiots." Grimm's diatribe frightens Marja, and three days prior to their wedding, she decides to postpone the ceremony and go to Warsaw. Convinced that Marja deserted him because of his missing leg, Grimm becomes even more resentful when Jan Stys, one of the students, ridicules him as being unfit for a Polish woman. Three months later, Marja, convinced that her love can restore Grimm's humanity, decides to return and marry him. She arrives home just as Jan is being accused of molesting his girl friend, Anna Oremski. Marja goes to speak to the traumatized Anna, who haltingly confides that she was raped by Grimm. That night, Anna drowns herself, spurring an angry crowd to march to Grimm's house and arrest him. Jan, thirsting for revenge, throws a rock at Grimm and puts out his eye. Soon after, Marja leaves for Warsaw, intent on embarking on a new life. Released for lack of evidence, Grimm asks the reverend for a loan so that he can return to Germany, and the clergyman counsels him to renounce his hatred. Back in the courtroom, the next witness is called to the stand--Grimm's brother Karl. Karl remembers 1923 as the year when Germany was in upheaval: Karl, a journalist, and his family are living in Munich when his brother, whom he has not seen for five years, knocks at the door. Karl invites his brother to move in with his family, but becomes disturbed when Grimm acclaims the new doctrines of Adolf Hitler. Grimm gradually rises in the ranks of the Nazi party, which provides him with a glass eye and an artificial leg. After the Nazis begin to foment suspicion and unrest throughout Germany, the Weimar Republic acts to crush the party by arresting its leaders. When the police come looking for Grimm, he hands his nephew Willie his Nazi cross and disappears. Ten years later, the German people awaken, too late, to the tyranny of the Nazis. To escape Nazi oppression, Karl decides to move his family to Vienna. On the eve of their departure, Karl reads that Grimm is to be appointed Deputy Chief Minister of Education at a banquet in his honor. Karl goes to the banquet to tell his brother of his plans and admonishes him to join them, warning that he intends to write an article exposing the truth behind the Reichstag fire once he reaches Vienna. That evening, as the family packs its belongings, a knock is heard at the door and Grimm enters, leading a column of soldiers to arrest his brother. After Karl is sent to a concentration camp, Grimm enrolls Willie in the Hitler Youth. At the trial, the next witness, Marja, takes the stand to testify against Grimm: Marja recalls September 1939, just after Poland's defeat by the Nazis. Having lost her husband in the war, Marja returns to her home town with her daughter Janina, hoping to rebuild their lives. Marja's hope is short-lived, however, for soon the new Nazi commissioner, Grimm, accompanied by Willie, now a Nazi lieutenant, marches into town with his troops. Determined to punish the village, Grimm orders the famished townspeople to produce their quota of food for the German army. One day, Grimm disrupts Marja's class, instructs the children to burn their books and then dismisses them. When Marja learns that Grimm is about to arrest Jan, she warns him to leave town. That night, Jan, who has been wounded in the defense of his country, appears at the parsonnage and, delirious from his injuries, makes an impassioned plea for Polish resistance, then collapses. After secreting Jan in the cellar, Marja and Janina nurse him back to health. Nazi atrocities mount as the village boys are dispatched to labor camps and the girls confined to brothels for the pleasure of the officers. When Grimm orders that horses be stabled in the Jewish synagogue, Marja appeals to his humanity. Ignoring her appeal, Grimm points to Willie and designates him as his spiritual son and symbol of the new order. Later, when Marja discovers that Willie has expressed a romantic interest in Janina, she forbids him to see her daughter. After Grimm orders the Jews herded into cattle cars for deportation to the camps, Rabbi David Levin turns to the reverend for help. As the terrifed victims are driven into the cars, the rabbi exhorts them to resist. The Jews turn to fight, but the Nazis gun them down, and the rabbi intones a prayer of benediction with his dying breath. Later, Willie sneaks into the parsonnage and finds Marja and Janina in the cellar with Jan. Unafraid, Marja challenges Willie's blind obedience to the Nazi party, and moved by her speech, he turns and leaves. Willie begins to sympathize with the villagers and his behavior is reported to Grimm who, as punishment, consigns Janina to the officer's house. Willie begs his uncle to spare Janina, but their conversation is interrupted by the pealing of the church bell, calling the villagers to service. As Grimm forbids the reverend to conduct the service, Marja appears, carrying her dead daughter in her arms for the last rites. After they disappear into the church, Grimm orders Willie not to follow. Denouncing Grimm for betraying his mother and father, Willie strips off his Nazi cross and enters the church. As he kneels to pray, his uncle shoots him in the back. Returning to the present, Grimm refuses to acknowledge the authority of the court, vowing that Germany will rise again. The judge then appeals to the "men and women of the united nations," to render the final judgment of Grimm's guilt.
Larry Joe Olsen
Phil Van Zandt
Father J. Jureko
Rabbi Edgar Magnin
M. W. Stoloff
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Best Writing, Screenplay
None Shall Escape
Andre De Toth (1912-2002) is popularly remembered as the eye patch-wearing director of Westerns and the 3-D picture House of Wax(1953), but a closer look at his work reveals a varied career. Not least among his achievements was None Shall Escape (1944), one of the first Hollywood films to address Nazi atrocities against the Jews. Over the years the film has become something of a forgotten work, though it is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. In the third edition to her definitive study Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (2003), Annette Insdorf praises None Shall Escape for its visual dynamism--thanks partly to contributions of the revered cinematographer Lee Garmes--and for its having "the kind of grit found in European films of the 1940s."
The film's unusual "European grit" to which Insdorf refers is hardly accidental. Born in Hungary, De Toth started directing films there in the late Thirties up to the outbreak of World War II, even filming the invasion of Poland as a newsreel cameraman. At that point he left for England and worked as the second unit director on the Alexander Korda productions The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Jungle Book (1942). Another Hungarian, the actor Paul Lukas, signed an affidavit to allow him to relocate to the United States. De Toth was also helped by his association with Korda, who had strong ties with Winston Churchill. De Toth's first Hollywood feature as a director was Passport to Suez (1943), a hastily shot entry in Columbia's "Lone Wolf" series.
None Shall Escape, De Toth's second film for Columbia, was a project he strongly believed in. Although he liked the basic story by Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than, he felt that the script was weak in characterization. Veteran screenwriter Lester Cole was brought in; he would later be blacklisted as one of the notorious "Hollywood Ten" during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. Ultimately, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Story.
De Toth, still a young and relatively untested director in Hollywood, butted heads with studio head Harry Cohn on more than one occasion. As De Toth recalled in his autobiography Fragments: Portraits from the Inside, initially he wanted to cast four African-Americans in the tribunal jury, but Cohn objected on the grounds that it would make the film difficult to sell in the South. Cohn eventually let him cast one African-American in the jury--Jesse Groves. De Toth enraged Cohn again when he refused, against Cohn's objections, to cast Paul Lukas in the lead, insisting instead on the less well-known Canadian actor Alexander Knox. While Knox had played significant roles before this, including that of Humphrey Van Weyden in the Jack London adaptation The Sea Wolf (1941), what impressed De Toth most was his performance in a Broadway production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters. While Cohn was notorious for his temper, De Toth nonetheless stated, "I respected Harry Cohn for his professional understanding and his love of making pictures. Cohn could be rude and crude--he often was--but never phony."
None Shall Escape was released in February of 1944 to mixed reviews. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times complained that it "says nothing about the Nazis that hasn't already been said," and that it was "bombastically directed." The Hollywood Reporter was closer to the mark, noting that "[De Toth's] treatment of the subject, his handling of the actors and his unbelievable ability to create new departures from routine procedure are evidence of his artistry as a director. His work has the fresh tang of unbridled daring in some respects, and in others seems to borrow from techniques we have long known but forgotten how to use."
Producer: Samuel Bischoff
Director: Andre De Toth
Screenplay: Lester Cole; story by Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than
Director of Photography: Lee Garmes
Art Direction: Lionel Banks, Perry Smith
Editing: Charles Nelson
Music: Ernst Toch
Cast: Marsha Hunt (Marja Pacierkowski), Alexander Knox (Wilhelm Grimm), Henry Travers (Father Warecki), Erik Rolf (Karl Grimm), Richard Crane (Willie Grimm, as a man), Dorothy Morris (Janina Pacierkowski), Richard Hale (Rabbi David Levin), Ruth Nelson (Alice Grimm), Shirley Mills (Anna Oremska), Elvin Field (Jan Stys as a boy), Trevor Bardette (Jan Stys as a man), Frank Jaquet (Dr. Matek), Ray Teal (Oremski); Art Smith (Stys), George Lessey (Presiding Judge).
by James Steffen
None Shall Escape
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
The working titles of this picture were The Day Will Come, After the Night and Lebensraum. According to a news item in New York Herald Tribune, the idea to make a film about a war crime trial occurred to producer Sam Bischoff after he heard President Franklin Roosevelt declare that the United Nations was going to identify the Nazi leaders responsible for committing war atrocities. To insure that the war crimes depicted in the film conformed to actual Nazi atrocities, the script was submitted to the U.S. State Department.
According to another news item in New York Herald Tribune, director Andre DeToth was filming newsreels in Hungary when the Nazis invaded Poland and was subsequently sent to cover the German-Polish front. Marsha Hunt was borrowed from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the production. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original story, and is considered by film historians to be the first dramatic film to have dealt with Nazi atrocities against the Jews.
Released in United States 1944
Released in United States January 1998
The first Hollywood movie to acknowledge the wartime extermination of European Jews. Film was released despite the reservations of studio boss Harry Cohn.
Released in United States January 1998 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "7th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival" January 10-22, 1998.)
Released in United States 1944