Address Unknown (1944 film)

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Address Unknown
Addressunknown1944poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Produced by Lonnie D'Orsa
William Cameron Menzies
Sam Wood
Written by Herbert Dalmas
Kressmann Taylor
Starring Paul Lukas
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Edited by Al Clark
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • June 1, 1944 (1944-06-01)
Running time 75 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Address Unknown is a 1944 American drama film directed by William Cameron Menzies based on Kathrine Taylor's novel Address Unknown (1938). The film tells the story of two families caught up in the rise of Nazism in Germany prior to the start of World War II.[1]

Shot in a film noir style, the film contains many elements of suspense and irony reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock.[citation needed] Cinematographer (Rudolph Maté) employed shadows, shapes and camera angles to create the imagery. One notable scene shows Martin Schulz (Paul Lukas) descending a staircase awaiting his arrest by the Gestapo, while behind him the shadow of a web-like criss-cross of window panes shows him being caught in his own web of deceit.

Plot[edit]

Two close friends, Martin Schulz and Max Eisenstein (Morris Carnovsky), are German expatriate art dealers living in the United States. Martin's son Heinrich (Peter van Eyck) and Max's daughter Griselle (K.T. Stevens) are in love. However, she turns down his proposal of marriage for the time being, as she aspires to become an actress. When Martin and his wife return to Germany for business purposes, Griselle accompanies them to seek acting opportunities there. Max and Heinrich remain in San Francisco to run the art gallery, while Martin sends them paintings to sell. Martin sends a strange painting from an unknown artist to Max as a joke, the "unknown" artist being Pablo Picasso. A determined patron (Mary Young) insists on buying the painting, over Max's well-intended protests.

Martin meets the influential Baron von Friesche (Carl Esmond), a dedicated Nazi, and joins the Nazi party, becoming an important official in the new regime. But Max is Jewish. Martin eventually insists they stop writing to each other, as his new associates would not approve of it. Suspecting that Martin is hiding his true feelings from Nazi censors who examine the mail, Max has an American friend personally deliver a letter to Martin. However, Martin coldly makes it clear that Max is mistaken: his antisemitism is now genuine.

After acting in Vienna for a time, Griselle lands the leading role in a play in Berlin, under the stage name "Griselle Stone". Her lines include the Beatitudes, such as "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God", but during the final rehearsal a censor (Charles Halton) declares that the lines are contrary to Nazi doctrine and must be removed. At the premiere, Griselle ignores the order, inciting the irate censor to demand the play be stopped. Griselle admits that she acted on her own. When the censor demands to know her real name, her obviously Jewish surname rouses the hostile crowd to riot. The play's director hurries a still-defiant Griselle out of the theater for her own safety.

Finally realizing her danger, she flees into the country. She makes her way to Martin's estate, barely ahead of her Nazi pursuers. However, Martin shuts the door in her face, and at once several gunshots ring out. Martin's wife Elsa (Mady Christians) witnesses the exchange and is appalled by her husband's heartlessness. Max and Heinrich learn of Griselle's death in a short, cold letter in which Martin states only that Max's daughter is dead.

At the christening of Martin's newborn son Adolf, he receives a telegram saying that Max will write to him and Martin will understand his messages. Baron von Friesche asks if the telegram is important; Martin lies out of fear. Martin now begins to receive odd typewritten letters from Max, written in what appears to be code. He has no idea what the letters mean. But the censors have seen them, and later, von Friesche warns him that receiving coded messages is illegal. As the letters continue to arrive, Martin is forced to resign his position.

Martin's wife leaves him, taking their children to Switzerland. He writes a secret letter begging Max to stop writing to him, and begs her to mail it in Switzerland. But the border guards see the letter, and Elsa destroys it rather than let it be read. This only serves to heighten suspicions. Von Friesche tells Martin what happened at the border and says he knows about the telegram. He now demands that Martin name his associates; when Martin continues to protest his innocence, von Friesche tells him that the Gestapo will take him in for questioning. Martin considers killing himself, but does not. That night, a terrified Martin ventures out of his deserted mansion and is suddenly illuminated by a flashlight.

Back in San Francisco, Max receives a returned letter, addressed to Martin but stamped "Address Unknown". Max tells Heinrich that he does not understand, as he had stopped writing to Martin. From Heinrich's reaction, it becomes clear that he was the one who had been sending the letters.

Cast[edit]

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; Best Score and Best Art Direction (Lionel Banks, Walter Holscher, Joseph Kish).[2][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-498-06928-4. 
  2. ^ "The 17th Academy Awards (1945) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  3. ^ "NY Times: Address Unknown". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 

External links[edit]