The Road Back (film)

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The Road Back
"The Road Back" (1937).jpg
Directed by James Whale
Produced by Edmund Grainger
Written by Charles Kenyon (screenplay)
R. C. Sherriff (screenplay)
Erich Maria Remarque (novel)
Starring John King
Richard Cromwell
Slim Summerville
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography John J. Mescall
George Robinson
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Charles Maynard
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
1 June 1937
Running time
97 min.
Country  United States
Language English

The Road Back is a 1937 drama film made by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale. The screenplay is by Charles Kenyon and R. C. Sherriff from the eponymous novel by Erich Maria Remarque.[1] Combining a strong anti-war message with prescient warnings about the dangers of the rising Nazi regime, it was intended to be a powerful and controversial picture, and Universal entrusted it to their finest director, James Whale.[2]

The novel on which the film is based was banned during Nazi rule. When the film was made, Universal Pictures was threatened with a boycott of all their films by the German government unless the anti-Nazi sentiments in the script were watered down. Carl Laemmle and his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., the former heads of Universal, had recently been ousted by a corporate takeover. The new studio heads, fearing financial loss, caved in to German pressure and the film was partially reshot with another director, and the remainder extensively re-edited, leaving it a pale shadow of Whale's original intentions. To the director's further displeasure, writer Charles Kenyon was ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Slim Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable.[3] Disgusted with the studio's cowardice under its new management, Whale left Universal after completing Wives Under Suspicion, an unsuccessful remake of his own The Kiss Before the Mirror. He returned two years later to direct Green Hell, but never made another film for Universal after that.[2]

In the film Gods and Monsters, Whale (played by Ian McKellen) speaks of his hatred of making The Road Back, the film he intended to be the crowning achievement of his career.[4]


The despair and disillusionment of four men who return to civilian life in Germany after the First World War.


Critical reception[edit]

Sky Movies wrote, "a somewhat belated sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front, Universal's critically and commercially acclaimed anti-war drama, The Road Back didn't enjoy the same success...The strong statement Whale wanted to make was seen by some reviewers, but this original cut was withdrawn. It's a shame the film hasn't been restored to its former glory as it would be as much a classic as its illustrious predecessor." [5] Leonard Maltin wrote, "heavy-handed sequel...interesting to watch but unsatisfying." [6] However, TV Guide noted, "some of Whale's film does show through...The battle scenes are still powerful, and a special traveling crane was developed to shoot them, a gadget the director was so enamored of that he used it throughout the film." [7]

Box office[edit]

Despite its production problems, the film was one of the top-grossing films of 1936-37.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The Road Back". BFI. 
  2. ^ a b "The Road Back (1937) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  3. ^ a b "The Road Back (1937) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. 
  4. ^ "Ci-Cl Archivo". 
  5. ^ "The Road Back". Find and Watch. 
  6. ^ "The Road Back (1937) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. 
  7. ^ "The Road Back". TV Guide.