Address Unknown (1944 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Cameron Menzies|
William Cameron Menzies
|Edited by||Al Clark|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
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.
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.
Martin Schulz and Max Eisenstein (Morris Carnovsky) are good friends, 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. When Martin and his wife return to Germany to find artwork, Griselle accompanies them to seek acting opportunities.
Martin meets Baron von Friesche (Carl Esmond), joins the Nazi Party and becomes an important government official. Martin eventually insists that Max stop writing to him, as Max is a Jew. When Max sends him a hand-delivered letter to confirm he is not acting under duress, Martin makes it clear they are no longer friends.
Griselle has been acting in Vienna under the stage name Stone when she lands the leading role in a play in Berlin. Before the premiere, the censor (Charles Halton) insists certain lines be cut (such as "Blessed are the peacemakers ...") as contrary to Nazi doctrine. On opening night, however, Griselle speaks the lines anyway. When the incensed censor makes her reveal her real name, it causes the antisemitic 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 seeks help from Martin at his country estate, but he shuts the front door in her face. Several gunshots are heard. Martin's wife, Elsa (Mady Christians), is appalled by her husband's heartlessness. Max and Heinrich learn of Griselle's death in a short letter in which Martin states only that she is dead.
Martin receives a telegram informing him that Max will resume writing to him and that Martin will understand his messages. Martin finds Max's first letter incomprehensible, as it seems to be in code. Martin is warned that receiving coded messages is illegal. When letters continue to arrive, Martin is forced to resign his party position.
Elsa decides to take their children to Switzerland. Martin sends with her a letter appealing to Max to stop writing to him. The border guards see the letter, so Elsa destroys it before they can read it, raising suspicions further. Von Friesche demands that Martin name his associates. When Martin persists in proclaiming his innocence, von Friesche tells him that the Gestapo will question him. Martin is terrified. He considers suicide, but that night, he leaves his mansion by the front door. Immediately, he is illuminated by a flashlight.
Back in San Francisco, a letter addressed to Martin is returned stamped "Address Unknown". A puzzled Max tells Heinrich that he had not resumed writing to his father. The reaction on Heinrich's face indicates that it was he who sent the letters.
- Paul Lukas as Martin Schulz
- Carl Esmond as Baron von Friesche
- Peter van Eyck as Heinrich Schulz
- Mady Christians as Elsa Schultz
- Morris Carnovsky as Max Eisenstein
- K. T. Stevens as Griselle Eisenstein / Stone
- Emory Parnell as The Postman
- Mary Young as Mrs. Delaney
- Frank Faylen as Jimmie Blake
- Charles Halton as Pipsqueak
- Erwin Kalser as Stage Director
- Frank Reicher as Prof. Schmidt
- Dale Cornell as Carl
- Peter Newmeyer as Wilhelm
- Larry Olsen as Shultz Boy (as Larry Joe Olsen)
Academy Award nominations
- Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-498-06928-4.
- "The 17th Academy Awards (1945) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
- "NY Times: Address Unknown". NY Times. Retrieved December 18, 2008.