The Red Danube
|The Red Danube|
|Directed by||George Sidney|
|Produced by||Carey Wilson|
|Written by||Bruce Marshall
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||James E. Newcom|
|Box office||$1.86 million|
Shortly after World War II, British Col. Michael "Hooky" Nicobar (Walter Pidgeon) is staying in Rome with his aides Audrey Quail (Angela Lansbury), Major John "Twingo" McPhimister (Peter Lawford) and Private David Moonlight (Melville Cooper), when he is suddenly transferred to Vienna. Hooky is assigned to assist Brigadier C.M.V. Catlock (Robert Coote) in monitoring possible subversive activities against the Allied nations and repatriating Soviet citizens living in the British zone of Vienna. He and his aides are billeted at a convent, led by the friendly Mother Superior (Ethel Barrymore). At this convent, Twingo is drawn to a ballerina known as Maria Buhlen (Janet Leigh). He falls for her instantly and tries to meet her, but she is reluctant to, until they are officially introduced to each other by Mother Superior.
Twingo and Maria start going out, until Soviet Colonel Piniev (Louis Calhern) reports to Hooky, announcing he is searching for a Russian ballerina named Olga Alexandrova, aka Maria Buhlen. Piniev assures Hooky that he means no harm to Olga, and that it is his order to bring her back to the Soviet Union. Later that night, Maria and the Mother Superior reveal that Maria is actually Olga, a Volga German. Shortly later, the Soviets search the entire convent, looking for Maria. Hooky does not reveal that he is aware of Maria's presence, not wanting to put the Mother Superior's image in danger. However, after the Russians leave without having found Maria, Hooky announces that he will turn her over to the Soviets the next day. After he observes Twingo trying to help Maria escape, an attempt that Maria declines because she does not want to endanger Hooky and Twingo's friendship, Hooky turns her over to the Soviets that night.
Over the next few days, Hooky is heavily criticized for his actions by Twingo and the Mother Superior. He and Twingo continue their repatriation duties and they announce to the Soviet Professor Serge Bruloff (Konstantin Shayne) that he is about to be deported; Bruloff reacts by shooting himself. Hooky claims that there is no connection between Maria's reluctance to be deported to the Soviet Union and Serge's suicide, until the third person on his list, Helena Nagard (Tamara Shayne), Serge's wife, responds by bursting into tears. Hooky starts to doubt the policy of the Soviets and as he witnesses Maria being deported to a harsh detainment camp, he swears to raise awareness of the way these displaced people are being treated.
One day, after telling the Mother Superior how he had lost his faith after the death of his son, Hooky finds out the Soviets have come into the British zone without authority to investigate a trainload of Soviet citizens. Hooky, enraged, rushes to the train station, where he witnesses the poor conditions the displaced persons are in. The Mother Superior, who accompanied him, notices Maria among the people in the train. Hooky reproves the Soviets for their ploy, telling them he knows they staged the incident because they have no use for people too old or weak to work and are dumping them on the British. Sometime later, Hooky finds out Maria has escaped from the Soviets and brings her to safety with Twingo, who is now her lover.
When Hooky and Mother Superior receive a visit from Piniev, who is looking for Maria, they refuse to co-operate. Later Hooky helps Mother Superior fly to Rome to visit the Pope. Afterward, Hooky is ordered to turn in Maria to the Soviets. He refuses and is officially fired from his job. Meanwhile, Twingo and Maria plan on moving to Scotland, when she is suddenly captured by Hooky's replacement, the pompous and rigid Colonel Omicron, who intends to turn her in to Piniev. Realizing her fate, she jumps out of a window. Hours later she succumbs to her injuries. Shortly after, Hooky is assigned to an operation called "Humanizing Army" and forcible repatriation is ended.
- Walter Pidgeon as Col. Michael "Hooky" Nicobar
- Ethel Barrymore as The Mother Superior
- Peter Lawford as Maj. John "Twingo" McPhimister
- Angela Lansbury as Audrey Quail
- Janet Leigh as Maria Buhlen
- Louis Calhern as Col. Piniev
- Francis L. Sullivan as Col. Humphrey "Blinker" Omicron
- Melville Cooper as Pvt. David Moonlight
- Robert Coote as Brig. C.M.V. Catlock
- Alan Napier as The General
Shortly after the release of the novel Vespers in Vienna, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer showed interest in a film adaption and production was set to start in June 1947. In January 1947, it was announced Irene Dunne, Spencer Tracy and Robert Taylor were set to star. In October 1947, some of the background footage was shot on location in Rome and Vienna. The film was shelved, however, and the original director Victor Saville was eventually replaced by George Sidney. Furthermore, the three principal actors withdrew and were replaced by Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Barrymore and Peter Lawford. Agnes Moorehead briefly replaced Barrymore in March 1949.
For the scenes of the war camps, 1,500 starved-looking extras were sought. The crew admitted they were looking for real war refugees but found that most of them were already looking too healthy. One crew member called it "the biggest casting problem since The Good Earth (1937)".
Although MGM assigned an all-star cast to The Red Danube, including a big budget, the film was a commercial failure. According to studio records, it earned $1,177,000 in the US and Canada and $682,000 overseas, resulting in a loss of $905,000.
The film was criticized for being a propaganda film, "designed to make you hate Russia and recognize the Vatican as the true champion of freedom". Film Score Monthly, on the other hand, noted that film "struck a chord with reviewers" by "bringing humanity to a difficult subject" and having a message "not compromised by preachiness."
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- "NY Times: The Red Danube". NY Times. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
- "Notes for The Red Danube (1949)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
- Bluefield Daily Telegraph - January 28, 1947, Bluefield, West Virginia. p.4
- Wisconsin State Journal - March 19, 1949, Madison, Wisconsin. p.11
- Brady, Thomas F. (October 14, 1948). "2 FILM ROLES LISTED FOR AUDREY TOTTER; She Will Play Wren in Metro's 'Vespers in Vienna' — Also to Be in RKO's 'Set-Up'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
- The Progress - March 18, 1949, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. p.17
- Eames, J., The MGM Story, p.225
- The Rotarion, February 1950. p.39
- Alexander Kaplan, One-liner notes: The Red Danube, retrieved 2016-02-05
- The Red Danube at the Internet Movie Database
- The Red Danube at the TCM Movie Database
- The Red Danube at AllMovie