Thursday, February 21, 2013


A Czech air force officer comes to his commander Anton (Albert Lieven) for advice; he has taken pity on a wounded girl but is afraid his attentions will be misunderstood. Anton tells him the story of a similar incident in his own past. Back in WWI while stationed at a garrison town, Anton is invited to a dinner at the Baron's castle and (in an overly melodramatic moment) asks the Baron's daughter, the Baroness Edith (Lilli Palmer), to dance, not realizing she is crippled and cannot walk at all because of a horse-riding accident. After this embarrassing incident, Anton calls on the Baroness and he becomes involved with the family. A doctor (Cedric Hardwicke) tells Anton that some Swiss cure may offer hope, and when Anton conveys this news to the Baron (Ernest Thesiger), he becomes convinced that his daughter will walk again soon. The doctor is angry that Anton has given the family false hope, and mostly out of guilt and pity, Anton begins courting Edith. The Baron offers Anton money to marry Edith, but this leads to more problems and entanglements, and a tragic ending is in store.

This is based on a novel by Stefan Zweig and seems related thematically to the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion, itself based on a 19th century Italian novel. It seems crystal clear from the moment that we find out that Edith is crippled that this will lead to tragedy, but despite predictable plot turns, there is enough here to keep a viewer interested. The acting all around is quite good, especially Lieven and Palmer, though as is often the case, the wonderful Gladys Cooper (pictured with Palmer) steals every scene she's in as Hardwicke's blind wife who is the moral center of the film and also plays a crucial role in the climax. The Austrian mountain sets are artificial looking but effective. My only criticism is that it drags in the middle, feeling like short story material that's been stretched out too long. [TCM]

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