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All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)


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All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)

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Director: Lewis Milestone

Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr, Walter Rogers, William Bakewell, Russell Gleason, Richard Alexander, Harold Goodwin, Slim Summerville, G Pat Collins, Beryl Mercer, Edmund Breese, Zasu Pitts ( silent version only ), Raymond Griffith, Joan Marsh, Fred Zinnemann, Dorothy Vernon, Wolfgang Staudte, Robert Parrish, Yola D’Avril

136 min

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All Quiet on the Western Front (GermanIm Westen nichts Neueslit. ‘In the West Nothing New’) is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.

The novel was first published in November and December 1928 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung and in book form in late January 1929. The book and its sequel, The Road Back (1930), were among the books banned and burned in Nazi GermanyAll Quiet on the Western Front sold 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first 18 months in print.[1]

In 1930, the book was adapted as an Academy-Award-winning film of the same name, directed by Lewis Milestone. It was adapted again in 1979 by Delbert Mann, this time as a television film starring Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine.

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Title and translation

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The English translation by Arthur Wesley Wheen gives the title as All Quiet on the Western Front. The literal translation of “Im Westen nichts Neues” is “In the West Nothing New,” with “West” being the Western Front; the phrase refers to the content of an official communiqué at the end of the novel.

Brian Murdoch’s 1993 translation would render the phrase as “there was nothing new to report on the Western Front” within the narrative. Explaining his retention of the original book-title, he says:

Although it does not match the German exactly, Wheen’s title has justly become part of the English language and is retained here with gratitude.

The phrase “all quiet on the Western Front” has become a colloquial expression meaning stagnation, or lack of visible change, in any context.[citation needed]

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Plot summary

The book tells the story of Paul Bäumer, a German soldier who—urged on by his school teacher—joins the German army shortly after the start of World War I. His class was “scattered over the platoons amongst Frisian fishermen, peasants, and labourers.” Bäumer arrives at the Western Front with his friends and schoolmates (Leer, Müller, Kropp and a number of other characters). There they meet Stanislaus Katczinsky, an older soldier, nicknamed Kat, who becomes Paul’s mentor. While fighting at the front, Bäumer and his comrades have to engage in frequent battles and endure the treacherous and filthy conditions of trench warfare.

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At the very beginning of the book, Erich Maria Remarque says “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war.”[2] The book does not focus on heroic stories of bravery, but rather gives a view of the conditions in which the soldiers find themselves. The monotony between battles, the constant threat of artillery fire and bombardments, the struggle to find food, the lack of training of young recruits (meaning lower chances of survival), and the overarching role of random chance in the lives and deaths of the soldiers are described in detail.

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The battles fought here have no names and seem to have little overall significance, except for the impending possibility of injury or death for Bäumer and his comrades. Only pitifully small pieces of land are gained, about the size of a football field, which are often lost again later. Remarque often refers to the living soldiers as old and dead, emotionally drained and shaken. “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

Paul’s visit on leave to his home highlights the cost of the war on his psyche. The town has not changed since he went off to war; however, he finds that he does “not belong here anymore, it is a foreign world.” He feels disconnected from most of the townspeople. His father asks him “stupid and distressing” questions about his war experiences, not understanding “that a man cannot talk of such things.” An old schoolmaster lectures him about strategy and advancing to Paris while insisting that Paul and his friends know only their “own little sector” of the war but nothing of the big picture.

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Indeed, the only person he remains connected to is his dying mother, with whom he shares a tender, yet restrained relationship. The night before he is to return from leave, he stays up with her, exchanging small expressions of love and concern for each other. He thinks to himself, “Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it be that I must part from you? Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never say it.” In the end, he concludes that he “ought never to have come [home] on leave.”

Paul feels glad to be reunited with his comrades. Soon after, he volunteers to go on a patrol and kills a man for the first time in hand-to-hand combat. He watches the man die, in pain for hours. He feels remorse and asks forgiveness from the man’s corpse. He is devastated and later confesses to Kat and Albert, who try to comfort him and reassure him that it is only part of the war.

They are then sent on what Paul calls a “good job.” They must guard a supply depot in a village that was evacuated due to being shelled too heavily. During this time, the men are able to adequately feed themselves, unlike the near-starvation conditions in the German trenches. In addition, the men enjoy themselves while living off the spoils from the village and officers’ luxuries from the supply depot (such as fine cigars). While evacuating the villagers (enemy civilians), Paul and Albert are taken by surprise by artillery fired at the civilian convoy and wounded by a shell.

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On the train back home, Albert takes a turn for the worse and cannot complete the journey, instead being sent off the train to recuperate in a Catholic hospital. Paul uses a combination of bartering and manipulation to stay by Albert’s side. Albert eventually has his leg amputated, while Paul is deemed fit for service and returned to the front.

By now, the war is nearing its end and the German Army is retreating. In despair, Paul watches as his friends fall one by one. It is the death of Kat that eventually makes Paul careless about living. In the final chapter, he comments that peace is coming soon, but he does not see the future as bright and shining with hope. Paul feels that he has no aims or goals left in life and that their generation will be different and misunderstood. When he dies at the end of the novel, the situation report from the frontline states, “All is Quiet on the Western Front.”

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Themes

One of the major themes of the novel is the difficulty of soldiers to revert to civilian life after having experienced extreme combat situations. Remarque comments in the preface that “[This book] will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.”[2]

This internal destruction can be found as early as the first chapter as Paul comments that, although all the boys are young, their youth has left them. In addition, the massive loss of life and negligible gains from the fighting are constantly emphasized. Soldiers’ lives are thrown away by their commanding officers who are stationed comfortably away from the front, ignorant of the daily terrors of the front line.

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Main characters

Cover of first English language edition. The design is based upon a German war bonds poster by Fritz Erler.

Paul Bäumer

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Paul Bäumer is the main character and narrator. At 19 years of age, Paul enlists in the German Army and is deployed to the Western Front where he experiences the severe psychological and physical effects of the war. Before the war, Paul was a creative, sensitive and passionate person, writing poems and having a clear love for his family. But as the war changed his attitude and personality, poems and other aspects of his past life become something Paul was no longer linked to, since the horrors of war trained him to disconnect himself from his feelings. He feels he can’t tell anyone about his experiences and feels like an outsider where his family is concerned.

By the end of the book, Paul realises that he no longer knows what to do with himself and decides that he has nothing more to lose. The war appears to have snuffed out his hopes and dreams, which he feels he can never regain. After years of fighting in the war, Paul is finally killed in October 1918, on an extraordinarily quiet, peaceful day. The army report that day contains only one phrase: “All quiet on the Western Front.” As Paul dies, his face is calm, “as though almost glad the end had come.”

Albert Kropp

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Kropp was in Paul’s class at school and is described as the clearest thinker of the group as well as the smallest. Kropp is wounded towards the end of the novel and undergoes a leg amputation. Both he and Bäumer end up spending time in a Catholic hospital together, Bäumer suffering from shrapnel wounds to the leg and arm. Though Kropp initially plans to commit suicide if he requires an amputation, the book suggests he postponed suicide because of the strength of military camaraderie. Kropp and Bäumer part ways when Bäumer is recalled to his regiment after recovering. Paul comments that saying farewell was “very hard, but it is something a soldier learns to deal with.”[3]

Haie Westhus

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Haie is described as being tall and strong, and a peat-digger by profession. Overall, his size and behavior make him seem older than Paul, yet he is the same age as Paul and his school-friends (roughly 19 at the start of the book). Haie, in addition, has a good sense of humor. During combat, he is injured in his back, fatally (Chapter 6)—the resulting wound is large enough for Paul to see Haie’s breathing lung when Himmelstoß (Himmelstoss) carries him to safety.

Fredrich Müller

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Müller is about 18 and a half years of age, one of Bäumer’s classmates, when he also joins the German army as a volunteer to go to the war. Carrying his old school books with him to the battlefield, he constantly reminds himself of the importance of learning and education. Even while under enemy fire, he “mutters propositions in physics”. He became interested in Kemmerich’s boots and inherits them when Kemmerich dies early in the novel. He is killed later in the book after being shot point-blank in the stomach with a “light pistol” (flare gun). As he was dying “quite conscious and in terrible pain”, he gave his boots which he inherited from Kemmerich to Paul.

Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky

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Kat has the most positive influence on Paul and his comrades on the battlefield. Katczinsky was a cobbler (shoemaker) in civilian life; he is older than Paul Bäumer and his comrades, about 40 years old, and serves as their leadership figure. He also represents a literary model highlighting the differences between the younger and older soldiers. While the older men have already had a life of professional and personal experience before the war, Bäumer and the men of his age have had little life experience or time for personal growth.

Kat is also well known for his ability to scavenge nearly any item needed, especially food. At one point he secures four boxes of lobster. Bäumer describes Kat as possessing a sixth sense. One night, Bäumer along with a group of other soldiers are holed up in a factory with neither rations nor comfortable bedding. Katczinsky leaves for a short while, returning with straw to put over the bare wires of the beds. Later, to feed the hungry men, Kat brings bread, a bag of horse flesh, a lump of fat, a pinch of salt and a pan in which to cook the food.

Kat is hit by shrapnel at the end of the story, leaving him with a smashed shin. Paul carries him back to camp on his back, only to discover upon their arrival that a stray splinter had hit Kat in the back of the head and killed him on the way. He is thus the last of Paul’s close friends to die in battle. It is Kat’s death that eventually makes Bäumer careless whether he survives the war or not, but that he can face the rest of his life without fear. “Let the months and the years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear.”

Tjaden

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One of Bäumer’s non-schoolmate friends. Before the war, Tjaden was a locksmith. A big eater with a grudge against the former postman-turned corporal Himmelstoß (thanks to his strict ‘disciplinary actions’), he manages to forgive Himmelstoß later in the book. Throughout the book, Paul frequently remarks on how much of an eater he is, yet somehow manages to stay as “thin as a rake”. The fate of Tjaden is unknown but he appears in the sequel, The Road Back.

Minor characters

Kantorek

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Kantorek was the schoolmaster of Paul and his friends, including Kropp, Leer, Müller, and Behm. Behaving “in a way that cost [him] nothing,” Kantorek is a strong supporter of the war and encourages Bäumer and other students in his class to join the war effort. Among twenty enlistees was Joseph Behm, the first of the class to die in battle. In an example of tragic irony, Behm was the only one who did not want to enter the war.

Kantorek is a hypocrite, urging the young men he teaches to fight in the name of patriotism, while not voluntarily enlisting himself. In a twist of fate, Kantorek is later called up as a soldier as well. He very reluctantly joins the ranks of his former students, only to be drilled and taunted by Mittelstädt, one of the students he had earlier persuaded to enlist.

Peter Leer

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Leer is an intelligent soldier in Bäumer’s company, and one of his classmates. He is very popular with women; when he and his comrades meet three French women, he is the first to seduce one of them. Bäumer describes Leer’s ability to attract women by saying “Leer is an old hand at the game”. In chapter 11, Leer is hit by a shell fragment, which also hits Bertinck. The shrapnel tears open Leer’s hip, causing him to bleed to death quickly. His death causes Paul to ask himself, “What use is it to him now that he was such a good mathematician in school?”[4]

Bertinck

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Lieutenant Bertinck is the leader of Bäumer’s company. His men have a great respect for him, and Bertinck has great respect for his men. He permits them to eat the rations of the men that had been killed in action, standing up to the chef Ginger who would only allow them their allotted share. Bertinck is genuinely despondent when he learns that few of his men had survived an engagement.

When he and the other characters are trapped in a trench under heavy attack, Bertinck, who has been injured in the firefight, spots a flamethrower team advancing on them. He gets out of cover and takes aim on the flamethrower but misses, and gets hit by enemy fire. With his next shot he kills the flamethrower, and immediately afterwards an enemy shell explodes on his position blowing off his chin. The same explosion also fatally wounds Leer.

Himmelstoss

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Corporal Himmelstoss (spelled Himmelstoß in some editions) was a postman before enlisting in the war. He is a power-hungry corporal with special contempt for Paul and his friends, taking sadistic pleasure in punishing the minor infractions of his trainees during their basic training in preparation for their deployment.

Paul later figures that the training taught by Himmelstoss made them “hard, suspicious, pitiless, and tough” but most importantly it taught them comradeship. However, Bäumer and his comrades have a chance to get back at Himmelstoss because of his punishments, mercilessly whipping him on the night before they board trains to go to the front.

Himmelstoss later joins them at the front, revealing himself as a coward who shirks his duties for fear of getting hurt or killed, and pretends to be wounded because of a scratch on his face. Paul Bäumer beats him because of it and when a lieutenant comes along looking for men for a trench charge, Himmelstoss joins and leads the charge. He carries Haie Westhus’s body to Bäumer after he is fatally wounded. Matured and repentant through his experiences Himmelstoß later asks for forgiveness from his previous charges. As he becomes the new staff cook, to prove his friendship he secures two pounds of sugar for Bäumer and half a pound of butter for Tjaden.

Detering

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Detering is a farmer who constantly longs to return to his wife and farm. He is also fond of horses and is angered when he sees them used in combat. He says, “It is of the vilest baseness to use horses in the war,” when the group hears several wounded horses writhe and scream for a long time before dying during a bombardment. He tries to shoot them to put them out of misery, but is stopped by Kat to keep their current position hidden. He is driven to desert when he sees a cherry tree in blossom, which reminds him of home too much and inspires him to leave. He is found by military police and court-martialed, and is never heard from again.

Josef Hamacher

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Hamacher is a patient at the Catholic hospital where Paul and Albert Kropp are temporarily stationed. He has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the hospital. He also has a “Special Permit,” certifying him as sporadically not responsible for his actions due to a head wound, though he is clearly quite sane and exploiting his permit so he can stay in the hospital and away from the war as long as possible.

Franz Kemmerich

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A young boy of only 19 years. Franz Kemmerich had enlisted in the army for World War I along with his best friend and classmate, Bäumer. Kemmerich is shot in the leg early in the story; his injured leg has to be amputated, and he dies shortly after. In anticipation of Kemmerich’s imminent death, Müller was eager to get his boots. While in the hospital, someone steals Kemmerich’s watch that he intended to give to his mother, causing him great distress and prompting him to ask about his watch every time his friends visit him in the hospital. Paul later finds the watch and hands it over to Kemmerich’s mother, only to lie and say Franz died instantly and painlessly when questioned.

Joseph Behm

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A student in Paul’s class who is described as youthful and overweight. Behm was the only student that was not quickly influenced by Kantorek’s patriotism to join the war, but eventually, due to pressure from friends and Kantorek, he joins the war. He is the first of Paul’s friends to die. He is blinded in no man’s land and believed to be dead by his friends. The next day, when he is seen walking blindly around no-man’s-land, it is discovered that he was only unconscious. However, he is killed before he can be rescued.

Publication and reception

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Erich Maria Remarque

From November 10 to December 9, 1928, All Quiet on the Western Front was published in serial form in Vossische Zeitung magazine. It was released in book form the following year to smashing success, selling one and a half million copies that same year. Although publishers had worried that interest in World War I had waned more than 10 years after the armistice, Remarque’s realistic depiction of trench warfare from the perspective of young soldiers struck a chord with the war’s survivors—soldiers and civilians alike—and provoked strong reactions, both positive and negative, around the world.

With All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque emerged as an eloquent spokesman for a generation that had been, in his own words, “destroyed by war, even though it might have escaped its shells.” Remarque’s harshest critics, in turn, were his countrymen, many of whom felt the book denigrated the German war effort, and that Remarque had exaggerated the horrors of war to further his pacifist agenda. The strongest voices against Remarque came from the emerging National Socialist Party and its ideological allies. In 1933, when the Nazis rose to power, All Quiet on the Western Front became one of the first degenerate books to be publicly burnt;[5] in 1930 screenings of the Academy Award-winning film based on the book were met with Nazi-organized protests and mob attacks on both movie theatres and audience members.[6]

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However, objections to Remarque’s portrayal of the German army personnel during World War I were not limited to the Nazis. Dr. Karl Kroner (de) objected to Remarque’s depiction of the medical personnel as being inattentive, uncaring, or absent from frontline action. Dr. Kroner was specifically worried that the book would perpetuate German stereotypes abroad that had subsided since the First World War. He offered the following clarification: “People abroad will draw the following conclusions: if German doctors deal with their own fellow countrymen in this manner, what acts of inhumanity will they not perpetuate against helpless prisoners delivered up into their hands or against the populations of occupied territory?” [7][8]

A fellow patient of Remarque’s in the military hospital in Duisburg objected to the negative depictions of the nuns and patients, and of the general portrayal of soldiers: “There were soldiers to whom the protection of homeland, protection of house and homestead, protection of family were the highest objective, and to whom this will to protect their homeland gave the strength to endure any extremities.”[8]

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These criticisms suggest that perhaps experiences of the war and the personal reactions of individual soldiers to their experiences may be more diverse than Remarque portrays them; however, it is beyond question that Remarque gives voice to a side of the war and its experience that was overlooked or suppressed at the time. This perspective is crucial to understanding the true effects of World War I. The evidence can be seen in the lingering depression that Remarque and many of his friends and acquaintances were suffering a decade later.[7]

In contrast, All Quiet on the Western Front was trumpeted by pacifists as an anti-war book.[8] Remarque makes a point in the opening statement that the novel does not advocate any political position, but is merely an attempt to describe the experiences of the soldier.[9]

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The main artistic criticism was that it was a mediocre attempt to cash in on public sentiment.[citation needed] The enormous popularity the work received was a point of contention for some literary critics, who scoffed at the fact that such a simple work could be so earth-shattering.[citation needed]

Much of this literary criticism came from Salomo Friedlaender, who wrote a book Hat Erich Maria Remarque wirklich gelebt? “Did Erich Maria Remarque really live?” (under pen name Mynona), which was, it its turn, criticized in: Hat Mynona wirklich gelebt? “Did Mynona really live?” by Kurt Tucholsky.[10]

Friedlaender’s criticism was mainly personal in nature—he attacked Remarque as being ego-centric and greedy. Remarque publicly stated that he wrote All Quiet on the Western Front for personal reasons, not for profit, as Friedlaender had claimed.[7][8] Max Joseph Wolff (de) wrote a parody titled Vor Troja nichts Neues (Compared to Troy, Nothing New) under the pseudonym Emil Marius Requark.[11]

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Adaptations

Film

Poster for the movie All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), featuring star Lew Ayres

In 1930, an American film of the novel was made, directed by Lewis Milestone; with a screenplay by Maxwell AndersonGeorge AbbottDel AndrewsC. Gardner Sullivan; and with uncredited work by Walter Anthony and Milestone. It stars Louis WolheimLew AyresJohn WrayArnold Lucy, and Ben Alexander.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930 for its producer Carl Laemmle Jr., the Academy Award for Directing for Lewis Milestone, and the Academy Award for Outstanding Production. It was the first all-talking non-musical film to win the Best Picture Oscar. It also received two further nominations: Best Cinematography, for Arthur Edeson, and Best Writing Achievement for Abbott, Anderson, and Andrews.[12]

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In 2016, it was confirmed that Roger Donaldson will direct a remake of All Quiet on the Western Front starring Travis Fimmel as Katczinsky.[13]

TV film

In 1979, the film was remade for CBS television by Delbert Mann, starring Richard Thomas of The Waltons as Paul Bäumer and Ernest Borgnine as Kat. The movie was filmed in Czechoslovakia.[14]

Music

Elton John‘s album Jump Up! (1982) features the song, “All Quiet on the Western Front” (written by Elton and Bernie Taupin). The song is a sorrowful rendition of the novel’s story (“It’s gone all quiet on the Western Front / Male Angels sigh / ghosts in a flooded trench / As Germany dies”).

Bob Dylan, during his Nobel Laureate lecture, cited this book as one that had a profound effect on this songwriting.

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Radio

On November 9, 2008, a radio adaptation of the novel was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, starring Robert Lonsdale as Paul Bäumer and Shannon Graney as Katczinsky. Its screenplay was written by Dave Sheasby, and the show was directed by David Hunter.[15]

Audiobook

In 2010, Hachette Audio UK published an audiobook adaptation of the novel, narrated by Tom Lawrence. It was well received by critics[16] and listeners.

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See also

References

  1. Jump up^ Eksteins, Modris (April 1980). “All Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War”. Journal of Contemporary HistorySAGE Publications15 (2): 353. doi:10.1177/002200948001500207.
  2. Jump up to:a b Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. 2009. p. 48.
  3. Jump up^ Chapter Ten of All Quiet on the Western Front
  4. Jump up^ All Quiet on the Western Front (London: Putnam & Company Ltd, 1970 reprint), page 240.
  5. Jump up^ “Nov 10, 1928: Remarque publishes All Quiet on the Western Front”History.com. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  6. Jump up^ Sauer, Patrick (June 16, 2015). “The Most Loved and Hated Novel About World War I”Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  7. Jump up to:a b c Patrick Clardy. “All Quiet on the Western Front: Reception”Yale Modernism Lab. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  8. Jump up to:a b c d Barker, Christine R.; Last, Rex William (1979). Erich Maria Remarque. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
  9. Jump up^ Wagner, Hans (1991). Understanding Erich Maria Remarque. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
  10. Jump up^ Kurt Tucholsky (under pen name Ignaz Wrobel), Hat Mynona wirklich gelebt?Die Weltbühne, December 31, 1929, No. 1, p. 15
  11. Jump up^ Catalogue entry for Vor Troja nichts Neues in the German National Library, retrieved January 29, 2014
  12. Jump up^ “The 3rd Academy Awards – 1931”Oscars. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  13. Jump up^ Kay, Jeremy. “‘Warcraft’ star Travis Fimmel to lead ‘All Quiet On The Western Front'”ScreenDaily. MBI Ltd. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  14. Jump up^ “All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)”IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  15. Jump up^ “BBC Radio 3 – Drama on 3, All Quiet on the Western Front”. Bbc.co.uk. November 9, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  16. Jump up^ “All Quiet on the Western Front Audiobook Review – Audiobook Jungle – Audiobook Reviews In All Genres”audiobookjungle.com. Retrieved April 10, 2016.

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Film Collectors Corner

Watch All Quiet on the Western Front Now – Instant Video on Internet Archive

Blu Ray

 

DVD

Narrow Road, The (1912)


Mary Pickford 1

Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

The Narrow Road (1912)

Director: D W Griffith

Cast: Mary Pickford, Elmer Booth, Charles Hill Mailes, Jack Pickford, Christy Cabanne, Max Davidson, Grace Henderson, Adolph Lestina, Alfred Paget, Harry Hyde, Frank Evans

17 Min

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D W Griffith

Narrow Road The 7

 

The Narrow Road is a 1912 short silent film directed by D. W. Griffith and produced and distributed by the Biograph Company.[1]

A short Biograph film preserved from the Library of Congress paperprint collection.[2]

Narrow Road The 6

Cast

other cast

Narrow Road The 5

References

  1. Jump up^ The Narrow Road at silentera.com
  2. Jump up^ Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress p. 125 c.1978 by The American Film Institute

Narrow Road The 4

Narrow Road The 3

Narrow Road The 2

Narrow Road The 1

Sweet Memories (1911)


Mary Pickford 1

Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

Sweet Memories (1911)

Director: Thomas Ince

Cast: Mary Pickford, King Baggot, Owen Moore, William E Shay, Jack Pickford, Lottie Pickford, Charles Arling, J. Farrell MacDonald, Charlotte Smith

 10 min

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Sweet Memories (also known as Sweet Memories of Yesterday and Sweetheart Days) is a 1911 silent short romantic drama film, written and directed by Thomas H. Ince, released by the Independent Moving Pictures Company on March 27, 1911.[1]

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Thomas H Ince

Plot

Polly Biblett (Mary Pickford), a young lady, tells her grandmother Lettie about her new boyfriend. The news provokes the elderly woman to reminisce about her own sweetheart, long time before. The touching sequence expresses the power of lives going on, the older woman aging as her grandchildren grow and knowing they will soon have children of their own.

Cast

References

sweetmem2

Romance of the Redwoods, A (1917)


Mary Pickford 1

Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

Romance of the Redwoods, A (1917)

Dir: Cecil B DeMille

Cast: Mary Pickford, Elliott Dexter, Tully Marshall, Raymond Hatton, Charles Ogle, Walter Long, Winter Hall

70 min

Romance of the Redwoods 1 Romance of the Redwoods 9

 

 

A Romance of the Redwoods is a 1917 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Mary Pickford. A print of the film survives in the film archive at George Eastman House.[1]

Cast

Romance of the Redwoods 6

Sparrows 1926


Mary Pickford 1

Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

Sparrows 1926

Dir: William Beaudine and Tom McNamara

Cast; Mary Pickford, Roy Stewart, Mary Louise Miller, Gustav Von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau, Spec O’Donnell, Lloyd Whitlock, Billy Butts, Monty O’Grady, Jackie Levine

84 min

Sparrows 1

Sparrows is a 1926 American silent film about a young woman who rescues a baby from kidnappers. The film, which was originally titled Scraps, starred and was produced by Mary Pickford, who was the most powerful woman in Hollywood at the time.[1][2]

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Plot

Mr. Grimes and his wife operate a dismal “baby farm” near an alligator-infested swamp. Molly, an adolescent inmate and the oldest of their charges, attempts to provide the other tattered, starving kids with the loving maternal care they need. Most of the children are orphans. One mother sends her child a doll, but Grimes crushes its head and tosses it into the swamp.

The children are ordered to hide anytime someone comes to the farm. When a hog buyer shows up, Ambrose, the Grimes’ son, maliciously prevents Splutters, one of the children, from hiding. The buyer then purchases the boy from Grimes.

Molly has promised the others that God will rescue them. When a boy asks why nothing has happened after a month, she tells him that He is busy attending to sparrows (a biblical reference).

Ambrose catches Molly with stolen potatoes, so she and the others are given no supper. She pleads for the children, especially the sick, youngest baby, to no avail. Late that night, in a vision, Christ enters the barn where they sleep and takes the baby. When Molly wakes up, the child is dead.

Joe Bailey and his associate bring a kidnapped baby girl to the farm for concealment until they receive a ransom from the rich father, Dennis Wayne. When Grimes reads about the kidnapping in the newspaper several days later, he decides it is safer to chuck the baby into the swamp.

When Ambrose grabs the little girl to carry out the plan, Molly gets her back. After she fights off Grimes with a pitchfork, he strands her in the hayloft and decides he must get rid of her, too.

That night, Molly flees with the children. Grimes finds this hilarious; he figures either the mud or the alligators will take care of the children. However, when the kidnappers come back for the baby, he leads them on a search.

Meanwhile, Splutters is brought to the police station, having been discovered by one of the search parties. He tells the policemen and Mr. Wayne about the baby farm.

Molly and the kids emerge unscathed from the swamp and hide aboard a boat, unaware it belongs to the kidnappers. Pursued by the police, Grimes runs into the swamp, but falls into deep mud and perishes, while the two criminals flee in the boat. Unable to shake the harbor patrol, they try to slip away in a dinghy, but are run over and drown.

The baby is reunited with her wealthy father, but when she refuses to drink her milk without Molly, Mr. Wayne offers Molly a comfortable home. She accepts only on condition that he take in the other children as well.

Cast

  • Children:
    • Billy Butts
    • Jack Lavine
    • Billy “Red” Jones
    • Muriel McCormac
    • Florence Rogan
    • Mary McLain
    • Sylvia Bernard
    • Seesel Ann Johnson
    • Camille Johnson

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Cast notes:

  • Sparrows was Mary Pickford‘s next to last silent role; it was followed by 1927’s My Best Girl. After that, Pickford did some talking pictures before retiring to “Pickfair”, her estate with husband Douglas Fairbanks.[3]

Production

Although William Beaudine received critical acclaim both inside and outside the film industry for his direction, star Mary Pickford felt that he was too cavalier about the safety of the actors, especially in a scene where she had to carry a baby across some water filled with alligators. Pickford wanted to use a doll, but Beaudine insisted on using a real baby, since the alligators’ jaws were bound shut. However, Hal Mohr, the film’s director of photography., debunked this story, saying “There wasn’t an alligator within ten miles of Miss Pickford,” and revealing in precise detail how the effect was done.[3] Regardless, Pickford swore that Beaudine would never work for her or her company as long as she lived. She was as good as her word, as Beaudine never worked for her or United Artists again. Toward the end of the picture, they clashed so often that Beaudine developed a serious paralysis of his face from the pressure and aggravation. He finally turned the picture over to his assistant, Tom McNamara, and left the set. McNamara finished the picture uncredited.

Art director Harry Oliver transformed 3 acres (12,000 m2) of the back lot between Willoughby Avenue and Alta Vista Street into a stylized Gothic swamp. The ground was scraped bare in places, 600 trees were carted in, and pits dug and filled with a mixture of burned cork, sawdust and muddy water.

Filming began in July, over summer vacation. The children had the run of the set, barefoot and in costume, so they would become accustomed to the environment. Each child had a crew member assigned to fish them out of the gunk. These assistants also made sure the kids were cleaned up and comfortable with warm towels when they emerged from the swampy water.

Pickford developed a great fondness for two-year-old Mary Louise Miller. Pickford, who had no children of her own, even tried to adopt the toddler, but her parents refused.

An earlier version of the “Jesus in the barn” scene was filmed in which the dead baby’s spirit was carried to Heaven by a phosphorescent angel. The scene was rejected in favor of the Jesus take.

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Critical reception

  • The New York Times: “Gustav von Seyffertitz, with a suspicion of Lon Chaney’s penchant for deformity, is emphatically capable as Mr. Grimes. Little as she does, Charlotte Minneau gives an excellent portrait of the cruel and unimaginative Mrs. Grimes. … Although Miss Pickford’s performance is as flawless as ever, it is doubtful whether she served herself well in selecting this special screen story, in which there is an abundance of exaggerated suspense and a number of puerile ideas. It is an obvious heartstring tugger during most of its length, and it frequently dallies with the thrills of old fashioned melodramas.”
  • Motion Picture Magazine, December 1925: “It was Douglas Fairbanks who told us that Mary Pickford’s production of “Sparrows” was Dickensonian. And after seeing it we have nothing less and nothing more to say of it. Perhaps you know that it is the story of a baby farm . . . with Gustav von Seyffertitz as Grimes, the cruel manager . . . and Mary, as Mollie, who watches over the little boys and girls. Melodrama is interwoven in the story and there is nothing new or startling about the plot. But you won’t realize this until the last lovely close-up of Mary has faded from the screen. Which means, of course, that the story interests you so much that your critical faculty is dulled. We are glad that Mary is not going to continue to play grown-ups parts. So many on the screen can be the grand lady. And no one else that we have ever heard about or seen captures the elusive and misty quality of childhood as Mary does. You’ll weep a little. You’ll laugh a great deal. And you’ll hold your breath once or twice.”

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  • Picture Play, January, 1927: “The choice of “Sparrows” was a singular one for Mary Pickford to make, but no one can deny that she has done the picture surpassingly well. The subject is gloomy, and some of the horrors recall Dickens, yet the darkness is shot through with many laughs. Indeed, so heavily does the hand of melodrama smite “Sparrows” that the picture passes beyond the bounds of credibility. Thus the spectator relaxes, content to give way to his amazement at Mary’s skill. She is Mama Mollie, a lovely waif in whom the maternal instinct is well, there aren’t words to tell how strong it is, for she mothers eleven woebegone, poverty-stricken children at a baby farm kept by the villainous Grimes in the midst of a Louisiana swamp. A kidnapped baby is thrust by Grimes into the group and the plot gets underway, Mollie’s heroic efforts to keep the baby against the will of Grimes leading her and the entire brood into the deadly swamp. “Sparrows” is well worth seeing.”
  • Film historian Jeffrey Vance considers Sparrows to be Pickford’s masterpiece. In his program notes for the Giorante del Cinema Muto (also knows as the Pordenone Silent Film Festival,) Vance writes in 2008: “Sparrows is her most fully realized and timeless work of art. The film’s superb performances, gothic production design, and cinematography all serve a suspenseful, emotionally compelling story anchored by a central performance by Pickford herself imbued with pathos, humor, and charm.”[4]

Accolades

Home Video

Milestone Film & Video released the Library of Congress restoration of Sparrows to DVD and Blu-ray in 2012 as part of a box set called Rags and Riches: Mary Pickford Collection. The home video version contains an audio commentary track by film historians Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta.[7]

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References

Notes

  1. Jump up^ Wood, Bret “Sparrows (1926)” (article) TCM.com
  2. Jump up^ Mankiewicz, Ben. Intro to Turner Classic Movies presentation ofSparrows (May 5, 2010)
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b Landazuri, Margarita. “Sparrows (1926)” (article) TCM.com
  4. Jump up^ Vance, Jeffrey. “Sparrows” Le Giornate del Cinema Muto/27th Pordenone Silent Film Festival program book, October 4, 2008 http://www.cinetecadelfriuli.org/gcm/ed_precedenti/edizione2008/Catalogo2008.pdf
  5. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains Nominees” (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  6. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers Nominees” (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  7. Jump up^ http://milestonefilms.com/collections/hollywood-classics/products/sparrows

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