Directed by Lewis Milestone
Based on the novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Screenplay by George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews
Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Ben Alexander
For a young group of students, the allure of battle proves strong as they’re presented with wartime propaganda. When these men go off to war they’re faced with the harsh reality of life in the trenches.
This film stands as one of the most realistic depictions of World War I to ever hit the big screen. Based on a novel of the same name written by Erich Maria Remarque (Bobby Deerfield). The book was a massive hit, selling more than 18 million copies in the first 18 months after being published. This film version, released the following year, went on to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. The novel was adapted by George Abbott (The Pajama Game), Maxwell Anderson (Key Largo), and Del Andrews (The Outlaw Deputy). Lewis Milestone (Mutiny on the Bounty) directed the film, earning an Oscar for Best Director. The film features a number of talented actors including Lew Ayres (Advise & Consent), Louis Wolheim (The Racket), John Wray (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), and Ben Alexander (Dragnet).
This story provides a realistic look at the reality of war. Author Erich Maria Remarque was a veteran of World War I and he injected much of his experience and the experiences of his fellow soldiers into the story. The screenplay really digs deep into the difficulties and hardships of war. There is little done to soften the harsh nature of the suffering of the wounded and dying in the film. The dialogue also has an honesty that’s heartbreaking at times. The result is a story that conveys a deeper message about the true cost of war. It works because of this honesty. The screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing.
Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, and Ben Alexander are just a handful of the cast members who made this film work. Ayres leads the way with a wonderful performance that shows the changes within his character as the war rages on. He’s joined by a group of actors who also reflect the reality of war in a variety of different ways. Wolheim, John Wray, and Ben Alexander also do great work with the tough material in this one. In an effort to bring more authenticity to the movie more than a thousand German veterans were cast as extras. The core group of soldiers in this story are portrayed nicely. The connection they make with one another extends to the audience providing a great experience. Overall, this movie features some nice acting.
When this movie was filmed it required two cameras shooting simultaneously. This was done to address the need for a silent version and a sound version of the film. The sound version is the most commonly seen today, and the sound work in the film is surprisingly well done. The visuals are also really awesome. Despite the challenges of filming with two cameras, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography. The battle scenes are graphic and intense, using a number of stunts and explosions. The result is a depiction of trench warfare that feels authentic to the history of World War I. The obvious lack of a score is a bit awkward, but it’s not a major issue in the film.
If you’re a fan of classic films this is a must-see film. I would also suggest this one to fans of war films. Despite the age of this film it still carries a lot of power. The message of the film still resonates and the story will for most people who take the time to check this one out. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.