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The Mortal Storm

(1940 b 100')

En: 7 Ed: 8

Adapted from Phyllis Bottome's novel, a family is divided after Hitler comes to power; the daughter changes fiancés and tries to escape to Austria.

In 1933 on his 60th birthday Professor Viktor Roth (Frank Morgan) receives gifts from step-sons Erich von Rohn (William T. Orr) and Otto von Rohn (Robert Stack) and applause from his students. Fritz Marberg (Robert Young) and Martin Breitner (James Stewart) present a trophy. Freya Roth (Margaret Sullavan) kisses Fritz; he announces their engagement, but she is not sure. Fritz is glad that Hitler is now chancellor, but Martin opposes war. Fritz, Erich, and Otto go to a meeting. At home in the Alps Martin treats a horse, and his mother Hilda Breitner (Maria Ouspenskaya) notes he stopped going to class. Freya comes in and wants Martin to see Fritz. At a tavern Martin and Freya can't avoid the politics of Hitler. Martin stops Nazi Holl (Dan Dailey) from persecuting Professor Werner (Thomas Ross). Martin tells Freya he won't join the party. Martin and Freya help Werner.

Freya tells Fritz she does not agree with him. When Viktor Roth teaches that blood does not differ by race, Holl leads a boycott; at night they burn books. Freya rejects Fritz and his Germany. Freya's brother Otto forbids Martin to see her. Martin defies him, and they beat him up until Freya brings her mother Emilie Roth (Irene Rich). Otto and Erich decide to leave home. Freya comes to see Martin. Werner comes in to hide from arrest. Martin leads Werner across the mountains to Austria. Soldiers come and search. Young Elsa (Bonita Granville) panics, and officer Franz (Ward Bond) tries to make her talk.

Emilie tells Freya that Viktor is going to Vienna; but they learn he was arrested. Otto and Erich are reprimanded by an officer. Freya appeals to Fritz, who hints he'll try. Emilie visits Viktor in a work camp under a strict guard. Viktor tells her to take Freya and Rudi Roth (Gene Reynolds) out of the country. Otto tells Emilie that Viktor died. Emile, Freya, and Rudi take a train. At the border Freya is taken with Viktor's manuscript, which is to be destroyed. At home Freya finds a note to visit Hilda, and she finds Martin there. He is going to take her to Innsbruck. Hilda has them drink from his wedding cup. Franz makes Elsa say where Martin is going. Fritz refuses to lead the patrol but changes his mind. Martin and Freya trudge in the snow. They see the patrol and ski down the slope to Austria; but Freya is shot. Martin carries her, and she dies in his arms. In the final scene Fritz tells Otto and Erich what happened.

A prolog and an epilog asks how long the storm of war will disturb human society in this powerful indictment of Hitlerism's intolerant ideology and its bullying tactics. This drama is inspiring, because some have the courage to disagree and sacrifice their lives.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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