Paths of Glory (1958)

86-87 or 90 mins | Drama | January 1958

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HISTORY

The closing cast credits differ in order from the opening credits, in which Kirk Douglas' name appears before the title. The title of film, which is the same as the title of Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel on which it was based, was taken from a line in the eighteenth century poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray: "The paths of glory lead but to the grave." The quotation "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” used by the character “Col. Dax” in describing “Gen. Mireau’s” political manipulations, is attributed to Samuel Johnson, an 18th century English writer known for his wit and political commentary.
       According to a 27 Oct 1935 NYT article, Paramount Pictures initially bought the rights to Cobb's novel. Afraid of offending the French government, Paramount Pictures proposed changing the army to that of Czarist Russia. A 29 Jun 1956 DV article notes that director Stanley Kubrick and producer James B. Harris purchased the rights to the novel that year. The HR review adds that Cobb's novel was also the basis for a play by the same name by Sidney Howard, which opened on Broadway in New York on 26 Sep 1935; however, the film’s screenplay was an original adaptation of the novel. The HR review adds that Cobb's novel was based on a real story. Cobb became intrigued by the account of a French court-martial decision that was reversed, after which token reparation was given to each of the widows of the three innocent soldiers who had been accused of cowardice during World War I and subsequently executed to "salve a general's vanity."
       ... More Less

The closing cast credits differ in order from the opening credits, in which Kirk Douglas' name appears before the title. The title of film, which is the same as the title of Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel on which it was based, was taken from a line in the eighteenth century poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray: "The paths of glory lead but to the grave." The quotation "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” used by the character “Col. Dax” in describing “Gen. Mireau’s” political manipulations, is attributed to Samuel Johnson, an 18th century English writer known for his wit and political commentary.
       According to a 27 Oct 1935 NYT article, Paramount Pictures initially bought the rights to Cobb's novel. Afraid of offending the French government, Paramount Pictures proposed changing the army to that of Czarist Russia. A 29 Jun 1956 DV article notes that director Stanley Kubrick and producer James B. Harris purchased the rights to the novel that year. The HR review adds that Cobb's novel was also the basis for a play by the same name by Sidney Howard, which opened on Broadway in New York on 26 Sep 1935; however, the film’s screenplay was an original adaptation of the novel. The HR review adds that Cobb's novel was based on a real story. Cobb became intrigued by the account of a French court-martial decision that was reversed, after which token reparation was given to each of the widows of the three innocent soldiers who had been accused of cowardice during World War I and subsequently executed to "salve a general's vanity."
       In his autobiography, Douglas claimed that after he had read and approved of the script, using his influence at United Artists to ensure its production, Kubrick brought to Munich a "cheapened" version of the script in which the death sentence was commuted to temporary imprisonment, suggesting that the film be made more commercially viable. Douglas rejected Kubrick's idea and insisted that the production use the originally approved script.
       The film was shot on location at the Pacaria-Filmkunst Studios near Munich, Germany. HR news items add that location shooting for film took place at the Schleissheim Castle outside Munich and the Geiselgasteig Studios in Munich. A 4 Feb 1957 HR news item adds Herb Ellis to the cast, but his appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed.
       In response to the film's New York opening occurring on 25 Dec 1957, the NYT reviewer noted in his review, "What a picture to open on Christmas Day!" Paths of Glory was banned in France at the time it was released. A 31 Dec 1958 Var article notes that Switzerland also banned the film, accusing the film of being “subversive propaganda directed at France.” According to a 12 Mar 1958 NYT article, Belgian government officials only agreed to release the film after a foreword was added stating that the story represented an isolated case that did not reflect upon the "gallantry of the French soldiers." A 2 Jul 1958 Var news item notes that the French government pressured West Berlin officials to ban the film at the Berlin Film Festival as well, by threatening to pull out of the festival. According to a 5 May 1975 Var article, France finally released the film that year, while Switzerland released the film in 1978, as noted in a 19 Jul 1978 Var article.
       Paths of Glory won the Silver Ribbon for Best Foreign Film from the Italian Film Critics Association in 1959. Although the film did not win any significant American awards at the time of its release, many critics lauded Kubrick’s unusually stark portrait of war and Douglas' performance. Modern critics now rate the film highly. Paths of Glory marked German actress Susanne Christian's American film debut, in the only female role in the film. Christian later married Kubrick. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Nov 1957.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1956.
---
Daily Variety
18 Nov 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Nov 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1957
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 1957
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1957
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1958.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
21 Dec 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Nov 57
p. 617.
New York Times
27 Oct 1935.
---
New York Times
15 Dec 1957.
---
New York Times
26 Dec 57
p. 23.
New York Times
12 Mar 1958.
---
New Yorker
4 Jan 1958.
---
Newsweek
9 Dec 1957.
---
The Exhibitor
27 Nov 1957.
---
Time
9 Dec 1957.
---
Variety
20 Nov 57
p. 6.
Variety
2 Jul 1958.
---
Variety
31 Dec 1958.
---
Variety
18 May 1959.
---
Variety
5 May 1975.
---
Variety
19 Jul 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus performed by
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
American prod mgr
German prod mgr
Scr clerk
Military adv
Unit pub dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb (New York, 1935).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"La Marseillaise," music and lyrics by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
"La Treue Hussar," traditional
"Solider Boy," composer undetermined.
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1958
Premiere Information:
Munich opening: 18 September 1957
Los Angeles opening: 20 December 1957
New York opening: 25 December 1957
Production Date:
18 March--late May 1957 at Pacaria-Filmkunst Studios and Geiselgasteig Studios, Geiselgasteig, Germany
Copyright Claimant:
Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 December 1957
Copyright Number:
LP10329
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
86-87 or 90
Countries:
Germany, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18708
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1916, on the Western front during World War I, prolonged trench warfare between the French and the Germans breeds hopelessness among the Allied soldiers. To ensure himself a promotion, ambitious division commander Gen. Mireau accepts the proposition of his commanding officer, Gen. Broulard, that he take the difficult, if not impossible target of Ant Hill, a German stronghold. Broulard’s subtle but convincing argument is prompted by his need to silence civilian criticism about the standoff. Mireau then tours the trenches delivering false hope and informing Col. Dax, a former criminal lawyer and commander of three regiments on the front line, that his regiment must take Ant Hill despite knowing that he will lose over half his men. When Mireau boasts that "France is depending on you," Dax replies under his breath that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Mireau then threatens to furlough him from his men, forcing Dax to accept the assignment. That evening Dax sends Lt. Roget, Corp. Paris and Pvt. Lejeune on a reconnaissance patrol to Ant Hill. After crawling yards under wire and over muddy trenches, the three come within several hundred feet of the hill, where Roget sends Lejeune ahead to investigate a noise. When Lejeune fails to return immediately, a panicky Roget throws a grenade at the hill and darts back to the regiment. Paris runs to the hill to save his friend but finds Lejeune has been burnt alive by the grenade. Returning to camp, Paris accuses Roget of murdering one of his own men, but Roget caustically reminds him that no one will believe the word of a corporal over that of a lieutenant. Later that night, after ... +


In 1916, on the Western front during World War I, prolonged trench warfare between the French and the Germans breeds hopelessness among the Allied soldiers. To ensure himself a promotion, ambitious division commander Gen. Mireau accepts the proposition of his commanding officer, Gen. Broulard, that he take the difficult, if not impossible target of Ant Hill, a German stronghold. Broulard’s subtle but convincing argument is prompted by his need to silence civilian criticism about the standoff. Mireau then tours the trenches delivering false hope and informing Col. Dax, a former criminal lawyer and commander of three regiments on the front line, that his regiment must take Ant Hill despite knowing that he will lose over half his men. When Mireau boasts that "France is depending on you," Dax replies under his breath that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Mireau then threatens to furlough him from his men, forcing Dax to accept the assignment. That evening Dax sends Lt. Roget, Corp. Paris and Pvt. Lejeune on a reconnaissance patrol to Ant Hill. After crawling yards under wire and over muddy trenches, the three come within several hundred feet of the hill, where Roget sends Lejeune ahead to investigate a noise. When Lejeune fails to return immediately, a panicky Roget throws a grenade at the hill and darts back to the regiment. Paris runs to the hill to save his friend but finds Lejeune has been burnt alive by the grenade. Returning to camp, Paris accuses Roget of murdering one of his own men, but Roget caustically reminds him that no one will believe the word of a corporal over that of a lieutenant. Later that night, after Dax prepares his men to take Ant Hill the next morning, the soldiers discuss the likelihood of surviving, admitting that they fear pain more than actual death. Early the next morning, Dax orders his men out of the trenches and onto the battlefield using his whistle. As Dax presses ahead, his men fall to the left and right of him under heavy enemy fire until he realizes that the second force, Company B, has not taken to the battlefield. Returning to the trenches, Dax finds that his men have fallen back and a cowering Roget has failed to order Company B into action, claiming that the attack is already lost. Meanwhile, Mireau, realizing the battle is lost, orders his troops to open fire on the men in the trenches. When artillery commander Capt. Pelletier refuses to obey, insisting that the order must be in writing, Mireau threatens to arrest him and states that if the troops will not "face German bullets, they'll face French ones." The next day at the headquarters, Mireau accuses Dax of cowardice in the face of the enemy and calls for one hundred of his men to be court-martialed and executed. When Dax snidely offers that they shoot the entire regiment or, better yet, shoot him, Broulard diplomatically suggests that each company commander select one man to stand trial. Powerless to stop his superiors, Dax requests that he be allowed to act as defense counsel for his men. Within hours the three men have been chosen and imprisoned in a cell, where Dax learns why they were chosen: Roget named Paris because he witnessed Roget throwing the grenade at Lejeune, Pvt. Arnaud was chosen by chance and Pvt. Ferol attributes his fate to being a social misfit. At the informal trial held at French headquarters in a lavish chateau, the judges refuse to read the full indictment against the men or have any transcription taken of the trial, despite Dax’s protests. The first to testify, Ferol admits that he retreated, but when Dax questions him further, Ferol reveals that he made the decision when he realized he was facing the enemy with only one other soldier alive. When Dax reads Arnaud's citation of merit and bravery for other battles, the court dismisses the evidence as immaterial. While on the stand, Paris admits that he did not leave the trenches because he had been knocked unconscious, but the court insinuates that without witnesses, Paris could be lying. After the prosecutor makes his closing statements accusing the men of creating "a stain on the honor of France," Dax is outraged by the illegal proceedings and warns the court that the crime they commit in finding these men guilty without a proper trial will stain their reputations. The men are returned to their cell where, soon after, a priest announces their guilty verdict and tries to prepare them for their execution by firing squad set for the next morning. When the priest asks Arnaud for his confession, the drunken soldier accuses him of sanctimony and lunges to hit him. Paris stops Arnaud with a punch that throws the soldier into a brick wall, resulting in a near-fatal head injury. Meanwhile, Dax orders the cowardly Roget to be in charge of the firing squad and then goes to Broulard with written testimony from several soldiers regarding Mireau’s orders to fire on his own men during the Ant Hill attack, hoping that the general will change the court’s verdict. However, the next morning the execution proceeds on schedule. While walking to the firing posts between two long lines of their own comrades, Paris manages to keep his composure and bravery to ensure that his wife and children will have fond memories of him, while Ferol breaks down, sobbing in the priest's arms. Arnaud, who is carried on a stretcher, has his cheeks pinched so that he is conscious as the squad takes aim. Forced to ask the men if they want a blindfold, Roget approaches Paris and apologizes only seconds before all three are shot. Later that night, after Dax is called into Broulard's quarters, the general informs Mireau that Dax has presented him with sworn statements that Mireau ordered firing on his own men. Broulard casually mentions that an inquiry will be necessary to clear Mireau, but all three men realize this will end Mireau's career. After Mireau self-righteously reminds the men that he is a soldier and storms out, Broulard calls Dax his “boy” and offers him Mireau's job. Incensed by his duplicity, Dax calls Broulard a "degenerate, sadistic old man," prompting the general to suggest Dax suffers from sentimentality. Once outside, Dax is drawn by the sound of his men’s applause for a German female prisoner who is being forced to sing for them. As the sobbing woman sings a folk song, the soldiers begin to hum along to the familiar melody. Dax must order his men to return to the front immediately, but allows them a few sobering moments as they recognize their humanity in the song as a respite from the war’s brutality. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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