The Night of the Generals (1967)

148 mins | Drama | 2 February 1967

Director:

Anatole Litvak

Writer:

Joseph Kessel

Producer:

Sam Spiegel

Cinematographer:

Henri Decaë

Production Designer:

Alexandre Trauner

Production Companies:

Horizon Pictures , Filmsonor
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HISTORY

On 12 Apr 1964, NYT announced that producer Sam Spiegel had purchased motion picture rights to Hans Hellmuth Kirst’s World War II detective novel, The Night of the Generals, which had been translated from the original German and published in the U.S. two months earlier. The 2 Feb 1965 DV noted Spiegel’s commitment to personally oversee the project through his independent production company, Horizon Pictures, headquartered at Columbia Pictures. According to a 10 Jun 1964 NYT brief, director Anatole Litvak was the first to sign on, followed by playwright-screenwriter Robert Anderson. Litvak told the 4 Apr 1965 NYT that Anderson had written a “fine treatment of the book” that he hoped to begin filming in Aug of that year. However, development was repeatedly extended, and a 3 Feb 1966 NYT news story suggested that Gore Vidal also contributed to the screenplay during this time. Final credit is shared between Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn (who also receives “additional dialogue” credit).
       Multiple reviews published around the time of the film’s release acknowledged that opening writing credits read, “From the novel by Hans Hellmut Kirst; based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase.” Some modern sources suggested that elements were taken from Chase’s 1952 novel, The Wary Transgressor, but the extent to which Chase’s works were used could not be determined based on information in contemporary documents.
       Meanwhile, the search began for actors to fill out the ensemble cast. Although a 14 Dec 1964 DV brief named William Holden as a possible lead, the 23 Jun 1965 Var announced the selection of ... More Less

On 12 Apr 1964, NYT announced that producer Sam Spiegel had purchased motion picture rights to Hans Hellmuth Kirst’s World War II detective novel, The Night of the Generals, which had been translated from the original German and published in the U.S. two months earlier. The 2 Feb 1965 DV noted Spiegel’s commitment to personally oversee the project through his independent production company, Horizon Pictures, headquartered at Columbia Pictures. According to a 10 Jun 1964 NYT brief, director Anatole Litvak was the first to sign on, followed by playwright-screenwriter Robert Anderson. Litvak told the 4 Apr 1965 NYT that Anderson had written a “fine treatment of the book” that he hoped to begin filming in Aug of that year. However, development was repeatedly extended, and a 3 Feb 1966 NYT news story suggested that Gore Vidal also contributed to the screenplay during this time. Final credit is shared between Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn (who also receives “additional dialogue” credit).
       Multiple reviews published around the time of the film’s release acknowledged that opening writing credits read, “From the novel by Hans Hellmut Kirst; based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase.” Some modern sources suggested that elements were taken from Chase’s 1952 novel, The Wary Transgressor, but the extent to which Chase’s works were used could not be determined based on information in contemporary documents.
       Meanwhile, the search began for actors to fill out the ensemble cast. Although a 14 Dec 1964 DV brief named William Holden as a possible lead, the 23 Jun 1965 Var announced the selection of Peter O’Toole as “General Tanz.” Robert Redford was considered to co-star, as the 13 Dec 1965 DV indicated that The Night of the Generals was one of three script options available for the actor upon returning from a vacation. A few weeks later, however, an item in the 27 Dec 1965 edition stated that Columbia sent an offer to Omar Sharif, who was under contract with the studio. He eventually agreed to appear, marking a reunion with O’Toole since their major star turns in Spiegel’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962, see entry). According to a 29 Mar 1967 DV news story, Sharif received $20,000 for the film.
       While the 23 Jun 1965 Var also indicated that Yves Montand was set for a role, he does not appear in the final film. A 30 Apr 1966 LAT brief noted the casting of Philippe Noiret as “Inspector Prevert,” but his character’s surname was changed to “Morand” in the script.
       As casting and pre-production continued from Paris, France, principal photography was scheduled to begin in Jan 1966. Some months earlier, publications in the 13 Aug 1965 DV and 22 Aug 1965 LAT reported that Litvak had already begun collecting footage, taking advantage of the sets of Paramount Pictures’ Is Paris Burning? (1966, see entry), which also depicted the Liberation of Paris in 1944. A 23 Feb 1966 Var production chart stated that work with the principal cast officially got underway on 21 Feb 1966 in Warsaw, Poland, making it the first time a major American production was allowed to film in Communist Poland. According to an 8 May 1966 NYT article, screenwriters changed the ending so that Peter O’Toole’s villainous Tanz emerged from WWII as a neo-Nazi leader in West Germany instead of a general in the East German Army. The location of the events was subsequently moved from East Germany to Hamburg, allegedly to avoid causing offense. Once the Polish Minister of Cultural Affairs approved the script, filmmakers received cooperation from Polish authorities, who allocated space in the center of Warsaw for the production to construct houses that were later blown up by Robert A. MacDonald’s special effects team. Approximately 200 Polish soldiers portrayed the Nazi troops, using weapons, tanks, and vehicles provided by the Polish Army. Interior scenes were filmed at the Vadja Studios and on location at the Łazienki Palace, which once served as the headquarters of Nazi operations during the Occupation.
       After three weeks in Poland, the 23 Mar 1966 Var indicated that the unit had relocated to the Studios de Boulogne in Paris. Some interior rooms of the Łazienki Palace were replicated on a sound stage, and the 23 Jun 1966 LAT stated that the art department also recreated the interior of the shuttered Rose Rouge Cabaret nightclub, where French singer Juliette Greco launched her career after the war. Greco was slated to appear in the picture. A 22 Apr 1966 LAT profile on Peter O’Toole noted that the production ran on the traditional French schedule from noon to 7:00 p.m. each day, with no break for lunch. The 16 Mar 1966 Var anticipated the completion of production in Jun 1966.
       An obituary published in the 17 Aug 1966 Var revealed that twenty-three-year-old Jean-Pierre Périer had been working as an assistant at the time of his death; the 30 Jan 1967 DV review credited him as “Jean-Pierre Perier-Pillu.” The 25 Jan 1967 Var also named Simon Benzakein as a production liaison and supervisor for the film on behalf of Columbia.
       Several contemporary sources referred to The Night of the Generals as the first British-French co-production to be approved under a new treaty that would guarantee government aid from both countries. However, a 19 Jun 1966 NYT article mentioned efforts made by French producers to secure the film as a “bona fide French production” after an increase in U.S. projects vying for French subsidy funds left many local filmmakers shorthanded. In compliance with their requests for changes regarding the treatment of fully or partially-U.S.-funded films, The Night of the Generals was released by Columbia Pictures in all territories except France, where bookings were arranged by a French distributor.
       Although the 19 Oct 1966 Var suggested that the initial premiere was scheduled for 21 Dec 1966 at the Stanley Warner Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, the release date was postponed until the following year. According to a 1 Feb 1967 Var article, plans for the London premiere were also changed from 29 Jan 1967 to 27 Jan 1967 at the request of producer Sam Spiegel. This reportedly caused conflict because Spiegel hoped to minimize the amount of press that could influence weekend crowds after negative British reviews of A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) “dampened enthusiasm” before its premiere. As a result, Spiegel requested that all national and Sunday newspapers refrain from publishing their critiques until the following Monday.
       Reports in the 11 Jan 1967 and 25 Jan 1967 Var referenced a screening at New York City’s Loew’s Capitol Theatre on 31 Jan or 1 Feb 1967, but news of the event could not be corroborated by sources published after those dates. The picture opened 2 Feb 1967 for an exclusive engagement at the Capitol and Cinema I before expanding to thirty additional area theaters on 21 Feb 1967. The much-delayed West Coast premiere took place 9 Feb 1967 at the original venue, with regular screenings to continue there the following day. An LAT advertisement the day of the event urged viewers to tune in for the televised red carpet arrivals, hosted by Var columnist Army Archerd. The picture opened in France in Apr 1967.
       Both the DV and 3 Feb 1967 NYT reviews listed a running time of 146 minutes.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1966
p. 130.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1965
Section D, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1965
Section N, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
22 Apr 1966
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
30 Apr 1966
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jun 1966
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jan 1967
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1967
Section E, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1967
Section E, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 12.
New York Times
11 Mar 1964
p. 37.
New York Times
12 Apr 1964
Section X, p. 11.
New York Times
10 Jun 1964
p. 51.
New York Times
4 Apr 1965
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
3 Feb 1966
p. 20.
New York Times
8 May 1966
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
19 Jun 1966
p. 1, 6.
New York Times
3 Feb 1967
p. 38.
New York Times
16 Feb 1967
p. 33.
Variety
23 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Variety
23 Jun 1965
p. 33.
Variety
23 Feb 1966
p. 27.
Variety
16 Mar 1966
p. 19.
Variety
23 Mar 1966
p. 23.
Variety
3 Aug 1966
p. 26.
Variety
17 Aug 1966
p. 63.
Variety
19 Oct 1966
p. 23.
Variety
11 Jan 1967
p. 22.
Variety
25 Jan 1967
p. 14.
Variety
25 Jan 1967
p. 22.
Variety
1 Feb 1967
p. 5.
Variety
12 Jul 1967
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Screen adpt
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Casting
Casting
Title seq des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Die Nacht der Generale by Hans Hellmut Kirst (Munich, 1962) and an incident written by James Hadley Chase.
DETAILS
Release Date:
2 February 1967
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 27 January 1967
New York opening: 2 February 1967
Los Angeles premiere: 9 February 1967
Los Angeles opening: 10 February 1967
Production Date:
21 February--June 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Horizon Pictures
Copyright Date:
1 February 1967
Copyright Number:
LP34167
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
148
Countries:
United Kingdom, France, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

A prostitute, who is also a German agent, is brutally murdered in Warsaw in 1942, and Major Grau of German Intelligence investigates three top-ranking Nazi generals: Kahlenberge, Seidlitz-Gabler, and Tanz, a ruthless sadist. Major Grau's persistence in bringing to justice one murderer during wartime irritates the High Command, and he is transferred. Two years later, the three generals and Grau are all present in Paris when the pathological Tanz murders a second prostitute. Aware that Grau is still on his trail, Tanz blames the crime on Hartmann, his orderly, who is having an affair with Seidlitz-Gabler's daughter Ulrike. After fleeing from Paris, Tanz uses the failure of the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler as an excuse for killing Grau and naming him as one of the traitors involved in the plot. Years later, after his imprisonment as a war criminal, Tanz arrives in Hamburg for a neo-Nazi rally. He is confronted by Inspector Morand of the French police who, during the war, helped Grau with his investigation. Morand produces Hartmann, who identifies Tanz as the murderer of the Parisian prostitute. Faced with inevitable disgrace and humiliation Tanz kills ... +


A prostitute, who is also a German agent, is brutally murdered in Warsaw in 1942, and Major Grau of German Intelligence investigates three top-ranking Nazi generals: Kahlenberge, Seidlitz-Gabler, and Tanz, a ruthless sadist. Major Grau's persistence in bringing to justice one murderer during wartime irritates the High Command, and he is transferred. Two years later, the three generals and Grau are all present in Paris when the pathological Tanz murders a second prostitute. Aware that Grau is still on his trail, Tanz blames the crime on Hartmann, his orderly, who is having an affair with Seidlitz-Gabler's daughter Ulrike. After fleeing from Paris, Tanz uses the failure of the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler as an excuse for killing Grau and naming him as one of the traitors involved in the plot. Years later, after his imprisonment as a war criminal, Tanz arrives in Hamburg for a neo-Nazi rally. He is confronted by Inspector Morand of the French police who, during the war, helped Grau with his investigation. Morand produces Hartmann, who identifies Tanz as the murderer of the Parisian prostitute. Faced with inevitable disgrace and humiliation Tanz kills himself. +

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

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