The Road Back (1937)

105 or 110 mins | Drama | 1 August 1937

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HISTORY

This film was the sequel to Universal's 1930 picture All Quiet on the Western Front , which starred Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim and Slim Summerville and was directed by Lewis Milestone ( AFI Catalog of Feature Films , 1921-30; F2.0094.) Summerville was the only actor to appear in the same role in both films. According to HR , Jean Rogers was tested for one of the female lead roles in this film. NYT lists James Whale as producer, as well as director. According to Box , German consul George Gyssling served a letter of warning to sixty actors and technicians connected with the making of this film, stating that if anything detrimental to German culture was to be found in the picture, not only would the film be banned from exhibition in that country, but the players appearing in it would also be banned from having their pictures exhibited from all past, present and future productions. A Feb 1937 HR news item noted that "powderman George Daly was killed by an exploding bomb on the set" of the film. Modern sources add the following information about the production: The original budget was set at $770,000 with a nine-week shooting schedule. Heavy rains and other delays pushed the film over-schedule. When the production wrapped on 21 Apr, after 73 shooting days, the costs were well over one million dollars. After initial previews, twenty-one separate cuts were ordered to make the film more palatable to the German government. Writer Charles Kenyon was then ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Summerville, which ... More Less

This film was the sequel to Universal's 1930 picture All Quiet on the Western Front , which starred Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim and Slim Summerville and was directed by Lewis Milestone ( AFI Catalog of Feature Films , 1921-30; F2.0094.) Summerville was the only actor to appear in the same role in both films. According to HR , Jean Rogers was tested for one of the female lead roles in this film. NYT lists James Whale as producer, as well as director. According to Box , German consul George Gyssling served a letter of warning to sixty actors and technicians connected with the making of this film, stating that if anything detrimental to German culture was to be found in the picture, not only would the film be banned from exhibition in that country, but the players appearing in it would also be banned from having their pictures exhibited from all past, present and future productions. A Feb 1937 HR news item noted that "powderman George Daly was killed by an exploding bomb on the set" of the film. Modern sources add the following information about the production: The original budget was set at $770,000 with a nine-week shooting schedule. Heavy rains and other delays pushed the film over-schedule. When the production wrapped on 21 Apr, after 73 shooting days, the costs were well over one million dollars. After initial previews, twenty-one separate cuts were ordered to make the film more palatable to the German government. Writer Charles Kenyon was then ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable. At that point, Whale left the project and was replaced by Edward Sloman, with Charles Maynard as the new editor. Despite these problems, the film was one of the top-grossing films of 1936-37. This film marked the motion picture debut of Broadway actor John Emery. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2-Apr-37
---
Film Daily
18 Jun 37
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 37
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 37
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 37
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
24 Apr 37
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
26 Jun 37
p. 88.
New York Times
18 Jun 37
p. 25.
Variety
23 Jun 37
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
PRODUCTION MISC
Explosives
SOURCES
LITERARY
From the novel The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque and the English-language translation by A. W. Wheen (Boston, 1931.)
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 August 1937
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 June 1937
Production Date:
27 January--21 April 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co.
Copyright Date:
17 June 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7272
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105 or 110
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3137
SYNOPSIS

As World War I ends, a remnant of the German army gathers together in the trenches behind the front lines, preparing for one final offensive. They attack and suffer many casualties, but manage to capture a French outpost just as the Armistice is signed. As the soldiers begin their march home, they have little understanding of how their world has forever changed. Returning to Germany, they discover waves of revolution, as all officers in the army are demoted and the Kaiser flees the country. Finally at home, Tjaden, Willy, Ernst and Ludwig encounter a mob, which attempts to tear off Ludwig's officer's stripes. The four men, though outnumbered, take on the mob and defeat it. Ernst has a tearful reunion with his parents and his old sweetheart, Elsa, Ludwig's sister, until he realizes that she is still living in a Germany that no longer exists. Tjaden stops a mob's attack on the butcher shop of Mayor, and receives the hand of Mayor's daughter Angelina as part of his reward. Upon returning to school, the veterans find children in the place of their old classmates. Albert, another veteran, is dismayed to learn that his fiancée Lucie, has been befriended by war profiteer Bartscher. While the couple quarrels, troops fire upon a group of hunger strikers. Weil, one of the strikers, marches up to the captain of the troops, Von Hagen, and tells him that his troops are shooting down veterans. Von Hagen calmly orders his old comrade shot, and the crowd disperses when it is fired upon by machine guns. After Tjaden's wedding, the old friends go to a cafe ... +


As World War I ends, a remnant of the German army gathers together in the trenches behind the front lines, preparing for one final offensive. They attack and suffer many casualties, but manage to capture a French outpost just as the Armistice is signed. As the soldiers begin their march home, they have little understanding of how their world has forever changed. Returning to Germany, they discover waves of revolution, as all officers in the army are demoted and the Kaiser flees the country. Finally at home, Tjaden, Willy, Ernst and Ludwig encounter a mob, which attempts to tear off Ludwig's officer's stripes. The four men, though outnumbered, take on the mob and defeat it. Ernst has a tearful reunion with his parents and his old sweetheart, Elsa, Ludwig's sister, until he realizes that she is still living in a Germany that no longer exists. Tjaden stops a mob's attack on the butcher shop of Mayor, and receives the hand of Mayor's daughter Angelina as part of his reward. Upon returning to school, the veterans find children in the place of their old classmates. Albert, another veteran, is dismayed to learn that his fiancée Lucie, has been befriended by war profiteer Bartscher. While the couple quarrels, troops fire upon a group of hunger strikers. Weil, one of the strikers, marches up to the captain of the troops, Von Hagen, and tells him that his troops are shooting down veterans. Von Hagen calmly orders his old comrade shot, and the crowd disperses when it is fired upon by machine guns. After Tjaden's wedding, the old friends go to a cafe where Albert discovers Lucie in the company of Bartscher. Albert draws his revolver and coolly shoots Bartscher dead. At his trial, Albert's friends argue that the murder was not his fault, but that of the government, as Albert was trained for four years to kill men he never knew, and thus felt no restraint in killing a man who was doing him harm. Despite their pleas, Albert is found guilty. As Ernst and Ludwig walk in the country, they come across a group of young boys doing military drills, no doubt preparing for the next war while still in the shadow of the last. The two men comment on the utter futility of it all as they walk away. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.