The Hitler Gang (1944)

139 mins | Biography | 1944

Director:

John Farrow

Cinematographer:

Ernest Laszlo

Editor:

Eda Warren

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Franz Bachelin

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's opening credits consist of the main title and the following written foreword: "In 1918 the Germans, facing annihilation, surrendered to the Allies. But there were men among them who did not acknowledge defeat. Before the last shot was fired, they were already planning for the next world war. This is the story of those men. Shocking though it may be, it is based on fact. The episodes throughout are authenticated by documentary records, by the works of reputable historians, and in some instances by actual participants. In every detail it is true insofar as decency will permit." All other production credits appear at the end of the film.
       Paramount billed The Hitler Gang as a "documentary-propaganda" film, and while the historical record reflects that the picture's depiction of Hitler's rise to power is presented with reasonable accuracy, various inaccuracies and interpretations may also be included. During his campaign of conquest in World War II, Hitler ordered the methodical massacre of over six million Jews and other political enemies. He committed suicide in 1945 when the Russians invaded Berlin, and Germany faced defeat. Twenty-four of his surviving associates, in addition to various organizations, were indicted as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal.
       NYT film critic Bosley Crowther, noted that the "film is of questionable worth as a document for mass instruction in the political facts of Germany. For the emphasis in this picture is so heavily upon the 'Hitler gang' and upon the inside intrigues by which it gained and held its power, that the impression conveyed is that these leaders are entirely responsible for the Nazi ... More Less

The film's opening credits consist of the main title and the following written foreword: "In 1918 the Germans, facing annihilation, surrendered to the Allies. But there were men among them who did not acknowledge defeat. Before the last shot was fired, they were already planning for the next world war. This is the story of those men. Shocking though it may be, it is based on fact. The episodes throughout are authenticated by documentary records, by the works of reputable historians, and in some instances by actual participants. In every detail it is true insofar as decency will permit." All other production credits appear at the end of the film.
       Paramount billed The Hitler Gang as a "documentary-propaganda" film, and while the historical record reflects that the picture's depiction of Hitler's rise to power is presented with reasonable accuracy, various inaccuracies and interpretations may also be included. During his campaign of conquest in World War II, Hitler ordered the methodical massacre of over six million Jews and other political enemies. He committed suicide in 1945 when the Russians invaded Berlin, and Germany faced defeat. Twenty-four of his surviving associates, in addition to various organizations, were indicted as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal.
       NYT film critic Bosley Crowther, noted that the "film is of questionable worth as a document for mass instruction in the political facts of Germany. For the emphasis in this picture is so heavily upon the 'Hitler gang' and upon the inside intrigues by which it gained and held its power, that the impression conveyed is that these leaders are entirely responsible for the Nazi state....'The Hitler Gang' is cut very much to the pattern of some of our early and better gangster films....Paramount has taken a popular though misleading line in treating National Socialism in the elementary terms of an American gang. It means that the grave responsibility of the German citizens for what they have allowed has been neatly tossed onto the shoulders of a few ruffians, Army officers and industrialists." Crowther concluded that the film "is a dangerously limited statement of the facts." Likewise, the Catholic newspaper Tidings complained that the film suggests that "Hitler's wrath against the Jews originated in political expediency and that he might as easily and readily have begun a war of extermination against the Catholics," and also noted that "Hitler's alleged designs upon his young niece....would seem difficult if not impossible, to prove."
       According to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, pre-production began in Mar 1943, during which time extensive research was conducted to provide factual documentation for the film. Other information in the collection reveals that Claude Rains was considered for the role of Adolf Hitler, and that Kurt Kreuger was originally cast as Reinhard Heydrich. HR news items add the following information about the production: Alexander Knox and Orson Welles were tested for the role of Hitler, Albert Basserman was considered for the role of Paul von Hindenburg, and Porter Hall was initially cast as Heinrich Himmler. Paramount utilized contemporary newsreel footage, some of which may have been drawn from the Museum of Modern Art collection, for specific historical scenes in this film. Paramount News items noted that the studio purchased two rooms from the New York Hearst Collection to use as industrialist Alfred Hugenberg's library, and that a large painting depicting the glories of Prussianism was designed for the film by Franz Bachelin, and painted by artists Benno Prival and P. T. Blackburn. Some scenes were shot at Warner Bros. studios, at the Los Angeles YMCA, and on location in Elysian Park and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA. Var lists the running time as 101 minutes, but this length is probably an error. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Apr 1944.
---
Daily Variety
25 Apr 44
p. 3, 5
Film Daily
26 Apr 44
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 43
p. 2, 4
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 43
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 43
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 44
p. 3, 12
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 44
p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Dec 43
p. 1675.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Apr 44
p. 1865.
New York Times
8 May 44
p. 15.
New York Times
14 May 1944.
---
Tidings
Jul 1944.
---
Variety
26 Apr 44
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Robert Watson
Gene Stutenroth
William Yetter Sr.
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser supv
COSTUMES
Ward des
MUSIC
Mus score
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial coach
Dial coach
Dial coach
Asst prod mgr
Locations
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 6 May 1944
Production Date:
28 October 1943--7 January 1944
addl scenes and retakes: 4 February, 17 February, 29 February and 6 March 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 June 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12715
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
139
Length(in feet):
8,925
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9763
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Nov 1918, after Austrian-born lance corporal Adolf Hitler is admitted to a hospital due to temporary blindness, a doctor determines that his condition is due to severe emotional problems and paranoia rather than a war injury. Hitler is released just as Germany loses the war, and when he later overhears several soldiers discussing the overthrow of the new military government, he reports the men to Captain Ernst Roehm, and becomes a paid military informant. Roehm orders Hitler to join the German Workers party, and Hitler takes control of the party, luring in new members such as politician Gregor Strasser, his chauffeur, Heinrich Himmler, and Rudolf Hess, with his powerful speeches. Seeking a scapegoat for Germany's severe postwar economic problems, Hitler targets the Jewish population. When other members of the Party oppose Hitler's bigotry, Hitler orders Himmler to keep a record of his detractors. In addition, Hitler brings in former air force captain Hermann Goering to provide protection for the Party in exchange for appointing Goering head of the air force when they take over the government. In 1920, the Party, known as the National Socialist German Workers, or Nazis, has only sixty-four members, but by 1923, Hitler's leadership has caused the membership to swell to 70,000 people. The now powerful Nazis use brutality to suppress any opposition to their ideas. Fearful of Hitler's new influence, the government bans his meetings, but when Hitler promises to take no action against the government, Bavarian state commissioner General Gustav von Kahr agrees to lift the ban. However, on 8 November 1923, Hitler disrupts von Kahr's meeting at a beer hall and announces his overthrow of the government. The next day, ... +


In Nov 1918, after Austrian-born lance corporal Adolf Hitler is admitted to a hospital due to temporary blindness, a doctor determines that his condition is due to severe emotional problems and paranoia rather than a war injury. Hitler is released just as Germany loses the war, and when he later overhears several soldiers discussing the overthrow of the new military government, he reports the men to Captain Ernst Roehm, and becomes a paid military informant. Roehm orders Hitler to join the German Workers party, and Hitler takes control of the party, luring in new members such as politician Gregor Strasser, his chauffeur, Heinrich Himmler, and Rudolf Hess, with his powerful speeches. Seeking a scapegoat for Germany's severe postwar economic problems, Hitler targets the Jewish population. When other members of the Party oppose Hitler's bigotry, Hitler orders Himmler to keep a record of his detractors. In addition, Hitler brings in former air force captain Hermann Goering to provide protection for the Party in exchange for appointing Goering head of the air force when they take over the government. In 1920, the Party, known as the National Socialist German Workers, or Nazis, has only sixty-four members, but by 1923, Hitler's leadership has caused the membership to swell to 70,000 people. The now powerful Nazis use brutality to suppress any opposition to their ideas. Fearful of Hitler's new influence, the government bans his meetings, but when Hitler promises to take no action against the government, Bavarian state commissioner General Gustav von Kahr agrees to lift the ban. However, on 8 November 1923, Hitler disrupts von Kahr's meeting at a beer hall and announces his overthrow of the government. The next day, General Erich Ludendorff marches with Hitler's troops through the city, but von Kahr's army attacks the Nazis, and Hitler and his followers are arrested. Although the chief prosecutor wants Hitler and his followers executed, the chief justice advises extreme leniency due to the possibility of Hitler revealing those members of the German army who initially supported him. Hitler and his followers are therefore sentenced to prison, but Goering escapes to Austria and is admitted into a sanitarium for treatment of his morphine addiction. During his term at Landsberg Prison, Hitler dictates his autobiography, titled Mein Kampf , and becomes influenced by astrology. In the spring of 1924, Joseph Goebbels, the Berlin district leader of the Nazi party, visits Hitler and pledges his allegiance. By December 1924, when Hitler is released, Germany is experiencing prosperity. Based on his astrologer's advice to lay low for five years, Hitler moves to a Bavarian mountain cottage with his sister, Angela Raubal, and her daughter "Geli." When Hitler becomes obsessed with Geli and loses sight of his political goals, Himmler, Hess and Goering, who has returned despite reports of his insanity, worry that Hitler may lose the Party to Strasser, who has become head of the Party's northern territory. After Hitler forces himself on Geli, Himmler, hoping to make Hitler jealous, arranges for him to catch Geli with a handsome young Nazi officer. Hitler murders Geli and her death is ruled a suicide, as the only reporter who found evidence to the contrary is murdered by Hitler's men. By 1930, Germany has slumped into a severe economic depression, and Hitler is determined to attain power legally. Hitler now tailors his speeches to suit his audience, and the Nazi party jumps from the smallest party to the second largest party in Germany. Nevertheless, Paul von Hindenburg defeats Hitler and is re-elected as president of the Weimar Republic. Although his goals differ from Hitler, von Hindenburg reluctantly appoints him to be the Reichschancellor, intending to get rid of him in six months. Instead, Hess and Goering engineer a Communist scare to rally support behind the Nazi party, and frame the Communists for burning down the Reichstag. Hitler then uses von Hindenburg's decree limiting personal liberties to wage a systematic campaign against all who oppose the Nazis, including Jews, Communists, newspapers and trade unions. The education system comes under Nazi control, and the nation's youth are indoctrinated to believe in Germanic principles, as opposed to Christian principles. Although the military leaders promise to appoint Hitler as Supreme Commander when the elderly von Hindenburg dies, they demand that Hitler's Storm Troopers, who are under Goering's command and were created to protect the Nazis, be dissolved. Roehm is ordered to lure Hitler and the Storm Troopers into a trap at Weissensee, but Himmler, Hess and Goering, seeing that Hitler is mentally unstable, insist that he take action to "cleanse" the Party. To this end, Hitler is sent to the mountains while Himmler and Goering create lengthy lists of their detractors, and those whom they simply dislike, from which they wage a campaign of murder, killing thousands over the course of four days. Roehm, Strasser and von Kahr are among those killed. When von Hindenburg dies, Hitler takes control of the army, and proceeds with his plan to exterminate the Jews and take over the world. +

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.