Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

190 mins | Drama | 19 December 1961

Director:

Stanley Kramer

Writer:

Abby Mann

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Ernest Laszlo

Production Designer:

Rudolph Sternad

Production Company:

Roxlom Films
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HISTORY

According to the 22 Dec 1961 LAT review, the following title card concludes the film: “Of the 99 men sentenced to prison by the time the Nuremberg trials ended on July 14, 1949, not one is still serving a sentence.”
       Judgment at Nuremberg was based on a made-for-television film of the same name, also written by Abby Mann, which aired on Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) on 16 Apr 1959, as part of CBS-TV’s “Playhouse 90” series. In its 20 Apr 1959 review of the show, DV praised the courtroom drama centering around Nazi war crimes committed by several German judges, except for “the blanking out of four or five references to Nazi ‘gas chambers,’” which the publication deemed “an act so childishly outrageous and inconsistent with the high moral tone of this drama as to be worthy of serious public protest.”
       On 1 Feb 1960, DV announced that producer-director Stanley Kramer had acquired rights to the telefilm, which Abby Mann would adapt for the screen. Mann was reportedly paid $200,000, as noted in a 26 Jan 1962 DV brief, which listed his salary on the CBS-TV production as only $6,000.
       Initial plans entailed shooting in the fall of 1960. Some location filming was to be done in Germany, where Mann was set to relocate in Feb 1960, and to be joined by Kramer three months later. Kramer was reportedly eyeing Spencer Tracy, with whom he had recently collaborated on Inherit the Wind (1960, see entry), to play the role of “Judge Dan Haywood.” The director cast Maximilian Schell in the role of German defense attorney “Hans ... More Less

According to the 22 Dec 1961 LAT review, the following title card concludes the film: “Of the 99 men sentenced to prison by the time the Nuremberg trials ended on July 14, 1949, not one is still serving a sentence.”
       Judgment at Nuremberg was based on a made-for-television film of the same name, also written by Abby Mann, which aired on Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) on 16 Apr 1959, as part of CBS-TV’s “Playhouse 90” series. In its 20 Apr 1959 review of the show, DV praised the courtroom drama centering around Nazi war crimes committed by several German judges, except for “the blanking out of four or five references to Nazi ‘gas chambers,’” which the publication deemed “an act so childishly outrageous and inconsistent with the high moral tone of this drama as to be worthy of serious public protest.”
       On 1 Feb 1960, DV announced that producer-director Stanley Kramer had acquired rights to the telefilm, which Abby Mann would adapt for the screen. Mann was reportedly paid $200,000, as noted in a 26 Jan 1962 DV brief, which listed his salary on the CBS-TV production as only $6,000.
       Initial plans entailed shooting in the fall of 1960. Some location filming was to be done in Germany, where Mann was set to relocate in Feb 1960, and to be joined by Kramer three months later. Kramer was reportedly eyeing Spencer Tracy, with whom he had recently collaborated on Inherit the Wind (1960, see entry), to play the role of “Judge Dan Haywood.” The director cast Maximilian Schell in the role of German defense attorney “Hans Rolfe,” which the actor had originated in the CBS-TV version. According to the 2 Apr 1961 LAT, Schell was able to wear his uniform from the first production, which had been stored at Western Costume Co. for the past two years.
       Kramer approached Laurence Olivier to play a role, as reported in 22 Feb 1960 DV and 9 Nov 1960 Var items, but the actor was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts with the play Becket, which opened 5 Oct 1960 at the St. James Theatre on Broadway. Likewise, Kramer wanted Tony Curtis to act in the film, but Curtis had scheduling conflicts, according to a 9 Dec 1960 DV brief. Actor Mike Lally was also offered a role, but refused to appear as a Nazi, according to an item in the 23 Feb 1961 DV. A 9 Feb 1961 DV brief stated that Hans Conried was cast in the role of a German night club performer, who would mock Spencer Tracy’s character and perform “special material” scripted by Jack Wilson and Lawrence Chaiken in his act. However, it does not appear that Conried was credited in the final film, and it is unclear whether or not he worked on the production. Barry Cahill was also named as a cast member in a 20 Apr 1961 DV item, but likely did not remain with the project. In the 16 Feb 1961 DV list of “Film Assignments,” Leonard Kunody was named second assistant director, and Tony Friedman was listed as an assistant in the editorial department.
       The 4 Apr 1960 DV stated that Kramer had recently renegotiated his deal with distributor United Artists (UA), which guaranteed him a $100,000 profit on his next four pictures, including Judgment at Nuremberg. The production budget was set between $3.5 million and $4 million, including a talent budget of $1.5 million, according to a 31 May 1961 Var item, which stated that Burt Lancaster would be paid $500,000 plus a percentage of the profits, while Spencer Tracy would receive a fee of $350,000. A 1 Sep 1961 delivery date of the final edit was established to allow dubbing in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, in time for a Dec 1961 release.
       The anticipated start of principal photography on 1 Feb 1961, as listed in a 30 Dec 1960 DV production chart, was postponed due to Burt Lancaster’s schedule, after the actor was unexpectedly detained on the set of Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, see entry). A week of rehearsals began 15 Feb 1961. Since Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland were unavailable to rehearse, Kramer’s “protégée,” Donna Anderson, read their parts, according to the 16 Feb 1961 DV. Filming was scheduled to begin the following week on 22 Feb 1961, as cited in a 20 Jan 1961 DV production chart. Courtroom interiors were shot at Revue Studios in Studio City, CA, where a press tent was set up next to Stage 28 and kept in place throughout filming. According to a 30 Apr 1961 NYT article, the courtroom set was built “on rollers,” allowing cameras to shoot scenes “in 360 degrees almost at will.” Publicist Al Horwits worked on the picture, as noted in the 23 Feb 1961 DV, and as a promotional gimmick, Horwits invited members of the Los Angeles, CA, press to report on the filmed trial scenes.
       Location shooting in Nuremberg, Germany, was expected to commence in early May 1961, according to the 30 Apr 1961 NYT. Although a stand-in for Richard Widmark was to be used in Nuremberg scenes, the actor volunteered to go, himself, as noted in the 16 Feb 1961 DV. An item in the 6 Feb 1961 NYT stated that some Nuremberg ruins were too small for filming and had to be recreated elsewhere. On 26 May 1961, a DV item reported that Kramer was due in Los Angeles from Europe that night, after the winding of German locations.
       During production, actors were shown filmed footage of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, shot by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, that was to be incorporated in the final edit of Judgment at Nuremberg, as noted in the 22 Mar 1961 DV.
       Filmmakers were granted a waiver by the American Federation of Musicians to score seven-eighths of the film in Germany, according to the 6 Feb 1961 DV. The Ernest Gold score was said to entail “vocal and orchestral arrangements” that would be impossible to duplicate in the U.S. A soundtrack released by UA ultimately included music from the film as well as “dramatic speeches” by Tracy, Lancaster, and Dietrich, as noted in a 17 Oct 1961 DV item.
       The 2 Oct 1961 DV reported that a novelization written by Abby Mann was arranged to be published by New American Library around the time of the film’s Dec 1961 release. A paperback edition would include film credits and still photographs from the set.
       While the film was in post-production, Kramer sought and won a restraining order against producer Cyrus Harold, who intended to release a different picture under the title Verdict at Nuremberg. Harold argued to keep the title, claiming his picture was closer to completion than Kramer’s, as reported in 1 Jun 1961 and 9 Jun 1961 DV news items. Kramer’s lawyers stressed that the similar title would create “unfair competition.” The restraining order granted was temporary until a 16 Jun 1961 “show-cause hearing.” In the meantime, Kramer’s legal team submitted affidavits proving $3 million had already been spent on their production, with an $1 million spent on publicity. The 10 Jul 1961 DV indicated that Cyrus Harold and partner Cy Roth had altered their working title to Justice at Nuremberg, which Kramer intended to fight with the same argument. The competing film was ultimately released in early Dec 1961 under the title Nuremberg (1961, see entry). The 8 Dec 1961 LAT review described the picture as “a cheap quickie” not to be mistaken for Kramer’s film.
       An item in the 6 Feb 1961 DV announced that, nine months in advance, UA had scheduled a 14 Dec 1961 world premiere at Congress Hall in Berlin, Germany. A full-page advertisement ran in NYT on 3 Feb 1961, in accordance with Kramer’s “planned pre-sell and early bookings” campaign, a strategy he had used to promote On the Beach (1959, see entry). Kramer also engaged principle actors to take part in the world premiere and other European openings well in advance of the events. Following its Berlin premiere, the film was scheduled to open in major European cities and “on a two-a-day basis in six major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.” The 6 Feb 1961 NYT stated that Kramer had held a press conference the day before, in hope of recruiting advance bookings from exhibitors.
       The first sneak preview was held 11 Aug 1961 at San Francisco, CA’s United Artists Theatre downtown. Although advertisements did not name the film, two local journalists identified it, possibly aiding in the selling of 1,126 tickets. Publicists Mike Kaplan and Al Horwits were said to be in attendance, along with Kramer, Mann, Ernest Gold, and associate producer Philip Langner.
       A U.S. charity premiere was set for 19 Dec 1961 at the Palace Theatre in New York City, to benefit the United States Committee for the United Nations, according to the 17 Sep 1961 NYT. Two Los Angeles benefit premieres were scheduled at the Pantages Theatre on 21 and 22 Dec 1961. Proceeds from the first event were set to go toward the John Tracy Clinic, as stated in the 6 Oct 1961 LAT, while the second raised funds for the Mt. Sinai Young Men of Cedars-Sinai Hospitals. Reserved-seat screenings at the Pantages were scheduled to commence on 23 Dec 1961. Advance ticket sales for Pantages showings set a record for the theater, according to a 15 Nov 1961 LAT brief. Later items in the 19 Jan 1962 DV and 2 Jul 1962 DV confirmed strong box-office grosses in New York in Los Angeles.
       Theatrical screenings began with a five-minute overture composed by Ernest Gold. The 13 Dec 1961 LAT also noted a second-act overture followed intermission, in keeping with Kramer’s desire to present the picture “like a stage production.”
       The 14 Dec 1961 Berlin premiere was attended by 1,200 people, including Kramer, Tracy, Widmark, Garland, Schell, and Montgomery Clift, as stated in the 15 Dec 1961 DV. Lancaster and Dietrich were unable to attend, which greatly disappointed locals and resulted in one Berlin newspaper devoting its entire front page to their absence. West Berlin Mayor Willie Brandt introduced the picture, according to the 15 Dec 1961 NYT, and told reporters that his countrymen “welcomed the film ‘even if we have to feel shame at many of its aspects.’” At the event, Judgment at Nuremberg was shown in its original English format. However, theater seats were equipped with headphones offering synchronized soundtracks in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. German viewers’ reactions were mixed, with some even suggesting the film presented the judges in too positive a light. The film eventually sparked student protests targeting Judge Hermann Markl of Munich, Germany, who had sentenced a Jewish man to death in 1942 for “racial infamy.” As noted in the 28 Mar 1962 NYT and 4 Apr 1962 Var, protestors passed out leaflets that included mention of Judgment at Nuremberg. In response to the protests, Markl resigned.
       In Japan, customs officials claimed legal authority to excise scenes under the customs tariff law, which “prohibit[ed] the entry of art objects, literature and other items injurious to public security or morals.” Scenes to be cut included a sequence showing the dead bodies of women being dumped into a mass grave at a concentration camp. UA intended to stop the prints from being altered, as reported in a 13 Jan 1962 LAT item.
       Critical reception was largely positive. Actor Cary Grant took out a two-page advertisement in the 30 Nov 1961 DV to congratulate Kramer on the film, which he called “remarkable,” and the 18 Oct 1961 DV review commended the picture as “a work of historical significance and timeless philosophical merit.” Judgment at Nuremberg was nominated for eleven Academy Awards: Maximilian Schell won Best Actor; Abby Mann won Best Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium); and the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture, Actor (Tracy), Actor in a Supporting Role (Clift), Actress in a Supporting Role (Garland), Art Direction (Black-and-White), Cinematography (Black-and-White), Costume Design (Black-and-White), Directing, and Film Editing. Schell also won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and Kramer won a Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture. Golden Globe nominations included Best Motion Picture – Drama, Promoting Intellectual Understanding (Kramer), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Garland), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Clift.) The picture also won a Bodil Award for Best Picture of 1961 from the Copenhagen Film Critics, as noted in the 9 May 1962 Var; it was awarded the Catholic Film Office’s Grand Prix, according to the 17 Oct 1962 Var; and a jury of Italian film critics named it best foreign film of the year, as stated in the 29 Mar 1962 NYT. The picture is ranked #10 on AFI’s list of Top Ten Courtroom Dramas. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1959
p. 11.
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1960
p. 1, 19.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1960
p. 9.
Daily Variety
28 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1961
p. 12.
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
23 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1961
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1961
p. 13.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1961
p. 3, 14.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1961
pp. 6-7.
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1962
p. 15.
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1962
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1961
Section M, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1961
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
15 Nov 1961
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1961
p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jan 1962
Section A, p. 9.
New York Times
17 Dec 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
6 Feb 1961
p. 26.
New York Times
30 Apr 1961.
---
New York Times
17 Sep 1961.
---
New York Times
15 Dec 1961
p. 49.
New York Times
20 Dec 1961
p. 36.
New York Times
28 Mar 1962
p. 16.
New York Times
29 Mar 1962
p. 28.
Variety
9 Nov 1960
p. 17.
Variety
31 May 1961
p. 7.
Variety
16 Aug 1961
p. 20.
Variety
4 Apr 1962
p. 19.
Variety
9 May 1962
p. 15.
Variety
17 Oct 1962
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Company grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Miss Dietrich's gowns
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd eng
Music ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the dir
Prod mgr
Scr supv
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
The German crew
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the teleplay "Judgment at Nuremberg" by Abby Mann on Playhouse 90 (CBS, 16 Apr 1959).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Lili Marlene," words and music by Norbert Schultze, Hans Leip and Thomas Connor
"Liebeslied," words and music by Ernest Gold and Alfred Perry.
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1961
Premiere Information:
World premiere: 14 December 1961, Berlin, Germany
New York premiere: 19 December 1961
Los Angeles opening: 23 December 1961
Production Date:
began 22 February 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Roxlom Films
Copyright Date:
14 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP21850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
190
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1948 Dan Haywood, an American judge recently defeated for reelection in Maine, arrives in Nuremberg to preside over the trial of several German judges accused of destroying law and justice to support Hitler's infamous mandates which took the lives of six million innocent people. From the moment the prosecuting attorney, Col. Tad Lawson, makes his emotion-packed opening statements, it is obvious that he is determined to obtain the maximum punishment for the judges. The defense lawyer, Hans Rolfe, counters by charging that if these men are guilty because they upheld the laws of their country, then all of Germany must be tried. To support his accusations of inhuman actions, Lawson offers the testimony of Rudolf Petersen, a victim of sterilization who, it develops, was castrated because of mental incompetence. During the long weeks of the trial, Haywood wanders about the city trying to understand the German people, and attempting to determine if they really understood what Hitler stood for. In particular, Haywood often chats with the aristocratic Madame Bertholt, the widow of a German general executed after the earlier war crimes trials. The proceedings reach a climax when a woman named Irene Hoffman is called to the stand. When she testifies that a former friend, an aged Jew, was falsely accused of being intimate with her (thereby "polluting the Aryan race") and then executed, Rolfe challenges her story by frantically accusing her of distorting the truth. As the distraught woman breaks into hysterical denials, one of the accused, Ernst Janning, interrupts the hearings and asks to make a statement. Throughout the trial he has remained silent, but he now voluntarily takes the stand and admits to being guilty ... +


In 1948 Dan Haywood, an American judge recently defeated for reelection in Maine, arrives in Nuremberg to preside over the trial of several German judges accused of destroying law and justice to support Hitler's infamous mandates which took the lives of six million innocent people. From the moment the prosecuting attorney, Col. Tad Lawson, makes his emotion-packed opening statements, it is obvious that he is determined to obtain the maximum punishment for the judges. The defense lawyer, Hans Rolfe, counters by charging that if these men are guilty because they upheld the laws of their country, then all of Germany must be tried. To support his accusations of inhuman actions, Lawson offers the testimony of Rudolf Petersen, a victim of sterilization who, it develops, was castrated because of mental incompetence. During the long weeks of the trial, Haywood wanders about the city trying to understand the German people, and attempting to determine if they really understood what Hitler stood for. In particular, Haywood often chats with the aristocratic Madame Bertholt, the widow of a German general executed after the earlier war crimes trials. The proceedings reach a climax when a woman named Irene Hoffman is called to the stand. When she testifies that a former friend, an aged Jew, was falsely accused of being intimate with her (thereby "polluting the Aryan race") and then executed, Rolfe challenges her story by frantically accusing her of distorting the truth. As the distraught woman breaks into hysterical denials, one of the accused, Ernst Janning, interrupts the hearings and asks to make a statement. Throughout the trial he has remained silent, but he now voluntarily takes the stand and admits to being guilty of both ignoring and rationalizing the inhuman Nazi acts because he felt they were for the ultimate good of the country. As Haywood and his two associate judges ponder their decisions, the news that Russia has blockaded Berlin prompts military officials to hint that lenient judgments might be wise--and expedient. But Haywood, determined to stand for "justice, truth, and the value of a single human being," refuses to compromise, and he sentences the defendants to life imprisonment. The defiant Rolfe sneers that in five years the convicted men will be free. +

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.