Berlin Express (1948)

86 mins | Drama | 1948

Full page view
HISTORY

The opening credits contain the following written statement: "Actual scenes in Frankfurt and Berlin were photographed by authorization of The United States Army of Occupation, The British Army of Occupation, The Soviet Army of Occupation." Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In late 1946, producer Bert Granet spent six weeks in Germany and France taking 16mm footage to use as a "reference point" in the writing of the film's script. "On-the-spot" exteriors, which included the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichschancellerie and the Hotel Adlon, were taken in Berlin and also in Paris. News items also note that the picture's crew was the first to receive permission to film in Berlin's Russian zone. (At the time of this production, Berlin was divided into three separate sectors, which were controlled by the English, Russian and American armed forces.)
       In Jun 1947, HR announced that John Garfield was being "negotiated for" as the film's star. Once shooting was completed in Europe in early Sep 1947, Hollywood production was delayed for several weeks because director Jacques Tourneur had difficulty getting an airplane out of Paris, and Merle Oberon suffered a fractured jaw. A studio reproduction of Paris' Gare de L'Est railway station was built for the picture. [Modern sources note that night-for-night exteriors were filmed at the actual station.] Although HR reported in mid-Oct 1947 that Charles O'Curran was to stage a dance routine for the beer hall sequence, no routine was seen in the viewed print and O'Curran is not credited on screen. In early HR production charts, William Dorfman, who is credited onscreen as "assistant to the ... More Less

The opening credits contain the following written statement: "Actual scenes in Frankfurt and Berlin were photographed by authorization of The United States Army of Occupation, The British Army of Occupation, The Soviet Army of Occupation." Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In late 1946, producer Bert Granet spent six weeks in Germany and France taking 16mm footage to use as a "reference point" in the writing of the film's script. "On-the-spot" exteriors, which included the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichschancellerie and the Hotel Adlon, were taken in Berlin and also in Paris. News items also note that the picture's crew was the first to receive permission to film in Berlin's Russian zone. (At the time of this production, Berlin was divided into three separate sectors, which were controlled by the English, Russian and American armed forces.)
       In Jun 1947, HR announced that John Garfield was being "negotiated for" as the film's star. Once shooting was completed in Europe in early Sep 1947, Hollywood production was delayed for several weeks because director Jacques Tourneur had difficulty getting an airplane out of Paris, and Merle Oberon suffered a fractured jaw. A studio reproduction of Paris' Gare de L'Est railway station was built for the picture. [Modern sources note that night-for-night exteriors were filmed at the actual station.] Although HR reported in mid-Oct 1947 that Charles O'Curran was to stage a dance routine for the beer hall sequence, no routine was seen in the viewed print and O'Curran is not credited on screen. In early HR production charts, William Dorfman, who is credited onscreen as "assistant to the producer," is listed as assistant director. Nate Levinson is listed as assistant director in later production charts. Reviewers commented on the picture's realistic, documentary-like depiction of post-war Germany, and its use of non-translated French and German dialogue. According to NYHT , Major Edward C. Wilson and Private James B. Grundy of the British Army had parts in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The film's Boston premiere benefitted the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund, according to HR .
       An Aug 1997 AmCin article adds the following information about the production: Granet first came up with the film's story after reading a Life magazine photo-essay about a Paris-to-Frankfurt-to-Berlin train. During location shooting, Col. George Eyster of the U.S. Army's public relations office served as liaison for the cast and crew. American soldiers stationed at the I. G. Farben munitions building in Salzburg, which deliberately was left untouched during bombing raids so that the U.S. could use it as an occupation headquarters, appeared as themselves in the film. Granet originally planned to shoot interiors in French studios, but because of fluctuations in the value of the franc, was forced to use RKO's Pathé Studios in Culver City. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jul 48
pp. 232-33, 250.
American Cinematographer
Aug 97
pp. 92-96.
Box Office
10 Apr 1948.
---
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1947.
---
Daily Variety
6 Apr 48
p. 3, 7
Film Daily
6 Apr 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 46
p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 47
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 47
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 47
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 47
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 48
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 48
p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Apr 48
p. 4118.
New York Herald Tribune
28 Aug 1947.
---
New York Times
21 May 48
p. 19.
Variety
7 Apr 48
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Richard Powers
Allan Ray
Jack G. Lee
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Dore Schary in Charge of Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Miss Oberon's gowns by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
Boston, MA premiere: 7 May 1948
Production Date:
early August--early September 1947
22 September--late November 1947
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
6 May 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1651
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
86
Length(in feet):
7,778
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12675
SYNOPSIS

In post-war Paris, revered German peacemaker Dr. Heinrich Bernhardt addresses a secret conference of United Nations representatives on the controversial topic of German reunification. In another part of the city, a coded message consisting of the number "9850," the European time "21:45," the letter "D" and the place "Sulzbach" is found tied to a dead pigeon. The French police are unable to decipher the message completely, but notify the Allied authorities to be on the alert for spy activities. That night, seven passengers board the same car of a Berlin-bound train: Robert F. Lindley, an American agricultural expert, Lucienne Mirbeau, a French secretary, German businessman Otto Franzen, James Sterling, an English schoolteacher assigned to "re-educate" the Germans, Lt. Maxim Kiroshilou of the Russian army, Henri Perrot, a former member of the French underground, and Hans Schmidt, a mysterious German. One Compartment "D" is occupied by an unseen dignitary, who Robert and James soon learn is Dr. Bernhardt. Robert then discovers that he has been moved to another compartment and that "D" is now empty. At 21:45, in the border town of Sulzbach, the train is stopped momentarily by an overturned horsecart. A few moments later, a man calling himself Dr. Heinrich Bernhardt enters his reassigned compartment and triggers a deadly grenade blast. Later, in war-devastated Frankfurt, the six male passengers are brought in for questioning at the American occupation headquarters. After they interrogate Robert, Colonel Johns and a major talk with Otto Franzen, who turns out to be the real Dr. Bernhardt and Lucienne's boss. Still concerned for Dr. Bernhardt's safety, the Americans insist that he continue his impersonation, but ... +


In post-war Paris, revered German peacemaker Dr. Heinrich Bernhardt addresses a secret conference of United Nations representatives on the controversial topic of German reunification. In another part of the city, a coded message consisting of the number "9850," the European time "21:45," the letter "D" and the place "Sulzbach" is found tied to a dead pigeon. The French police are unable to decipher the message completely, but notify the Allied authorities to be on the alert for spy activities. That night, seven passengers board the same car of a Berlin-bound train: Robert F. Lindley, an American agricultural expert, Lucienne Mirbeau, a French secretary, German businessman Otto Franzen, James Sterling, an English schoolteacher assigned to "re-educate" the Germans, Lt. Maxim Kiroshilou of the Russian army, Henri Perrot, a former member of the French underground, and Hans Schmidt, a mysterious German. One Compartment "D" is occupied by an unseen dignitary, who Robert and James soon learn is Dr. Bernhardt. Robert then discovers that he has been moved to another compartment and that "D" is now empty. At 21:45, in the border town of Sulzbach, the train is stopped momentarily by an overturned horsecart. A few moments later, a man calling himself Dr. Heinrich Bernhardt enters his reassigned compartment and triggers a deadly grenade blast. Later, in war-devastated Frankfurt, the six male passengers are brought in for questioning at the American occupation headquarters. After they interrogate Robert, Colonel Johns and a major talk with Otto Franzen, who turns out to be the real Dr. Bernhardt and Lucienne's boss. Still concerned for Dr. Bernhardt's safety, the Americans insist that he continue his impersonation, but while standing alone at the Frankfurt train station, the German is approached by an old friend, Johann Walther. Seconds later, a woman screams, creating a distraction, and Dr. Bernhardt disappears. A desperate Lucienne reveals Dr. Bernhardt's impersonation to Robert, James, Perrot and Maxim and finally convinces the reluctant group to help her find her kidnapped boss. Dr. Bernhardt, meanwhile, is being kept by his German enemies at Walther's, who confesses that he betrayed his friend to obtain the address of his missing wife. That night, after a fruitless day of searching, the weary group stops at a public bulletin board, where Lucienne sees a notice posted by Walther. Believing that Walther may know something about Dr. Bernhardt, the team goes to his address, but Walther, who was informed by the Germans that his wife is dead, has hanged himself. With no leads, Lucienne is about to give up the search when Perrot suggests that they scour the underground German nightclubs. At one club, Robert and Lucienne notice a German woman smoking a cigarette identical to the type smoked by Dr. Bernhardt, and during a clown and mind reading act, Robert asks the performers if they know Dr. Bernhardt's location. The question leads to a fight, and in the mêlée, the clown, Ludwig, is knocked out and his costume is stolen. Sgt. Barnes, an American soldier who was flirting with the German woman, then leads Robert and Lucienne to her home in a bombed-out brewery. There the double-crossing Barnes, whose German name is Heinz, turns Robert and Lucienne over to Dr. Bernhardt's Nazi kidnappers, who include the clown and leader Kessler. Kessler confesses that he led Robert and Lucienne to the brewery because he believes that Lucienne will tell him the details of his unification plan, which Dr. Bernhardt has refused to reveal, in exchange for her boss's life. During the discussion, Ludwig bursts in and a gunfight ensues in which the fleeing impostor clown is wounded. When Lucienne then refuses to talk, Kessler prepares to execute both her and Dr. Bernhardt, but is interrupted by the arrival of Perrot and some American soldiers, who were tipped off by the dying impostor clown, who turns out to be the mysterious Hans Schmidt. In a corner of the brewery, Perrot gets Kessler alone and reveals himself to be the head spy. Mistrustful of Kessler, Perrot shoots him, then re-insinuates himself into the group. Later, as a grateful Dr. Bernhardt and the others continue on to Berlin, Perrot attempts to strangle the doctor in his train compartment. Robert stops the assassination, however, and Perrot is killed while trying to escape. In Berlin, after Lucienne promises Robert she will see him again some day, the American, English and Russian allies say hopeful goodbyes to one another, then drive off to their respective, separate sectors. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.