The Big Lift (1950)

119 mins | Drama | May 1950

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HISTORY

This film's working titles were The Quartered City and Two Corridors East . George Seaton's onscreen credit reads: "Written and Directed by George Seaton." The opening titles include the following statements: "This picture was made in occupied Germany. All scenes were photographed in the exact locale associated with the story, including episodes in the American, French, British and Russian sectors of Berlin. With the exception of Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas, all military personnel appearing in this film are actual members of the U.S. Armed Forces on duty in Germany." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the Berlin production was plagued by logistical and political problems. Seaton wrote an article for the NYT in which he detailed some of the difficulties involved in filming: "Finally the Soviets promised cooperation on the condition we inform them well in advance as to what, where, when and how we planned to shoot. We supplied the information to their satisfaction and a few weeks later made our way through the Brandenburg Gate. Our location, just inside the Gate, was deserted. While shooting in the other sectors, we had been given soldiers or district police to handle traffic and the inevitable crowd that likes to watch a picture company at work. Here there was no one. We controlled the spectators who quickly gathered as best we could and began rehearsing. Then, just as we were about to turn the camera, a radio blared forth. Looking up, we saw, directly over our heads, a newly erected loud-speaker through which was coming the voice of a news commentator revealing 'the miserable ... More Less

This film's working titles were The Quartered City and Two Corridors East . George Seaton's onscreen credit reads: "Written and Directed by George Seaton." The opening titles include the following statements: "This picture was made in occupied Germany. All scenes were photographed in the exact locale associated with the story, including episodes in the American, French, British and Russian sectors of Berlin. With the exception of Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas, all military personnel appearing in this film are actual members of the U.S. Armed Forces on duty in Germany." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the Berlin production was plagued by logistical and political problems. Seaton wrote an article for the NYT in which he detailed some of the difficulties involved in filming: "Finally the Soviets promised cooperation on the condition we inform them well in advance as to what, where, when and how we planned to shoot. We supplied the information to their satisfaction and a few weeks later made our way through the Brandenburg Gate. Our location, just inside the Gate, was deserted. While shooting in the other sectors, we had been given soldiers or district police to handle traffic and the inevitable crowd that likes to watch a picture company at work. Here there was no one. We controlled the spectators who quickly gathered as best we could and began rehearsing. Then, just as we were about to turn the camera, a radio blared forth. Looking up, we saw, directly over our heads, a newly erected loud-speaker through which was coming the voice of a news commentator revealing 'the miserable poverty which existed the world over except in Russia, certain neighboring countries and the East Zone of Germany.' We waited and waited, but the voice droned on. There was nothing to do but to shoot the scene silently and add the dialogue sound track later. The scene over, we packed up our equipment and returned into the British sector. The radio stopped abruptly. Out of curiosity we went back to the spot the next day--the loud speaker had been removed."
       According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also at UCLA, the production was based at the Ufa Studio on Viktoriastrasse in Berlin. That studio supplied the sound crew and filled various other craft positions including camera assistants, makeup artists, and assistant director. In an Am Cin article, cinematographer Charles G. Clarke described other problems involved in shooting in post-war Germany; "One of the inducements for making The Big Lift in Germany was that it afforded opportunity for our studio to utilize some of its 'frozen' funds in that country--money that had been earned there by other 20th Century-Fox releases....As the script required that many of the scenes be played in heavily overcast weather, to point up the difficulty with which the airlift was carried on, we shot many of the scenes in stormy weather....Those who have seen the picture remark about the very effective aerial shots. These may be attributed to the fact that we used a C82 'Flying Boxcar' for our camera ship. The construction of this famous Fairchild plane is such that the rear of the fuselage may be removed, permitting a clear, unobstructed view and allowing panorama shots up to 170 degrees....In the very beginning we were under pressure to complete all scenes in which Montgomery Clift appears, because he had another commitment back in the United States. Then, after these scenes were disposed of in record time, we faced a new problem; time was running out on our German leading lady, Cornell Borchers, who was committed for another picture." Studio records reveal that shortly after Clarke and camera operator Lou Kunkel arrived in early May, before prinicipal photography began, they shot much of the activity at both terminals of the Lift, in addition to shooting process plates for later use.
       According to studio records, the supporting cast may also have included Harold Dyrenforth, Otto Grevis, George Ghermanoff, Erno Kiraly, John Peters, Fred Spitz, Walter Thiele and Bruce Morgan. On Sunday 11 Dec 1949, additional filming was done at Lockheed Aircraft Service Inc., Burbank. A radio dramatization of the story starring Paul Douglas was broadcast on the Screen Directors' Playhouse program on 18 Jan 1951. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
May 50
pp. 158-59, 172-73.
Box Office
22 Apr 1950.
---
Daily Variety
10 Apr 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
7 Apr 50
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 49
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 49
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 50
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Apr 50
p. 261.
New York Times
16 Apr 1950.
---
New York Times
27 Apr 50
p. 37.
Variety
12 Apr 50
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam technician
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Script supv
Language instructor
SOURCES
SONGS
"Chattanooga Choo Choo," music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Mack Gordon, German lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher
"Vielleicht Solist du Mein Gluck Sein," by Gunther Neumann
"Mariandl," music by Hans Lang, lyrics by Kurt Nachmann
+
SONGS
"Chattanooga Choo Choo," music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Mack Gordon, German lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher
"Vielleicht Solist du Mein Gluck Sein," by Gunther Neumann
"Mariandl," music by Hans Lang, lyrics by Kurt Nachmann
"In Einem Kleinen Cafe in Hernals," music by Hermann Leopoldi, lyrics by Peter Herz.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Two Corridors East
The Quartered City
Release Date:
May 1950
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 April 1950
Production Date:
mid July--late October 1949 at Ufa Studio (Berlin)
addl scenes December 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
26 April 1950
Copyright Number:
LP204
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
119
Length(in feet):
10,739
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14311
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the spring of 1948, the U.S. and Britain mount an airlift of food and supplies to Berlin to counteract a Russian blockade intended to force the Allies out of the divided city. Danny MacCullough and Hank Kowalski, members of the 19th Troop Carrier Squadron based in Hawaii, are transferred to Germany to become part of the new 53rd Squadron that will ferry supplies into the beleaguered city. While Hank, who was reluctant to go to Germany, is sent to Berlin to work in ground control, Flight Engineer Danny is stationed at Rhein Main. As almost seventy percent of what they carry to Berlin is coal, several months after their arrival Danny's plane, which was named "The White Hibiscus" when it left Hawaii has been renamed "The Black Hibiscus." One day, the plane becomes the air lift's 100,000th flight to land at Tempelhof Airport and representatives of the city's people present gifts to the crew members. War widow Frederica Burkhardt, on behalf of the women of Berlin, makes the presentation to Danny. After the ceremony, Associated Press reporter Richard O'Malley tells Danny that he wants to do a story about him bringing a load of flour from Rhein Main into the hands of the Berliners. As flight personnel are not normally permitted to enter the city and because he would like to see Frederica again, Danny agrees. After he finishes his work with O'Malley, Danny agrees to meet Hank and his girl friend Gerda for dinner and goes looking for Frederica, whom he finds at work clearing a bomb site. When Danny's uniform accidentally becomes covered with poster paste, Frederica takes it to be cleaned. Later, when she returns ... +


In the spring of 1948, the U.S. and Britain mount an airlift of food and supplies to Berlin to counteract a Russian blockade intended to force the Allies out of the divided city. Danny MacCullough and Hank Kowalski, members of the 19th Troop Carrier Squadron based in Hawaii, are transferred to Germany to become part of the new 53rd Squadron that will ferry supplies into the beleaguered city. While Hank, who was reluctant to go to Germany, is sent to Berlin to work in ground control, Flight Engineer Danny is stationed at Rhein Main. As almost seventy percent of what they carry to Berlin is coal, several months after their arrival Danny's plane, which was named "The White Hibiscus" when it left Hawaii has been renamed "The Black Hibiscus." One day, the plane becomes the air lift's 100,000th flight to land at Tempelhof Airport and representatives of the city's people present gifts to the crew members. War widow Frederica Burkhardt, on behalf of the women of Berlin, makes the presentation to Danny. After the ceremony, Associated Press reporter Richard O'Malley tells Danny that he wants to do a story about him bringing a load of flour from Rhein Main into the hands of the Berliners. As flight personnel are not normally permitted to enter the city and because he would like to see Frederica again, Danny agrees. After he finishes his work with O'Malley, Danny agrees to meet Hank and his girl friend Gerda for dinner and goes looking for Frederica, whom he finds at work clearing a bomb site. When Danny's uniform accidentally becomes covered with poster paste, Frederica takes it to be cleaned. Later, when she returns for the uniform, the shop is closed as the owner's son has been arrested by the Russians. On a subway journey to the owner's home, Danny learns a little about how the Black Market operates throughout the city. The owner has gone into the Russian Sector in search of his son so Danny, still in civilian clothes, and Frederica go to meet Hank and Gerda at a club. Hank treats Gerda badly as she asks him to explain concepts of democracy and American government which he is ill-equipped to do. Frederica tells them that her father was a professor at Berlin University who spoke out against the Nazi regime and is still missing. A male patron has been watching the foursome in the club, and Hank feels he has seen him before. When the man leaves, Hank follows him after remembering that the man was one of his guards in a P.O.W. camp during the war. Danny and the others arrive just in time to prevent Hank from killing the man, but when the U.S. military police arrive, Danny, who has no identification papers runs off with Frederica into the Russian Sector. As they attempt to cross into the British Sector, the Russians try to stop them, but Frederica tells them that Danny is her husband, injured in the war and unable to speak. While the British argue over jurisdiction with the Russians, and an international incident almost arises, Danny and Frederica simply wander off in the confusion. Although Danny and Frederica are in love, Hank warns Danny that she is only looking for a way of getting to the U.S. Some days later, Hank has run a check on Frederica and learns that her husband was in the S.S. and her father was not a university professor. Danny shows her the information, and she admits that she has lied to him as she believes that being dependent on the generosity of others, one has to make oneself more pitiful and brave. Danny walks away from her but after walking through the city and seeing many people living in great privation, returns to her. He then applies to the squadron's major for the necessary permission to marry a German civilian and is told that, even if permission is granted, the marriage cannot take place until thirty days before his departure. Because a rotation of personnel has already started, however, Danny's return to the U.S. is soon scheduled, and he arranges to marry Frederica immediately, with Hank and Gerda as witnesses. Meanwhile, Frederica has received a letter from an Ernst Mirbach in St. Louis, Missouri. Stieber, a neighbor of Frederica who has also become friendly with Danny, sees her addressing an envelope to Mirbach and offers to mail it for her but opens it instead. He learns that Frederica is asking Ernst to find out how long she must stay with Danny before she can get a divorce, without being expelled from the U.S. At the burgermeister's office, where they are to be married, Danny shows Frederica the letter Steiner has given him and leaves. Later, Danny says goodbye to Gerda who, is going to remain in Berlin to try to help create a new Germany. At Tempelhof there is news that the Russians may have lifted the blockade, and as Hank sees Danny off for home, he says that he is staying on permanently to help the recovery effort. +

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

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