All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film)

Infobox Film
name = All Quiet on the Western Front

image_size = 215px
caption = film poster
director = Lewis Milestone
producer = Carl Laemmle Jr.
writer = Erich Maria Remarque (novel)
narrator =
starring = Louis Wolheim
Lew Ayres
music = David Broekman
cinematography = Arthur Edeson
editing = Edgar Adams
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = 21 April fy|1930
runtime = 138 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
budget =
gross =
imdb_id = 0020629

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is a fy|1930 war film based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, and stars Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy and Ben Alexander.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is considered a realistic and harrowing account of warfare in World War I, and was named #54 on the "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies". However, it fell out of the top 100 in the AFI's 2007 revision. In June 2008, AFI revealed its "10 Top 10"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. "All Quiet on the Western Front" was acknowledged as the seventh best film in the epic genre. [cite news | author = American Film Institute | title = AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres | work = | date = 2008-06-17 | url = | accessdate= 2008-06-18] [cite web | title= Top 10 Epic | url = | publisher= American Film Institute |accessdate= 2008-06-18] In 1990, this film was selected and preserved by the United States Library of Congress' National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.


The film opens in Germany at the dawn of World War I, with a military parade and a rousing speech by a schoolmaster (Kantorek) convincing his young students to enlist in the Army and "save the fatherland". The young enlistees are then portrayed in basic training, aching for "action" fighting in the war. Their training officer (Himmelstoss, a strict disciplinarian who is hated by all the recruits) tells them to forget everything they know; they are going to become soldiers. Rigorous training diminishes the recruits' enthusiasm some. But after little more than marching drills, suddenly the cadets are told they are "going up front".Next the new soldiers arrive by train to the combat zone. It is mayhem with soldiers everywhere, incoming bombs and horse-drawn wagons racing around and rain. One in the group is killed before the new recruits can reach their post, worrying one of the new soldiers (Behn). The new soldiers "fresh from the turnip patch" are assigned to a unit composed of older soldiers who are not exactly accommodating. The young soldiers are shocked to find out there is no food available at their post. They have not eaten since breakfast but their new unit has not had food for two days. They have sent out a scrounger to locate something to eat and he returns with a slaughtered hog. The young soldiers have to "pay" for their dinner with cigarettes.

"For the fatherland" the young soldiers' unit is sent out on night duty. They travel packed into a flat cargo truck like sardines. As he drops them off at their destination, the driver says to them, "If there's any of you left, there will be someone here to pick you up in the morning." The young recruits look longingly at the truck as it leaves. An experienced soldier (Katczinsky) gives the "schoolboys" some real world instructions, telling them how to deal with incoming shells, "When you see me flop, you flop. Only try to beat me to it." The unit is stringing barbed-wire and trying to avoid shells. Flares light up the night sky as the enemy tries to spot them, machine guns sound and a bombardment starts. A young soldier (Behn, who was kneeling before the dead recruit when the soldiers finally arrive at the front) is blinded by shrapnel and runs around screaming until he is killed by machine gun fire. Most of the soldiers stay low in the trenches. Franz Kemmerich runs out to retrieve Behn, but, upon returning to the trench, realizes that he has died. He is then scolded by Katczinsky for risking his life. When the truck arrives in the morning most of the unit has survived. More rain follows along.

Back at the bunker in the trenches, the soldiers play cards and fight off the rats who eat their food and gear. The young soldiers are showing signs of great stress: nightmares, shaking uncontrollably, and screaming about the unrelenting bombs. A wall collapses and buries one of the recruits. No place is safe, not the front, not the base. There is no relief from the war. The celebratory parade already seems a distant memory. One recruit (Kemmerich) loses control, runs out of the trench and is injured. Some of the soldiers want to leave the trench and attack, but the enemy seems to have superior firepower. When food finally comes, the men have to fight to get their share. Then they are overcome by rats and kill them with spades. Suddenly there is a break in the bombing and the men are ordered out to fight.

A loud rumbling can be heard as the enemy approaches and then more shells. Now the soldiers are in trenches with rifles ready as incoming shells move closer and closer. They can do nothing but wait and hope. Now the enemy French soldiers are in view running toward the trenches, but the Germans hold their fire until the enemy is close. At least they have the advantage of being in trenches; the enemy is advancing over an open field. Paul witnesses several soldiers die in the shells of their artillery, a French soldier is hit by one and his blown out arms hang in the wire. The Germans use machine gun fire, hand grenades and rifles to mow down the enemy, quite effectively. The enemy suffers great losses, but succeeds in entering the trenches where hand-to-hand combat with bayonets commences. The Germans retreat from their trenches to a second line, from where they launch a counter-attack. At great cost they enter the French front line, but are unable to hold the trenches, and are ordered to withdraw to their original positions.

The men of Second Company, of which Paul is a soldier, return from the battle and line up for a meal. The cook refuses to feed them because he wants the entire company to arrive. The men explain that this is all that is left of the company (80 of the original 150) and the cook refuses to give them all the food (beans, bread, and sausage) he has prepared. An argument follows and violence seems imminent when an officer arrives and orders the cook to give all the food to the men and to bring a plate to him. The cook fills a plate for the officer and leaves an assistant to distribute the food.

The men start out eating greedily, but then settle into a satiated torpor. They hear that they are to return to the front the next day and begin a semi-serious discussion about the causes of the war and of wars in general. They speculate about whether geographical features or people offend each other and whether these disagreements involve them. Tjaden speaks familiarly about himself and the Kaiser. They speculate about whether it's the Kaiser or the manufacturers that need the war or whether it is the outcome of a fever. Katczinsky suggests roping off a field and stripping the kings and their ministers down to their underwear and letting them fight it out with clubs. It is finally decided that they should go see their friend Kemmerich, who was wounded in the battle and is in a dressing station, and bring him his things.

Five of the men find Kemmerich in a very bad condition in the dressing station. He complains that his watch was stolen while he was under ether and that he is in pain in his left hand and right foot. Not realizing that Kemmerich did not know, Mueller lets slip that his right leg has been amputated and Kemmerich becomes upset. Kemmerich expresses regret that he would never become a forester and Paul tries to reassure him. Mueller sees Kemmerich's boots under the bed and tactlessly asks him for them. They all leave talking about Kemmerich's chances, but Paul returns and tried to cheer him up. Kemmerich begins to cry and Paul prays to God to spare Kemmerich from death. Kemmerich asks Paul to give his boots to Mueller and then loses consciousness. Paul tries to summon a doctor, but the doctor and the medic can do nothing. As Kemmerich finally succumbs to his wounds, Paul leaves the dressing station with Kemmerich's boots and breaks into a run. Mueller is trying to talk about math to Katczinsky when Paul brings him the boots. Mueller is pleased with the boots and says that he will not mind returning to the front in such fine boots. Paul describes how he reacted to Kemmerich's death by running and how it made him feel more alive and then hungry. There follows a sequence of battle scenes with no dialogue in which Mueller is killed and his boots are passed on to another soldier who is also killed. One day Corporal Himmelstoss, a hated trainer from the camp the soldiers trained at, arrives to the front and is immediately disrespected because of his bad reputation. In an attack on a cemetery, Paul kills a French soldier and tries to save him, failing miserably. He bitterly cries for him, asking the dead body to speak so it could forgive him, but later returns to the German lines.

Soon, there is another offensive. Paul is severely wounded and taken to a Catholic hospital, along with his good friend Albert Kropp. There, they encounter Hammacher, a soldier who has a "shooting license" (he has a head wound that causes hims to do things he wouldn't normally do, so he is given a certificate say he is temporarily not responsible for his actions). Kropp's leg is amputated, but he doesn't find out until some time afterwards. Around this time, Paul is taken to the dying room, but he later returns to the normal rooms triumphantly, only to find Kropp in agony.

Earning a furlough, Paul then takes a brief trip back to his home, finding that his mother is ailing. He finds the people over there patriotic and ignorant about what is happening in the trenches as well as on the battlefield. He visists Kantorek, only to find him lecturing another class about the "glory of war." Disgusted, he returns to the front. He finds that only a few men of the Second Company have survived, including an old hand, Tjaden. Paul asks Tjaden about Katczinsky, thinking that he is dead, but Tjaden reveals that Kat is really still alive and well. Paul goes to look for Kat and finds him in a field. They briefly discuss how things are at home, but Kat is wounded by an airplane that drops a bomb nearby. Paul carries Kat to the field hospital, but tragically, Kat dies after another attack by an enemy aircraft. Paul is now stricken with grief.

Paul, in the trench, sees a butterfly, and he reaches out to grab it. However, a French sniper shoots Paul, killing him on a day that was "All Quiet on the Western Front."



In the film, Paul is shot while trying to grab a butterfly. This scene is different from the book, and was inspired by an early scene showing a butterfly collection in Paul's home. The scene was shot during the editing phase, so the actors were no longer available and Milestone had to use his own hand as Paul's.


*Universal re-released the film in 1939. It contained anti-Nazi announcements read out throughout the film in a March of Time style; yet the aim was to remind people of the horrors of wars in a time of international unrest.
*During the Korean War, the film was reedited to stir pro-war sentiments, rather than being a largely anti-war film.
*In the late 20th century and early 21st, the United States Library of Congress undertook an exhaustive restoration of the film, which is vastly superior in sound and picture quality to most other existent prints.


On its release, Variety magazine wrote: "The League of Nations could make no better investment than to buy up the master-print, reproduce it in every language, to be shown in all the nations until the word "war" is taken out of the dictionaries"'

Due to its anti-war and perceived anti-German messages, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party banned the film from Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. During its brief run in German cinemas in the early 1930s, the Nazis disrupted the viewings by releasing rats in the theaters. The ban was not lifted until the 1960s. Also, between the period of 1928 to 1941, this was one of many films to be banned in Australia by the Chief Censor Creswell O'Reilly.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930 for its producer Carl Laemmle Jr., and an Academy Award for Directing for Lewis Milestone. It also received two further nominations: Best Cinematography, for Arthur Edeson, and Best Writing Achievement for Abbott, Anderson and Andrews. It was the first talkie war film to win Oscars.

Other wins:
*1930 Photoplay Medal of Honor - Carl Laemmle Jr.
*1931 Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film - Sound to Lewis Milestone
*1990 National Film Registry

:"Without diluting or denying any...criticisms, it should be said that from World War I to Korea, Milestone could put the viewer into the middle of a battlefield, and make the hellish confusion of it seem all too real to the viewer. Steven Spielberg noted as much when he credited Milestone's work as partial inspiration for Saving Private Ryan ...Lewis Milestone made significant contributions to (the genre of) the war film." (Mayo, Mike: "War Movies: Classic Conflict on Film", Visible Ink Press, 1999.)

American Film Institute recognition

*1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #54
*2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #7 epic film


External links


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