“Three Comrades” (1938) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Fri, June 27, 2014 09:00 AM est. Closed captioned.
New York Times Review (summary): Based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, Three Comrades represented one of the few successful screenwriting efforts of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in Germany in the years just following World War I, the film stars Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and Robert Young as three battle-weary, thoroughly disillusioned returning soldiers. The three friends pool their savings and open an auto-repair shop, and it is this that brings them in contact with wealthy motorist Lionel Atwill–and with Atwill’s lovely travelling companion Margaret Sullavan. Taylor begins a romance with Sullavan, who soon joins the three comrades, making the group a jovial, fun-seeking foursome Though Sullavan suffers from tuberculosis (her shady past is only alluded to), she is encouraged by her male companions to fully enjoy what is left of her life. This becomes increasingly difficult when one of the comrades, Young, is killed during a political riot (it’s a Nazi riot, though not so-labelled by ever-careful MGM). In the end, the four comrades are only two in number, with nothing but memories to see them through the cataclysmic years to come. Despite its Hollywoodized bowdlerization of the Remarque original, Three Comrades remains a poignant, haunting experience. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
When the excellent TCM host Robert Osborne has introduced this film, he has said that Germany is never mentioned. Perhaps he hadn’t watched it recently. I counted at least 6 mentions of Germany by the actors. In the later MGM film, Escape, also starring Robert Taylor (& Norma Shearer), there are a couple of “Heil Hitlers” by bit players & there is a reference to a town in the Bavarian Alps & plenty of swastikas on flags, walls & SS arms, but the actors always refer to “this country” & never to Germany. This story was set in 1936 but the movie was made in 1940 or ’41, when WWII had started in Europe, but before Pearl Harbor, so there was still some caution on the part of MGM, but not as much.
You’re right. They do mention Germany, they just don’t make a big point of it. At one point in Escape, Robert Taylor gives a nazi salute as a parody when he’s angry. They also use the nazi flag, as I remember. You’re also right that the German market was important to the studios before the war and they didn’t want to have all their films pulled from there. They got over it, though, after Pearl Harbor. I always watch WW II movies, like Bataan, reminding myself that the filmmakers and viewers of that day don’t know how it’s going to end which adds a dimension for them that we don’t have. No one under 90 today knows what it’s like to go to war knowing your country could be destroyed, thank the Lord.