Pour Le Mérite (1938)

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Directed by: Karl Ritter
Produced by: UFA
Written by: Fred Hildenbrandt, Karl Ritter
Music by: Herbert Windt
Cinematography: Günther Anders and Heinz Jaworsky (Aerial Footage)
Edited by: Gottfried Ritter
Production company: UFA
Release date: 1938
Running time: 121 minutes
Country: Germany
Language: German


Paul Hartmann: Captain Prank
Herbert A. E. Böhme: Lieutenant Gerdes
Albert Hehn: Lieutenant Fabian
Paul Otto: Major Wissmann / Kofl
Fritz Kampers: Officer Deputy. Moebius
Josef Dahmen: Sergeant Zuschlag
Willi Rose: Gefreiter Krause
Jutta Freybe: Isabel Prank
Carsta Löck: Gerda
Gisela von Collande: Anna Moebius
Otz Tollen: Captain Reinwald
Wilhelm Althaus: Squadron Adjutant
Heinz Welzel: Lieutenant Romberg
Wolfgang Staudte: Lieutenant Ellermann
Walter Bluhm: Husar
Heinz Engelmann: Cuirassier
Hans Rudolf Ballhausen: Lieutenant Reuter
Hans Joachim Rake: Lieutenant Heuser
Heinz Sedlak: Lieutenant Langwerth
Erik Radolf: Lieutenant Bülow
Malte Jaeger: Lieutenant Overbeck
Gustav Mahnke: Deputy Sergeant
Heinrich Schroth: Stoluft
Walter Lieck: Deserter Baumlang
Georg Georgi: First Soldier Council
Nico Turoff: Second Soldier Council
Hans Bergmann: Third Soldier Council
Theo Shall: Captain Cecil Brown
Reinhold Pasch: American officer
André Germain: French officer
Lothar Körner: Father Fabian
Elsa Wagner: Mother Fabian
Waltraut Salzmann: Sister Fabian
Oskar Aigner: Jeweler
Ernst Sattler: Slaughterhouse inspector
Irene Kohl: Wife of the inspector
Martha von Kossatzki: Housekeeper Barbara
Hildegard Fränzel: Mrs. Müller
Heinrich Krill: Father Kunkel
Fritz Petermann: Pilot
Paul Dahlke: Mr. Schnaase
Karl Haubenreißer: Slider
Martin Rickelt: Glider pupil
Herbert Weißbach: Second MP
Herbert Schimkat: Mr. Meier
Aribert Grimmer: Pachulke
Serag Monier: Owner of a cabaret
Gaston Briese: Raffke
Valerie Borstel: Mrs. Raffke
Ilva Günten: Pension Manager
Lutz Götz: Darmstadt gendarme
Oskar Höcker: Landgendarm
Fritz Marlitz: Police officer
Franz Weber: Servant in the Ministry
Karl Meixner: Communist leader
Friedrich Gnass: Holzapfel
Werner Stock: Holzapfel’s companion
Ernst Dernburg: Prison director
Eduard Bornträger: Inspector Weiß
Gerhard Bienert: Prison guard
Gerhard Dammann: Zörgiebel
Otto Krone: Artillery Captain for Aerial Photographs

The National-Socialist film industry produced many impressive World War I films, but most of them were set in the trenches, not the war in the skies. One of the very few that did was Ufa’s top-notch Pour le Mérite (Germany’s coveted military decoration, signifying the highest order of merit), co-written and directed by the best man for the job—Karl Ritter (Über Alles in der Welt, Stukas), who had been a decorated pilot in the war. He based his script on his own experiences as a defeated, demoralized soldier returning to a Germany writhing in the throes of Communist insurrection and despair. Ritter specialized in action-adventure, morale-building, propaganda films, and this idealized depiction of war remains one of his finest efforts, packed throughout with spectacular aerial battle footage and boasting a first-rate cast of over one hundred roles. But then, in quick succession, armistice and collapse. The picture traces the fate of the returning pilots from the last, bitter days of the war through their disillusionment and sense of betrayal by the inflation-ridden, debauched Weimar democracy, the rise of Hitler’s Reich, Germany’s resurrection, and the triumphant rebirth of Göring’s Luftwaffe. Joining Ritter for the film’s gala premiere at Berlin’s opulent Ufa-Palast am Zoo on 22 December 1938 were Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler. Pour le Mérite was one of the biggest box-office hits of the Third Reich. After the war, of course, the film was banned, The Hollywood Quarterly calling it „the purest of all Nazi films“ and according Karl Ritter notoriety as „the most irresponsible and dangerous film-maker of the Third Reich.“

3 comments on “Pour Le Mérite (1938)

  1. […] via Pour Le Mérite (1938) — “Neues Europa” […]

  2. A.K. F.C says:

    No sound!

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