Der alte und der junge König (1935)

Directed by: Hans Steinhoff
Produced by: Deka-Film GmbH
Written by: Thea von Harbou
Rolf Lauckner
Music by: Wolfgang Zeller
Cinematography: Karl Puth
Edited by: Willy Zeyn junior
Release date: 1935
Running time: 100 minutes
Country: National-Socialist German Reich
Language: German


Emil Jannings: King Friedrich Wilhelm I
Leopoldine Konstantin: Queen Sophie
Werner Hinz: Crown Prince Friedrich
Carola Höhn: Crown Princess
Marieluise Claudius: Princess Wilhelmine
Claus Clausen: Lieutenant Katte
Friedrich Kayßler: Katte’s Father
Georg Alexander: The Margrave of Bayreuth
Walter Janssen: von Natzmer
Theodor Loos: von Rochow
Heinrich Marlow: Grumbkow
Fritz Odemar: Hotham
Rudolf Klein-Rogge: Dessauer
Leopold von Ledebur: von Waldow
Friedrich Ulmer: von Reichmann
Harry Hardt: von Seckendorff
Luise Morland: Frau von Kamecke
Emilia Unda: Frau von Ramen
Ruth Eweler: Frl. von Sonsfeld
Eugen Rex: Eversmann
Ellen Frank: Countess (Gräfin) Arnim
Paul Henckels: Pesne
Hans Leibelt: Knobelsdorf
Walter Steinbeck: Kaiserlingk
Hadrian Netto: First Usurer
Egon Brosig: Second Usurer


Der alte und der junge König (The Old and the Young King) is a German historical film by Hans Steinhoff, made under National-Socialist rule in 1935.

The film ostensibly deals with the intense conflict between Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I and his son and heir, Crown Prince Friedrich – the future King Friedrich II „The Great“. This is a well-known incident of 18th century German history, which had drawn much public attention in the time itself, and been artistically treated before.

The film opens at Potsdam in the time of „The Soldier’s King“ Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, with the Royal Family sitting at the breakfast table. It turns out that Crown Prince Friedrich, informally called „Fritz“, had lost so much money at the gaming tables that he had to sign debentures. Members of the grenadier regiment had seen the crown prince appearing late in a wretched state, which greatly angers his father. The King would like to prepare his son for the future role as a ruler, and regards his preoccupation with music and literature with big displeasure.

Fritz, for his part, is infuriated with the austere treatment by his father and hatches a plan to flee Prussia and get to France and England, where he expects a welcome from his mother’s family. His companion Katte would like to help him in this plan. However, being a second lieutenant bound by his officer’s code, he at first declines.

The father-son conflict further escalates when Fritz accumulates even heavier gambling debts than those the King already had to pay off. The King insults the Crown prince, calling him „a liar and coward“ and puts him under arrest. In the barracks, he is forbidden to engage in his beloved flute playing or read French literature.

At night the King returns earlier than usual and surprises the Crown Prince playing the flute in the music room together with his sister Wilhelmine. Katte, who was also present, manages to hide just in time. The angry King throws Fritz’s books and flute into the open fire and orders the Crown Prince to accompany him on a trip to South Germany. Fritz, more than ever determined on his escape plan, can count on Katte’s support after this incident.

However, the escape fails, and both the Crown Prince and Second Lieutenant Katte are condemned by a court martial to custody at the fortress of Küstrin. Indeed, the King goes much further, arbitrarily changing the judgement against Katte into capital punishment and insisting on having him actually executed.

The Crown Prince submits to the King’s authority and is moved to better quarters in a palace. Nevertheless, in a visit by the King it is evident that the relationship between father and son is still very chilly and they are estranged. Fritz, who in the meantime has proved his „character“ is now given his own household at Rheinsberg Castle where he can again follow his artistic inclinations.

Still, reconciliation between the estranged father and son does come about shortly before the death of the King. The last words of the Old King to the Young are: „Make Prussia great!“ (The audience, aware of basic elements of German history included in their school curriculum, know that Friedrich would duly proceed to do just that.)

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