Cast & Crew
In December, 1947, Capt. Jeff Eliot arrives in Munich, Germany while military and local police are investigating the autobahn murder of a bar girl. Jeff informs the military that he plans to visit the Lehrt family, who had hidden him after he was shot down during the war. Unknown to Jeff, the daughter of the family, Wilhelmina, is on a list of known bar girls. When Jeff goes to the Lehrts' former home, he finds it in ruins, and asks a neighbor, Nolder, for information. Nolder says he did not know the Lehrts but confesses that he had answered Jeff's letters so that his impoverished family could receive the money and packages he sent. Later, Jeff's hotel roommate, Lt. Parker, offers to help him search for the Lehrts, and they learn that the parents died in an air raid, but the whereabouts of "Willie" are unknown. Parker warns Jeff what the fate of a pretty girl in Germany would be, and suggests touring the nightspots to find her. Jeff finds Willie at the Silhouette club and is shocked at her bitterness and suggestion that for 500 marks, she can talk with anyone. Jeff says that he wants to give her a good Christmas and asks her to think of the happiest one of her life. She says that she would like to be in Salzburg with old family friends, and he promises to take her there. Jeff agrees to rent a car through her, so that she will get a commission, and the next day they drive toward Salzburg, secretly followed by two men on motorcycles. They easily pass through the border, despite her forged passport, because Jeff is an American officer. Past the border, an MP stops them, saying that the road is being repaired, and suggests they wait at a nearby café. While Jeff and Willie talk, MPs secretly search the car and find small items of contraband, such as camera lenses and watches, but put them back. In Salzburg, Willie is greeted warmly by the Keigler family, who suggest that she and Jeff tour the city on foot. Jeff and Willie pass a pleasant afternoon, and Willie is reminded of happier times. The Keigler family's Christmas Eve celebration saddens Willie, who warns Jeff that she is not the girl she once was, and on Christmas morning, she abruptly asks Jeff to take her back to Munich. As they drive away, Keigler tells her to return on New Year's Eve, because they all depend on her. On the autobahn, Jeff again stops at the café, and Willie tearfully confesses that she used him to smuggle watches and cameras across the border. Knowing that smuggling those items is not a serious offense, Jeff tells her not to worry and to quit, but she says that Heisemann, the Silhouette's pianist, who runs the smuggling ring, would never allow that. At Willie's apartment, Jeff tells her that she is going to quit her job and says that he will come back later to take her to dinner. After he leaves, she goes into her apartment and finds Hansig, the manager of the Silhouette, waiting. She tries to reason with him, but he beats her with his belt and crosses out a picture of Willie's missing roommate, the woman shot on the autobahn. Meanwhile, Jeff is picked up by MPs and taken to Col. James Terry, who tells him about the car search and reveals that the Nazis hid millions in gold to be used to revitalize the party if they lost the war. Jeff dismisses the suggestion that Willie is smuggling gold and refuses to help them. As Jeff leaves, Parker tells him to "wise up" and says that Willie will ask him to take her back to Salzburg. After finding a note at Willie's apartment, Jeff goes to meet her at the Silhouette, where she says that she has no choice but to continue smuggling, even though he reveals his love for her. When she later asks if he can take her back to Salzburg, he does not express concern and agrees to let her use his car for some errands. On the way to Salzburg, they are again followed by the motorcyclists, whom Jeff sees, but who pretend they are just helping a stranded motorist. At the border, the guard opens the trunk of the car and finds hundreds of smuggled cigarettes, but lets Jeff go with a small fine after receiving a telephone call. The next morning, at the Keiglers', Jeff sneaks into the garage to search the car. When Willie finds him, she insists that she is only smuggling small items, but they are interrupted by Keigler, who points a gun at Jeff. Jeff knocks the garage's light out, then lunges at Keigler, narrowly missing being shot. When Jeff looks at the car's bumper, he notices that the bullet chipped away paint, revealing the metal beneath to be solid gold. Although Willie pleads that she knew nothing of the gold, Jeff does not believe her and forces her to drive back to Munich. On the autobahn, Jeff tries to call Col. Terry, but the lines have been cut by the motorcyclists. He continues driving until his car develops engine trouble. When an Amity van stops to assist, the driver draws a gun on them and reveals that he put sugar in the gas tank. He knocks Jeff unconscious and with the help of the motorcyclists, puts Jeff and Willie in the van and drives toward Berchtesgaden, where Hitler had a mountain retreat. Meanwhile, in Munich, Heisemann gets a call and is picked up by a Mercedes and heads for Berchtesgaden, unaware that Parker is following. In Berchtesgaden, Willie and Jeff are held in a room overlooking a motorcycle course. There Willie tells Jeff that Hansig threatened to kill him if she did not cooperate, and the couple kiss. Moments later, they see Heisemann being driven around the course in an open car, cheered by the spectators. Heisemann then comes to the room where Jeff and Willie are held and tells them that they will be escorted to the far turn of the course to see a race. Once outside, Jeff sees leaking gasoline and realizes that they will be killed in an explosion. Before a motorcycle crashes into the leaking fuel, Jeff grabs Willie and runs, but she is shot by one of Heisemann's men. Moments later, Parker arrives, along with German police. As medics attend Willie, Heisemann speeds away in the Mercedes, with Jeff and Parker in pursuit. Heisemann drives to the ruins of Hitler's house and abandons his car. The American and German police pursue him on foot and in front of the now glassless picture window in Hitler's living room, Heisemann is trapped. His gun jams, but Jeff does not shoot after he is convinced not to turn Heisemann into a Nazi martyr. A short time later, Jeff is driven to see Willie, who will recover, and happily kisses him.
Charles Gordon Howard
Claus Benton Lombard
Rudolph G. Kopp
The Devil Makes Three
The Devil Makes Three pioneered in the kind of runaway production that would become increasingly prevalent among the cash-strapped Hollywood studios during the '50s. With millions of dollars in assets frozen overseas, the studios were looking for a way to increase their international productions. At the same time, recent tax law changes, designed to encourage American investment in a Europe still recovering from World War II, made it possible for U.S. citizens who worked overseas for 18 months continuously to waive income tax payments. Suddenly Hollywood's stars wanted to work overseas, and Kelly was one of the first to take advantage of the situation. He had hoped to follow An American in Paris with a dramatic project, anyway, and The Devil Makes Three and his other European films became useful bargaining chips in his fight to get the studio to finance Invitation to the Dance (1956), an innovative collection of three stories told entirely through dance.
It was perfect timing, then, when MGM writer Lawrence P. Bachmann, sold the studio a story set in Germany just after World War II. Based on actual news events and public documents, he created a fictionalized version of the U.S. Army's hunt for gold smuggled out of Germany by former Nazi officers. The story gave MGM the perfect excuse for location shooting and a timely topic with international appeal (though director Andrew Marton would later claim there were efforts to make the villains Communists rather than neo-Nazis in light of fifties politics).
For Marton, The Devil Makes Three marked a chance to return to his native Austria almost 20 years after he had fled Hitler's Third Reich. Since then, he had built a solid reputation as an action director, particularly with the success of King Solomon's Mines (1950), and as a second-unit director (he would later direct the chariot race in Ben-Hur, 1959). He even stopped off in London on the way to shoot some second-unit scenes of Esther Williams swimming in the Thames for Million Dollar Mermaid (1952). Once in Germany, he arranged to have some of his colleagues from earlier days work on the film.
Marton also tried to convince MGM executives to let him shoot in a European color process called Gevacolor that many considered superior to the U.S.-based Technicolor. He shot an impressive test reel, but the studio eventually decided to keep costs down by filming in black and white. He did, however, convince them to have the dailies developed in Germany, the first time a U.S. studio had film developed on location. Not only did this allow him to keep up with the dailies in a timely manner, but also it meant that Marton could cut the film himself while still filming it. When he got back to Hollywood, studio head Dore Schary informed him that they had their own cut ready to go, but when Schary saw Marton's version, he decided to stick with the director's cut.
Marton made particularly effective use of his European locations. While auditioning musical acts for the nightclub that serves as the neo-Nazis' front, he found a jazz group performing American songs in German. For the film, they were featured performing a song written for MGM's The Harvey Girls (1946), "The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," entirely in German.
The film's climax was set in The Berghof, Hitler's home in the Alps. When Marton learned that it was slated for demolition by the occupation forces, he got his sister, a prominent figure in the post-war German government, to intercede for him. She did such an effective job that not only did the military leave it up long enough for him to shoot there, including a spectacular shot through the main picture window, but they turned it into a national shrine. This was particularly appalling to Marton since his sister had spent time in a concentration camp.
While doing research for The Devil Makes Three, Marton had seen a newsreel of Swedes motorcycle racing on an icy lake. The sport was also popular on the Hinterlake, not far from the Berghof, so Marton decided to build the film's central action sequence around just such a race. During location shooting, he had the crew remove script pages dealing with the neo-Nazis and their attempt to use the race to mask a murder attempt on Kelly's character. Marton didn't want to start a riot if any of the on-lookers at the actual race suspected the film's subject matter. All of those scenes were shot later in a studio they rented.
Ultimately, The Devil Makes Three became nothing but a tax break for Kelly. He almost missed out on it altogether when he developed appendicitis while traveling from his new apartment in London to the location. Production had to start without him as he recovered in a French hospital. Then he arrived to discover that the script was less than satisfactory and needed some retooling. He tried to push MGM to send another writer to the location, but all the executives cared about was using their frozen assets. Finally, he had to content himself with using the shoot as an extended paid vacation for himself and his family. The reviews bore out his opinion, with praise for his and co-star Pier Angeli's performances and the action sequences, but complaints about an unfocused script and flat dialogue scenes.
Producer: Richard Goldstone
Director: Andrew Marton
Screenplay: Jerry Davis
Based on the novel by Lawrence P. Bachmann
Cinematography: Vaclav Vich
Art Direction: Fritz Maurischat, Paul Markwitz
Music: Rudolph G. Kopp
Principal Cast: Gene Kelly (Capt. Jeff Elliott), Pier Angeli (Wilhelmina Lehrt), Richard Rober (Col. James Terry), Richard Egan (Lt. Parker), Claus Clausen (Heisemann), Wilfried Seyferth (Hansig).
by Frank Miller
The Devil Makes Three
The film's working title was Autobahn. The following written acknowledgment appears after the opening title card: "Appreciation is expressed to the Office of the High Commissioner of Germany, the United States Army Military Police Corps. and the Munich City Police for their cooperation while filming this motion picture in Germany and Austria." Prior to the main action of the film, Richard Rober, as his character, "Col. James Terry," appears and addresses the audience. He establishes that the film takes place in 1947, in Munich, where things are not always as they seem. The Devil Makes Three marked Rober's last film role before his death in May 1952, although another film in which he appeared, Jet Pilot, which was shot in 1949-1950, was not released until 1957 (see below).
As noted in the acknowledgment and in various news items and reviews, the film was shot entirely on location in Germany and Austria, primarily in Munich and Salzburg, and on the autobahn [highway] between those two cities. Additional location shooting was done in actual locations in Berchtesgaden, the site of Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat and at Hintersee in the Bavarian Alps. Studio interiors were shot at the Bavaria-Filmkunst Studios in Munich. Although an Hollywood Reporter news item noted that portions of the picture would be filmed in Dusseldorf, Germany, no footage of Dusseldorf was included in the released film. According to a October 31, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Glenn Ford was at one time considered for the lead.