Cast & Crew
H. B. Warner
Professor Nichols, an American educator, recalls the halcyon days of 1933 Germany before the rise of Nazism: As a teacher at the American Colony School, "Nicky" encourages Anna Muller and his other students to question Germany's lust for land. Meanwhile, at the German school across the way, the stern Dr. Schmidt exhorts Karl Bruner and the other boys to consecrate their lives to Adolf Hitler. Karl, who is attracted to Anna, comes to the American school one day and strikes up a conversation with her. After he tells Anna that he is a German who was born in America, Anna responds that she is American born in Germany and is now living with her grandparents there. To nuture their friendship, Nicky invites Karl to join him and Anna on a picnic, and soon Karl is a regular participant in their weekly outings. While running through the woods one day, Anna sees a little boy bound and gagged, but when she tries to free him, Karl tells her that the boy is being tested for his fitness to join a Hitler Youth group. Nicky states that that was Karl's last picnic, for he became enveloped in the Nazi storm that was sweeping Germany. By 1939, the New Order is underway, and Anna is now Nicky's assistant. As the students at the American school gather to celebrate Memorial Day, the Gestapo arrives and demands custody of all Germans, Poles and Jews at the school. When Anna's name is called, Nicky objects and is taken to headquarters to speak to the lieutenant in charge. At headquarters, Nicky meets Lt. Karl Bruner, who asserts that as a German citizen, Anna is subject to German law. When Nicky's entreaties to the American Embassy prove fruitless, he turns to his friend, journalist Franz Erhardt, for help. Franz, who is intimidated by his own little Nazi sons, is afraid to help Nicky, although he does suggest that Anna is probably being held at a labor camp. Nicky then goes to the Ministry of Education to petition a visit to the camp. There, he sees Karl, who orders him to give up his search for Anna. When Nicky agrees to do so if Anna is happy at the camp, Karl informs him that Anna is an instructor at the camp and takes him to see her. After Anna learns of Nicky's plans to free her, she insists that she wants to stay at the camp out of fear for his safety. Karl, who believes that Anna is becoming a "true German," tells her that he has recommended that she be allowed to study at the University of Berlin. Anna rejects his offer, however, and denounces his world as evil and rotten. When Anna formally declines the offer and disparages the "diseased New Order," Colonel Henkel, Karl's superior officer, sentences her to toil for one year at a labor camp. Henkel orders that Anna be kept under surveillance, and when Karl withholds reports of her defiant behavior, Henkel begins to doubt his loyalty. To test Karl, Henkel invites him and Nicky on a tour of the Ministry. Taking them to a clinic where women deemed unfit to have children are sterilized, Henkel announces that Anna's name has been placed on the patient list. After leaving the clinic, Karl finds Anna at the camp, and after warning her of the danger, declares his love for her. When Anna confesses that she also loves him, he suggests placating the state by having a baby, but Anna refuses, saying that the child would not be hers, but Hitler's. That night, Anna runs away and seeks refuge in a church. Soon after, the Gestapo arrives and orders the bishop to dismiss his parishioners so that they can find Anna. When, at the risk of his own life, the bishop defies their orders, Anna steps forward and surrrenders. Ordering Anna publicly flogged and then sterilized, Henkel sends Karl to the flogging as his representative. Unable to bear Anna's pain, Karl seizes the whip from her tormentor's hands and, after proclaiming his love for her, admits that he was wrong. Later, Franz informs Nicky that Anna has been sentenced to death, but Karl has recanted and will denounce his sins against the state in a nationwide broadcast of their trial. As Nicky and Franz are about to tune in the broadcast, the Gestapo arrives and orders Nicky to leave for Paris on the next plane. At the airport, as Franz walks Nicky to his plane, the trial begins and is broadcast over loudspeakers on the airstrip. In his opening statement, Karl quotes a poem by Goethe about freedom and, after observing that the German people have relinquished their freedom, proclaims "long live the enemies of Nazi Germany." Henkel reacts by ordering Karl and Anna executed in the courtroom, and the sounds of gunshots are heard over the speakers. Nicky then boards his plane and addresses the audience, telling them that "they must ask themselves tonight, before they go home, can we stop Hitler's children before it is too late?"
H. B. Warner
Goetz Van Eyck
John Arthur Stockton
Edward Van Sloan
Albert S. D'agostino
Edward A. Golden
Robert S. Golden
Father Louis Pick
Vernon L. Walker
The real intent of Hitler's Children is to show the indoctrination process of young Germans and how their minds are poisoned with fascist ideals. The love story between budding storm trooper Karl Bruner (Tim Holt) and his childhood sweetheart Anna Muller (Bonita Granville) is merely the vehicle which carries the film to its defiant yet grimly determined climax. Along the way we witness various well-staged atrocities from the enforced sterilization of women prisoners deemed unworthy to have Nazi babies to Anna's public flogging at a concentration camp. There's not an ounce of subtlety in Edward Dmytryk's tautly paced programmer but there's plenty of lip-smacking villainy and rabid anti-Nazi propaganda that is so extreme it almost works on a level of pure parody.
Dmytryk actually ended up on the film by accident. In his autobiography, It's a Hell of a Life But Not a Bad Living, he wrote "A friend of mine, Irving Reis, had prepared and actually started shooting a film called Hitler's Children, an exploitation B. Irving was rather headstrong and somewhat touchy - a bad combination in Hollywood. After a few days, he got into a fight with producer Doc Golden. Getting his back up, he quit the film, expecting, so he told me later, to win a quick apology and a free hand. Instead, the studio said, "As you wish," and asked me to take over the direction. He gave me his blessing, asking only that his name be completely removed from the film's credits. The studio was willing and I went to work. I finished on schedule, cut and dubbed it, and turned it over to the distribution department. None of us at the studio was sure of what we had."
From Hitler's Children, Dmytryk went directly to Universal to shoot Captive Wild Woman (1943), a horror film starring the Venezuela born actress, Acquanetta, whose beauty was concealed by her special "monkey woman" makeup. But once Hitler's Children opened theatrically, the director soon found himself in demand. In his autobiography, he recalled: "Taken from a novel titled Education for Death, its story concerned the treatment of youthful nonconformists in Nazi Germany. A title with the word "Hitler" in it was considered box-office poison, and the exhibitors asked [producer] Doc Golden and RKO to change ours. Doc was stubborn - and he was right. The film cost a little over $100,000, and, running only in England and the Western Hemisphere...grossed, by some accounts, $7,500,00."
Seen today, Hitler's Children is clearly a melodramatic but predictable propaganda effort for its era. Nevertheless, it remains an irresistibly compelling B-movie and it helped launch Dmytryk's career. He would go on to direct one more propaganda melodrama for RKO - Behind the Rising Sun (1943) - and then hit the big time the following year with Murder, My Sweet, one of the best film adaptations of a Raymond Chandler detective novel. As for Bonita Granville, she always cited Hitler's Children as her favorite film. Even though she went on to make more upscale movies like Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1947) and The Lone Ranger (1956), she liked Hitler's Children because it was one of the rare times she got top billing and got to play an adult character.
Producer: Edward A. Golden
Director: Edward Dmytryk, Irving G. Reis
Screenplay: Emmet Lavery, based on the novel ‘Education for Death’ by Gregor Ziemer
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Albert S. D'Agostino
Cinematography: Russell Metty Editing: Joseph Noriega
Music: Roy Webb, Constantin Bakaleinikoff
Cast: Tim Holt (Karl Bruner), Bonita Granville (Anna Muller), Kent Smith (Prof. Nichols- narrator), Otto Kruger (Col. Henkel), H.B. Warner (The Bishop), Hans Conried (Dr. Graf), Nancy Gates (Brenda), Lloyd Corrigan (Franz Erhart).
By Jeff Stafford
This film opens with a picture of Gregor Ziemer's novel Education for Death. As the book begins to seep blood, the film's credits appear. Ziemer, a news commentator and analyst for radio station WLW in Cincinnati, worked as an American educator in Germany before the war, according to news items in Hollywood Reporter and PM (Journal) magazine. Another news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that the Allies dropped flyers containing a condensed version of Ziemer's best-selling novel over the captured countries of Europe. A pre-production news item adds that Ziemer was initially slated to write the script for this film. In 1942, Disney produced a one-reel film, titled Education for Death, based on Ziemer's novel. According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, Martha Scott, Anita Louise and June Lockhart were considered for roles in this film. A Hollywood Reporter news item lists Lucy Daniel and Edgar Barrier in the cast, but their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Another Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Edward Dmytryk took over the direction from Irvin Reis on October 19, 1942. According to a New York Times article, Reis stormed off the set because of his inability to work with Tim Holt and Bonita Granville. Hollywood Reporter news items add that the U.S. Army Air Force delayed Holt's induction so that he could finish this picture. The vestments worn by H. B. Warner in the cathedral scene were over 400 years old, according to another news item in Hollywood Reporter. In CBCS, the character of Colonel Henkel is named Colonel Schwartz.
News items in Hollywood Reporter offer the following information about the film's premiere: Prior to the Cincinnati premiere, RKO presented a special preview presentation in theaters across the country, donating the receipts to the League of Nations. The Cincinnati premiere was sponsored by radio station WLW and featured an appearance by Ziemer. Ticket sales for this film were three hundred percent above average, breaking all existing records and making it the champion "sleeper" in RKO history. Modern sources note that the film cost $205,000 to produce and returned $3,555,000 in film rentals. Bonita Granville's performance led to a new contract with the studio. According to the Variety reviews, this was Edward Golden's first effort as a producer. A 1946 news item in Hollywood Reporter reports that Golden rejected RKO's offer to buy his film rights for $500,000. Bonita Granville and Otto Kruger reprised their roles in a May 24, 1943 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story.
Released in United States 1943
Released in United States 1983
Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A "B-Movie" Marathon) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)
Released in United States 1943