Pastor Hall


1h 35m 1940

Brief Synopsis

This film is based on the true story of Pastor Martin Neimuller, who was sent to Dachau concentration camp for criticising the Nazi party. The small German village of Altdorf in the 1930's has to come to terms with Chancellor Hitler and the arrival of a platoon of Stormtroopers (preceded by a flock of sheep - subtle). The Stormtrooper go about teaching and enforcing 'The New Order' but Pastor Hall is a kind and gentle man who won't be cowed. Some villagers join the Nazi party avidly, some just go along with things, hoping for a quiet life but Pastor Hall takes his convictions to the pulpit.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 13, 1940
Premiere Information
U.S. premiere in Philadelphia: 23 Aug 1940
Production Company
Charter Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Screenplay Information
Based on an unproduced play by Ernest Toller.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

The advent of Nazi rule brings many drastic changes to Pastor Hall's peaceful community of Altdorf, Germany. At first, the pastor tries to cooperate with the arriving storm troopers, who have been commissioned to train the village folk about Nazi policy. He first incurs the displeasure of commander Fritz Gerte by declining to supply the names of Jews, Catholics and other residents of the community sought for discipline, and later by protesting the wrecking of shops owned by a man whose grandmother was a Jew, and by conducting a burial service for a townsman executed as a traitor. Soon many of his friends, swayed by Nazi propaganda, turn on the pastor and his daughter Christie. The commander restrains his men from taking action against the pastor, but tells Christine about the evidence against her father and promises to spare him if she will yield to him. She refuses, and the pastor is sent to a concentration camp, where he suffers lashings and beatings until the storm trooper, to whom Christine has promised to submit herself in exchange for her father's release, comes to tell him he is free to go if he will sign a pledge to preach no more against the regime. The pastor refuses and tries to rally the prisoners to resistance by his eloquence. For his efforts, he is sentenced to twenty-five lashes every morning. The pastor's escape is finally arranged by Christine and a friendly guard, after which Christine tries to persuade him to leave for America. The pastor returns instead to his pulpit to preach a final sermon while the troopers wait outside with guns ready to kill him.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 13, 1940
Premiere Information
U.S. premiere in Philadelphia: 23 Aug 1940
Production Company
Charter Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Screenplay Information
Based on an unproduced play by Ernest Toller.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Quotes

Oh you're a stormtrooper now, are you?
- Pastor Frederick Hall
Well, it's a job, Herr Pastor. I've been out of work so long.
- Heinrich Degan

Trivia

This film was officially banned in Chicago by the city's police censor board, which deemed it "exceedingly controversial."

Notes

According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Ernest Toller's play was based on the experiences of Bishop Martin Niemoller, a German Protestant leader and member of the anti-Nazi movement. Another item in Hollywood Reporter adds that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain insisted that all references to Hitler and Germany be deleted before the play was produced. When Britain entered the war, however, these restrictions were lifted, and Charter Films then produced the film. According to the Variety reviews, this picture was originally to have been released in the U.S. by Grand National. Grand National owned the rights to the film, while Charter Films owned the rights to the story, and consequently, there was a fight over the rights to the film. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, this was complicated by the fact that the estate of the late playwright claimed that it owned the rights to the property. The film was finally picked up by James Roosevelt of United Artists, who added a prologue to the film delivered by his mother, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and written by Robert E. Sherwood. According to the MPAA/PCA files, United Artists was at first reluctant to distribute the film because they viewed it as British propaganda. The Motion Picture Herald review lists Cecil Cooney as the film's photographer, although his name is not mentioned in any other sources. Another news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that the picture was banned in Chicago because of protests by German and Italian organizations.