The Road Back


1h 19m 1937

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1, 1937
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1937
Production Company
Universal Pictures Co.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
From the novel The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque and the English-language translation by A. W. Wheen (Boston, 1931.)

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

As World War I ends, a remnant of the German army gathers together in the trenches behind the front lines, preparing for one final offensive. They attack and suffer many casualties, but manage to capture a French outpost just as the Armistice is signed. As the soldiers begin their march home, they have little understanding of how their world has forever changed. Returning to Germany, they discover waves of revolution, as all officers in the army are demoted and the Kaiser flees the country. Finally at home, Tjaden, Willy, Ernst and Ludwig encounter a mob, which attempts to tear off Ludwig's officer's stripes. The four men, though outnumbered, take on the mob and defeat it. Ernst has a tearful reunion with his parents and his old sweetheart, Elsa, Ludwig's sister, until he realizes that she is still living in a Germany that no longer exists. Tjaden stops a mob's attack on the butcher shop of Mayor, and receives the hand of Mayor's daughter Angelina as part of his reward. Upon returning to school, the veterans find children in the place of their old classmates. Albert, another veteran, is dismayed to learn that his fiancée Lucie, has been befriended by war profiteer Bartscher. While the couple quarrels, troops fire upon a group of hunger strikers. Weil, one of the strikers, marches up to the captain of the troops, Von Hagen, and tells him that his troops are shooting down veterans. Von Hagen calmly orders his old comrade shot, and the crowd disperses when it is fired upon by machine guns. After Tjaden's wedding, the old friends go to a cafe where Albert discovers Lucie in the company of Bartscher. Albert draws his revolver and coolly shoots Bartscher dead. At his trial, Albert's friends argue that the murder was not his fault, but that of the government, as Albert was trained for four years to kill men he never knew, and thus felt no restraint in killing a man who was doing him harm. Despite their pleas, Albert is found guilty. As Ernst and Ludwig walk in the country, they come across a group of young boys doing military drills, no doubt preparing for the next war while still in the shadow of the last. The two men comment on the utter futility of it all as they walk away.

Cast

John King

Ernst

Richard Cromwell

Ludwig

Slim Summerville

Tjaden

Maurice Murphy

Albert

Andy Devine

Willy

Larry Blake

Weil

John Emery

Von Hagen

Henry Hunter

Bethke

Noah Beery Jr.

Wessling

Gene Garrick

Geisicke

Barbara Read

Lucie

Spring Byington

Ernst's mother

Frank Reicher

Ernst's father

Marilyn Harris

Ernst's sister

Jean Rouverol

Elsa

Etienne Girardot

Mayor

Charles Halton

Uncle Rudolph

Laura Hope Crews

Aunt

Louise Fazenda

Angelina

Robert Warwick

Judge

Samuel S. Hinds

Defense attorney

Arthur Hohl

Heinrich

William B. Davidson

Bartscher

Lionel Atwill

Prosecutor

Al Shean

Markheim

Clara Blandick

Willy's mother

Robert Greig

Member of dinner party

Maidel Turner

Member of dinner party

Paul Weigel

Member of dinner party

Grace Goodall

Member of dinner party

Curt Von Fuerberg

Member of dinner party

Bess Flowers

Member of dinner party

Michael Fitzmaurice

Member of dinner party

Reginald Barlow

Manager

Edwin Maxwell

Principal

E. E. Clive

General

Edward Van Sloan

President

Francis Ford

Street cleaner

Margaret Seddon

Mother

Greta Meyer

Storekeeper

Dwight Frye

Small man

Otto Hoffman

Old man

Edward Mcwade

Ticket taker

Harvey Clark

Field doctor

Dorothy Granger

French girl

Alice Ardell

French girl

Luppee Lupien

French girl

Carol Wines

French girl

Paul Irving

Boy leader

William Benedict

Boy leader

Margaret Armstrong

Heinrich's wife

Harrison Greene

Dutch comedy team

Helen Shipman

Dutch comedy team

Tiny Sandford

Doorkeeper

Herbert Ashley

German waiter

D'arcy Corrigan

Cab driver

Gaylord Pendleton

Sailor

Harry Cording

Attendant

Charles Bennett

Innkeeper

Robert Adair

Policeman

Harry C. Bradley

Forman/Porter

Robert Mckenzie

Barber

Edward Lesaint

Porter

Eddie Phillips

Fresh man

Russ Clark

American soldier

Lane Chandler

American soldier

Boyd Gilbert

American soldier

June Gittelson

Fat woman

Delmar Watson

Boy

Harry Watson

Boy

Paul Panzer

Guard

Janet Elsie Clark

Girl

Henry Nordlinger

German corporal

Buddy Roosevelt

German dispatch rider

Sidney D'albrook

American captain

Bert Sprotte

Conductor

Tempe Pigott

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1, 1937
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1937
Production Company
Universal Pictures Co.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
From the novel The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque and the English-language translation by A. W. Wheen (Boston, 1931.)

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Fearful that this film would not do well overseas, the new regime at Universal Pictures severely edited the film before release, removing much of the strongly anti-Nazi slant that author Erich Maria Remarque included in the original novel, and which director 'Whale, James' intended to retain in the film version.

Bowing to Nazi pressure, and "to cultivate the good will of Germany," Universal boss Charles R. Rogers took 'Whale, James' off the picture and ordered 21 cuts made to the film.

Notes

This film was the sequel to Universal's 1930 picture All Quiet on the Western Front, which starred Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim and Slim Summerville and was directed by Lewis Milestone (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0094.) Summerville was the only actor to appear in the same role in both films. According to Hollywood Reporter, Jean Rogers was tested for one of the female lead roles in this film. New York Times lists James Whale as producer, as well as director. According to Box Office, German consul George Gyssling served a letter of warning to sixty actors and technicians connected with the making of this film, stating that if anything detrimental to German culture was to be found in the picture, not only would the film be banned from exhibition in that country, but the players appearing in it would also be banned from having their pictures exhibited from all past, present and future productions. A February 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that "powderman George Daly was killed by an exploding bomb on the set" of the film. Modern sources add the following information about the production: The original budget was set at $770,000 with a nine-week shooting schedule. Heavy rains and other delays pushed the film over-schedule. When the production wrapped on 21 Apr, after 73 shooting days, the costs were well over one million dollars. After initial previews, twenty-one separate cuts were ordered to make the film more palatable to the German government. Writer Charles Kenyon was then ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable. At that point, Whale left the project and was replaced by Edward Sloman, with Charles Maynard as the new editor. Despite these problems, the film was one of the top-grossing films of 1936-37. This film marked the motion picture debut of Broadway actor John Emery.