A Time to Love and a Time to Die


2h 13m 1958

Brief Synopsis

In 1944, a company of German soldiers on the Russian front are numbed by the horrors and hardships of war when Private Ernst Graeber's long awaited furlough comes through. Back home in Germany, he finds his home bombed. While hopelessly searching for his parents, he meets lovely Elizabeth Kruse, daughter of a political prisoner; together they try to wrest sanity and survival from a world full of hatred.

Film Details

Also Known As
A Time to Die, A Time to Love, Erich Maria Remarque's A Time to Love and a Time to Die, There's a Time to Love
Release Date
Jul 1958
Premiere Information
World premiere in Denver, CO: 25 Jun 1958; New York opening: 9 Jul 1958; Los Angeles opening: 30 Jul 1958
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
Germany and United States
Location
West Germany; Central Cinema Company Studios, Spandau, Germany; Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany; Spandau, Germany; Charlottenburg, Germany; Bavaria, Germany; Grafenwoehr, Germany
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Zeit zu Leben und Zeit zu Sterben by Erich Maria Remarque (Cologne, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
11,957ft

Synopsis

On the Russian-German front in 1944, the German troops are in retreat, ragged and nearly frozen, with only the dead bodies that appear through the melting snow to signify that winter is almost over. After soldiers Ernst Graeber, bloodthirsty Steinbrenner and young Hirschland are ordered to execute Russian civilians accused of being guerrillas, Hirschland grows despondent and commits suicide. Moments later, Ernst learns that he has been awarded his first furlough in two years and heads home, only to discover that his beloved village has been destroyed by bombs and that his parents are among the missing. Desperate to find them, he visits his mother's physician, Dr. Kruse, but finds only the doctor's daughter Elizabeth, who informs him that her father has been captured by the Gestapo. When an air raid siren rings out, Elizabeth at first refuses to go to the shelter, explaining that this is one small way she retains her personal freedom, but Ernst convinces her to join him. In the shelter, Ernst learns that many of his neighbors have died and that those that remain are crippled by grief. Later, Ernst offers Elizabeth his Army rations, but she assumes he wants to buy her companionship, and spurns him. He spends the rest of the day searching for his parents, to no avail, but meets Herman Boettcher, who is looking for his beloved two-hundred-pound wife. Boettcher invites Ernst to stay with him in the infirmary, where Reuter, a soldier suffering from gout, advises Ernst to live as if his three-week leave were the last weeks of his life. The next day, Ernst runs into old school friend Oscar Binding, now an important Nazi official with a luxurious home. After treating Ernst to fine food and wine and promising to help look for his parents, Binding brags that he imprisoned Pohlmann, a professor of theirs who gave him failing grades. Later, Ernst finds a note from Elizabeth on the community message board among the ruins, and goes to meet her. She apologizes for mistrusting him, and they manage to enjoy the day together, especially when they find a tree in bloom. By nighttime, they kiss, and later when Ernst asks Reuter where he should take Elizabeth, the officer finds him a clean uniform and reveals the secret password to gain entrance to the illicit nightclub in town. The club is gloriously decadent, and Elizabeth glows from happiness and champagne, until another air raid siren sounds. They rush to the shelter, which is quickly hit by bombs, forcing the well-dressed crowds to flee into the streets. At Elizabeth's apartment, they see concentration camp inmates working in the street, but Dr. Kruse is not among them. Ernst proposes, but when he mentions his Army pay and death benefits, Elizabeth becomes upset. They fight briefly, then fall into each other's arms. The next day, as Reuter helps Ernst prepare for his wedding, Boettcher announces bitterly that although he has found his wife, she has lost one hundred pounds and no longer seems herself. At the registrar's office, Ernst grows concerned that Elizabeth will be in danger if she identifies herself as Dr. Kruse's daughter, and arranges to signal her if there is a problem. When the official agrees to the marriage, in his joy Ernst mistakenly signals to Elizabeth, who flees the building. Soon, however, the confusion is cleared up, and they are married. As they enjoy the wedding feast Binding has sent, Elizabeth mourns that, as a German, she will no longer be welcome in most of Europe. The next day, Ernst receives a package that his mother mailed to the front, and realizes that since she sent it after the evacuation, she is probably still alive. Soon after, however, he intercepts a note from the Gestapo demanding that Elizabeth meet with them. Afraid for her life, he searches for Prof. Pohlmann, who is rumored to be in hiding in the bombed-out museum. There, another bombing interrupts their conversation, and although Ernst fears that Elizabeth has been killed, they finally find each other in the street. They sleep in the museum, where Pohlmann introduces Ernst to Joseph, a Jew in hiding who agrees to help Elizabeth escape, if necessary. Shocked by Pohlmann's continued belief in God and Joseph's conscious decision not to despise all Germans, Ernst questions his own responsibility for the horrors of the war. The next day, he visits Binding to ask for help with the Gestapo, but there finds Heini, a concentration camp officer who brags drunkenly about his sadistic tortures. Disgusted, Ernst leaves without asking for help, and goes to the Gestapo in Elizabeth's place. He discovers she has been called to collect the ashes of her murdered father, and that night, in the lovely, intact home Elizabeth has found for them, Ernst comforts her. After a bittersweet night, he returns to the front, where he finds the tattered remains of his company. Ernst is ordered to guard Russian civilians, but when the company has to move on, Steinbrenner prepares to kill them. Tired of the senseless bloodshed, Ernst shoots Steinbrenner and frees the prisoners. One of them, however, picks up Steinbrenner's gun and shoots Ernst, who dies just as he is reading a letter from Elizabeth, in which she reveals that she is having their child.

Film Details

Also Known As
A Time to Die, A Time to Love, Erich Maria Remarque's A Time to Love and a Time to Die, There's a Time to Love
Release Date
Jul 1958
Premiere Information
World premiere in Denver, CO: 25 Jun 1958; New York opening: 9 Jul 1958; Los Angeles opening: 30 Jul 1958
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
Germany and United States
Location
West Germany; Central Cinema Company Studios, Spandau, Germany; Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany; Spandau, Germany; Charlottenburg, Germany; Bavaria, Germany; Grafenwoehr, Germany
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Zeit zu Leben und Zeit zu Sterben by Erich Maria Remarque (Cologne, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
11,957ft

Award Nominations

Best Sound

1958

Quotes

Without doubt, there would be no need for faith.
- Professor Pohlmann

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was There's a Time to Love. The film's title card reads "Erich Maria Marques's A Time to Love and a Time to Die." According to a September 1958 Hollywood Reporter article, Universal changed the title to A Time to Love "after the first few showings because exhibitors felt the original title...was downbeat," and later a New York theater played the picture under the title A Time to Die. The studio combined the two titles. German-born writer Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970), who went into exiled to flee the Nazis in 1933, moved to America in 1939. He wrote the anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front in 1929, which Universal made into a film in 1930, directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Lew Ayres (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Remarque wrote Zeit zu Leben und Zeit zu Sterben (A Time to Love and a Time to Die) in 1954, after which Universal bought the screen rights. Although Remarque, who played the role of "Professor Pohlmann" in the film, does not receive onscreen credit for the screenplay, a November 1957 New York Times article notes that he wrote the final draft. Pohlmann was Remarque's only acting role. Only months after A Time to Love and a Time to Die was released, Remarque married actress Paulette Goddard, a union that lasted until his death.
       A March 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Paul Newman was to star in the film, and an August 1957 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter stated that Universal was considering John Smith to play a Gestapo informer. Additional Hollywood Reporter items add James Hutton and Mexican actor Jorge Rado to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although an October 1957 Hollywood Reporter article noted that Sammy Fain and Paul Webster were writing the film's title song, no song of that name is heard during the film. Universal borrowed Miklos Rosza from M-G-M to compose the film's score.
       A Time to Love and a Time to Die was shot entirely on location in Germany with a crew consisting of Americans and Germans. Although Danish-born director Douglas Sirk spent his early career making films for Germany's Ufa, he fled the country during the Nazi regime. Sirk could not use the Ufa offices at the time that A Time to Love and a Time to Die was produced because they were located in Berlin's Russian sector, hence the film's studio work was done at CCC (Central Cinema Company) Studios in Spandau. A November 1957 New York Times article detailed the various locations being used for the film, including Grafenwoehr (near Nuremberg) and Berlin's Tiergarten. Universal production notes add that the Russian battlefront sequences were photographed in northern Bavaria. According to the New York Times article, the filmmakers set up offices in Charlottenburg, in the British sector, installing German staff members to mirror each job held by an American. To shoot in war-torn Berlin, the crew built entrances, exits and stairways in bombed buildings and "were obliged to reinforce the remains of structures where action was planned." The twenty-five-person special effects department, according to an April 1958 Films and Filming piece, blew up four partially demolished buildings in Berlin for bombing raid sequences.
       According to modern sources, the film was banned in Russia and Israel for its atypically compassionate portrayal of Germans during World War II. The Variety critic described the story as "condeming the system rather than the people." Many commentators seemed offended by the sympathetic point of view; the Saturday Review (of Literature) critic wrote that "Hollywood is, in fact, creating a concept of the 'good' German...who remained strangely ignorant of Hitler's purposes" and the BHC reviewer stated that the picture "comes late in the Forgive-the-Germans-and-Japs cycle which has followed World War II....I am reverting to an unforgiving mood where not only the Germans but all the Allies...are concerned." The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Sound Recording category.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1958

Began shooting August 1957.

Completed shooting December 1957.

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer July 1958