Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 21:45


André De Toth


Film Notes

None Shall Escape was not a big-budget movie, but it did benefit from some major technical talent, such as Lee Garmes’ cinematography. This was really a story that mattered to De Toth, an opportunity of showing American audiences some of the horrors he had witnessed in Poland during the German invasion of 1939; and thus dealing with the suspicion surrounding any recent non-Jewish Hungarian immigrant. De Toth had fled away from Horthy’s openly anti-Semitic regime. He was especially sensitive to the kind of slanderous rumours that spread even within the Hollywood Hungarian refugee community (another instance of the famous law of revolving doors). The story of the movie originated with two such recently arrived refugees, Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than, whom De Toth was to describe as “disorientated and highly intimidated”. Lester Cole is credited as screenwriter in the opening credits. He devotes several pages to this picture in his memoirs, Hollywood Red, and congratulates himself on having changed the scene in which Jews prefer risking their lives in the resistance to being pushed into railway-cars. He seems especially proud of the speech in which Richard Hale, who plays the dissident rabbi, harangues the crowd, confiding that the rabbi’s final, heart-rending cry was borrowed from Dolores Ibárurri, the Pasionaria, who is said to be have yelled, “Fight, fight for freedom and justice! Better die on your feet than live on your knees!” during the Spanish Civil War. The difficulty here is that this hackneyed phrase with its much-battered copyright, does not actually figure in the rabbi’s harangue. In fact, De Toth specifies that the speech was written at the very last minute, on the day it was shot, in a dressing-room, by the consultant rabbi. If further proof is required of the unreliability of Lester Cole’s memoirs, one might ask who wrote the following exchange between Wilhelm (Cox) and his former fiancée (played by Marsha Hunt): “Why are you staring at me like that?”. “I am looking for a glimmer of compassion?”. “In which eye?”. “The left one”. “Ah! That is the glass eye”. The woman pauses for one terrible moment, then adds. “I know”.
No prizes for guessing which side De Toth wore the bandage over his eye. Cole may draw on a reservoir of slogans; but De Toth shows us a German camera pointing towards a line of the defeated and starving (“Smile!”), like something out of that terrible Nazi propaganda film about Terezín. Who else, apart from De Toth, could have known such things? In 1943?

Philippe Garnier, Bon pied, bon œil. Deux rencontres avec André De Toth, Institut Lumière/Actes Sud, Lyon-Arles 1993

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Alfred Neumann, Joseph Than. Scen.: Lester Cole. F.: Lee Garmes. M.: Charles Nelson. Scgf.: Lionel Banks. Mus.: Ernst Toch. Int.: Marsha Hunt (Marja Paeierkowski), Alexander Knox (Wilhelm Grimm), Henry Travers (padre Warecki), Erik Rolf (Karl Grimm), Richard Crane (Willie Grimm da adulto), Dorothy Morris (Janina Paeierkowski), Richard Hale (rabbino David Levin), Ruth Nelson (Alice Grimm), Kurt Kreuger (tenente Gorsdorf), Shirley Mills (Anna Oremska). Prod.: Samuel Bischoff per Columbia Pictures Corporation. DCP. D.: 86’. Bn.