Verfilmung von Vicki Baums im November/Dezember 1944 in der Zeitschrift Collier’s veröffentlichtem Roman. Berlin, kurz vor Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs: Das »Hotel Berlin« hat seinen Glanz verloren und steht in der zur Ruine gewordenen Metropole. Verängstigt leben jetzt die Menschen im Hotel, längst erkennen alle, dass der Krieg für Deutschland verloren ist und jeder versucht – meist nicht sehr ehrenhaft – die eigene Haut zu retten. Es treffen die unterschiedlichsten Menschen aufeinander: ein entflohener KZ-Häftling, ein von den Nazis gebrochener Nobelpreisträger, eine dem Regime noch immer devot ergebene Empfangsdame sowie eine Schauspielerin, die sich ins Ausland absetzen möchte, und ihr Geliebter, ein General, der an einem misslungenen Anschlag auf Hitler beteiligt war und nun von seinen einstigen Kameraden verfolgt wird. In einem Wirbel aus Liebe, Hass, Spionage, Erpressung und Verrat wird das Spiel des Lebens vor einer düsteren Kulisse abermals gespielt.
Things have changed a great deal in Berlin since Vicki Baum wrote her “Grand Hotel”. For one thing, the sign of the swastika is more in evidence in those hostels that are left. And presumably the transients are considerably more harassed by political woes. But apparently – to judge by the characters in Miss Baum’s latest “Hotel Berlin” – the same old things are happening. And to the same sort of people, too.
In the film, based on Miss Baum’s new novel, which came to the Strand yesterday, the problems of several varied characters in one hotel have a familiar look and the contours of manufactured fiction are vexingly evident. There is a blacklisted German staff general who endeavors to escape his destined fate for plotting against the life of Hitler. There is his mistress, who is an actress of some renown and who tries to save herself through vicious intrigue when she learns that the general is doomed. Then there is a fugitive underground agent who gives the actress a furtive romance; a sickly savant, a wistful “hostess” and any number of Nazis of various stripe. Beneath their contemporary designs, they all match with characters in “Grand Hotel.”
As might be expected with these people – and with Miss Baum’s ability to spin a plot – considerable melodrama develops in this film. Double-crossing is much in fashion and villainy stalks the hotel – a form of human endeavor at which the Warner stock players are most adept. Raymond Massey is arrogant and bitter as the Prussian general who gets the sack, Andrea King is ultra-svelte as the actress and Helmut Dantine makes a dashing fugitive. Faye Emerson is coy as the “hostess”. Peter Lorre slobbers well as the savant and George Coulouris is pale and poisonous as a Gestapo hatchet man. There is no question that the Warners have got a sleek and suspenseful show.
But suspense is never accomplished without a sympathetic character in peril, and there are several such endangered in this Picture – all of them Germans, of course. (Even the Prussian general rates a shade of sympathy.) So again we have got a picture in which “good Germans” are distinguished from “bad” – a dramatically convenient distinction which is politically questionable. True, the Warners have protected their thesis with a good-will epilogue, quoting the words of President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin. But the question remains: what’s the idea of giving any Germans our solicitude? Why haven’t we had any action from that “Hotel Berlin” underground?
Bosley Crowther: Hotel Berlin
New York Times, 3.3.1945
GRAND HOTEL in a 1945 Nazi setting, now known as HOTEL BERLIN is socko. It’s socko as entertainment and as boxoffice, another timely break for Warners, as was CASABLANCA and CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY.
A melodrama out of the headlines, this compact, punchy thriller should be an exhib’s delight. The dialog reads like a footnote to Yalta, and the film plays like a trailer for the London peace conference.
There’s no mincing of language and skirting of sensitivities. Unlike the guarded, double-talk of NAZI SPY, and some of the necessary vagueness of CASABLANCA, the WB version of Vicki Baum’s novel (brought up to the minute, circa 1945 and not ’43 when she first authored it) is one for the crystal-ball. The war’s already lost – or, at least, there’s that defeatist aura about Hotel Berlin – and the Nazi higher-ups are packing their loot for a South American getaway, already plotting World War III, with a plan “to be more skillful next time when we attempt to create unrest in North America”.
For average film fan consumption that’s the least of it. For average American and, for that matter, all our Allied audiences, this is arresting melodrama and an honest if mayhaps sometimes naïve attempt to treat a world catastrophic situation in broad values.
Producer Louis Edelman has guided his charges well. Productionally the lavishness is by suggestion rather than in reality. It’s still the Hotel Berlin on one floor or the other. There are the periodic Allied air blitzes which chase everybody into the shelters, but otherwise it’s a Grand Hotel in the lobby or on the sundry floors, but particularly in the apartments of a general (Raymond Massey), an informer (Faye Emerson), or a theatre darling (Andrea King) whose closets-full of clothes from Paris embitter the hotel harlot who hungers for one pair of shoes.
That’s the action, but it’s action all the way. It is kaleidoscopic but thrill-packed. Director Peter Godfrey has painted well his chiselling gauleiters and ruthless Gestapo. Alan Hale is one of these mercenary gauleiters about to be done in by the SS bunch until Miss Emerson turns on him in an air-raid shelter, after he had berated a woman from the ghetto for not wearing her Star of David. George Coulouris is the complete menace as the Gestapo leader, covetous of the dishonored general’s mistress, the darling of the Berlin theatre (Miss King). Henry Daniell is the party-chief who would give Massey an honorable way out but is ever subservient to the Gestapo.
Then there is Peter Lorre in a capital albeit somewhat vague assignment as the befuddled Prof. Koenig, whose genius was “softened up” to the Nazi will. And back of it all is the underground, apparently in a pretty good position within Hotel Berlin to help its cause along when some crisis demanded it.
Abel.: Hotel Berlin
The film is topical at least. It purports to show Berlin in 1945, reeling under air raids, the effects of invasion, and the attempt on Hitler’s life; Berlin hysteric, unstable, and doomed in defeat.
In outline the plot is conventional enough. An anti-Nazi is on the run from the Gestapo, and a hotel like the Adlon becomes the background for the story of his twists and turns and his final escape. A famous actress (Miss Andrea King), popular with the regime, first helps him, then betrays him, and is finally shot by the hero (Mr. Helmut Dantine), and if there is a double twist here it is not in its unravelling that the interest of the film is to be found. That lies in the incidentals, the imaginative asides, that every now and again flash out from a screen disciplined for the most part to a design of orthodox adventure and third-hand report. Mr. Raymond Massey, spare of figure and correct in bearing, may be the stock pattern of the German general, but there is a curious conviction in his defence of the part he played in the plot against Hitler. Mr. Peter Lorre, as a Nobel prize winner beaten out of his senses at Dachau, searching in a kind of frenzied parody for a good German, for a good German anywhere, under the bed, in the cupboard, achieves a moment of horrific emotion, and the general pattern made by the swirl of the helpless creatures in the hotel, the roar of approaching aircraft, and the click of Gestapo heels achieves intensity and depth. The director, almost, it seems, unbeknown to himself, finds every now and again the graphic visual phrase for hope lost, for chaos, for hysteria, and that craving for destruction, self-destruction if need be, which overcomes our enemies at certain periods in their history.
“Hotel Berlin”:The Twilight of Defeat
The Times (London), 4.4.1945