The Young Lions
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Written by Edward Anhalt from a novel by Irwin Shaw
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/YouTube rental
Michael Whiteacre: Look, I’ve read all the books. I know that in 10 years we’ll be bosom friends with the Germans and the Japanese. Then I’ll be pretty annoyed that I was killed.
As usual, Marlon Brando is the standout in parallel stories that examine the personal lives of German and American soldiers during WWII.
Brando plays Christian Diestl, a charming German ladies man who works seasonally as a ski instructor in the Austrian Alps. We are at a party welcoming in the New Year 1939 and Diestl’s current amour is American tourist Margaret Freemantle (Barbara Rush). She is succumbing to his advances when she sees the New Year’s baby is wearing a swastika. Things get more sinister from there. Christian himself is not political in the least but he thinks Hitler might be a good thing for Germany. Margaret is horrified and makes a speedy exit.
The next thing we know it is 1940. Diestl is now an officer serving in Occupied Paris. He finds his duty, which is mainly rounding up resisters, distasteful. His introduction to a French woman eases the pain. He tries to get transferred to combat duty but is refused. A visit to his commandant’s sexy wife in Berlin does the trick, however. The war becomes more and more disillusioning and painful for him.
On parallel tracks, we are introduced to Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift), a humble Jew from New York, and Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin), a hard-drinking nightclub singer. We see their respective romances with Hope Plowman (Hope Lange) and Margaret Freemantle, the American who spurned Christian earlier in the film. Both men are drafted. Noah suffers mightily from the anti-Semitism of his captain, sergeant, and fellow GIs but fights back nobly. Michael manages to get himself transferred to the special service. But all three of our protagonists end up on the road to Berlin toward the end of the war.
This movie is two hours and 47 minutes long but kept my interest throughout. That says something right there. The story was somewhat cliched but was very well done and Brando, as always, was fascinating to watch. I thought he did well with his accent and disappeared into his part.
The Young Lions was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Sound; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.