Watch on the Rhine
is a 1943 film starring Paul Lukas and Bette Davis
. Kurt and Sara Muller (Lukas and Davis) and their three children have come to America to visit Sara's family, the Farrellys. Sara has lived in Europe with Kurt for nearly 20 years and Sara's mother and brother have never met her husband and children. It is soon revealed that Kurt has spent the past seven years as an anti-fascist guerilla fighting against Hitler and the Nazis. The Mullers have come home so that Kurt can recuperate after being injured rescuing another anti-fascist, but Kurt's work is put in danger again when a Farrelly houseguest, Count Teck de Brancovis (George Couloris), figures out what Kurt has been up to in Europe and decides to sabotage his next mission.Watch on the Rhine
was nominated for four Oscars. It lost Best Picture to a little film called Casablanca
, but Lukas beat Humphrey Bogart
for the Best Actor award.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Teck? Not a good guy. A Romanian, he had a falling out with the Nazis at some point and had to leave Europe, but he wants to get back in their good graces and go home.
- Billing Displacement: Davis gets first billing despite Lukas obviously having the bigger part, because she was a huge star, while Lukas had been a character actor and stage actor.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Kurt could just stay in America and be perfectly safe, and Teck's scheming wouldn't matter. But after a leader of the German resistance network is arrested, Kurt is honor-bound to go back and try and get him out. Teck then threatens to warn the Germans, which would make it much less likely that Kurt would make it back alive.
- The Exile: Kurt and his family had to leave Germany in 1933.
- The Film of the Book: Film of the Play, actually—Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine was a big hit on Broadway in 1941. Lukas played the same role in the original stage production.
- I Did What I Had to Do: A distressed, sorrowful Kurt says this to Mrs. Farrelly and David after taking Teck out back and shooting him.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Mrs. Farrelly is quite unembarrassed to say this about herself.
- La Résistance: This is Kurt's job, as he finally admits after his family wonders what he's been up to in Europe over the last several years.
- Playing Against Type: Bette Davis usually played vixens, schemers, femme fatales, or tragic lovers. The role of Sara, nurturing wife and mother, was an atypical one for her.
- Romantic False Lead: There isn't much doubt that Teck's wife Martha is going to leave him for Sara's brother David, given how sick she is of him right at the start.
- Those Wacky Nazis: A couple at the German embassy, including the one that Teck tries to sell information about Muller.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: The Muller children are absurdly sophisticated and well-mannered. Mrs. Farrelly wonders if they're really children, or dressed-up midgets.