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The Four Companions (Die vier Gesellen) is a 1938 film produced in Nazi Germany, directed by Carl Froelich.

Four young women—Marianne, Kathe, Lotte, and Franziska—graduate from graphic design school. Their teacher Stephan, himself quitting the school to go work in advertising, is in love with Marianne and asks her to marry him. Marianne feels the same way about her teacher, but she doesn't want to be dependent on a man, so she turns him down.

Unfortunately it proves difficult to find work as a young woman graduating from art school. Marianne manages to get a crappy job with a lingerie company, but her friends are doing even worse: Kathe and Lotte are unemployed and broke and Franziska, trying to make it as an artist, can't sell a painting. The four of them, lacking better options, decide to go into business for themselves and start their own company, "The Four Companions". They struggle, but eventually they land a contract with a cigarette company. However, both Kathe and Lotte have fallen in love...

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Marianne was played by a young Swedish ingenue named Ingrid Bergman. Joseph Goebbels hoped to make her into a big star, but this was the only film Bergman made in Germany before she left for Hollywood, party because she didn't like the look of Hitler's Germany and partly because Hollywood was the big time.


Tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: It's subtly implied that Franziska might be a lesbian. She sometimes wears glasses. She isn't as pretty as the others and she doesn't dress in quite as feminine a manner. Notably, she's the only one who does not get a man at the end, instead quitting the Four Companions for a more fulfilling job as a painter.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Sort of; the opening credits show an artist's drawing pad, with drawings of each member of the cast, appearing one after the other as sheets of paper are torn off.
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  • Chick Flick: The Nazi Germany version of a chick flick, in which four young ladies fresh out of school band together to try and make it in the business world. Since Nazi cinema had a propaganda message to deliver, they fail, and wind up happier as wives.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Lotte, who only seem half-hearted about joining the Four Companions to begin with, quits after she finds a man (Hintze, the civil servant at the tax office). Kathe loves Martin but sticks with the company—until she finds out that Martin has knocked her up, at which point Marianne sends her back to Martin. And finally Franziska, who finds drawing advertisements dull, quits to devote herself to painting full-time. With the Four Companions defunct, Marianne goes back to Stephan.
  • Gilligan Cut: An excited Marianne says "And we will have a shop with a big name, called 'The Four Companions'!" Cut to Lotte on the sidewalk looking at a big sign saying "Tax Office" (she is delinquent on her taxes).
  • Match Cut:
    • From an irritated Marianne ripping apart the drawing of an adoring student asking Stephan to get married, to Kathe dropping a dish.
    • The four companions have drawn ads featuring themselves smoking the XYZ Cigarette Company's cigarettes. Cut from an ad with the four of them arm in arm, to the four of them actually arm-in-arm as they cross a street.
    • Franziska hands a drink to Prof. Lang; cut to Hintze taking a drink from Lotte.
  • Meet Cute: Martin and Kathe meet when he pays for her fare on the bus, because her ticket was for earlier in the day and isn't enough to cover the evening fare.
  • Moment Killer: A desperate Marianne is so broke that she isn't eating, so she finally goes to Stephan's office to ask for a contract. He has embraced her, and is about to kiss her when his secretary barges in. Stephan breaks the embrace in embarrassment and Marianne stalks out of the office in tears.
  • No Swastikas: Despite being made in Nazi Germany! Films like this one were light entertainment to keep the populace happy and quiescent, so there is not a single swastika visible in this film made in Berlin in 1938.
  • Quitting to Get Married: The main theme. Nazi propaganda was very big on the traditional family and strongly advocated that a woman's place was in the home supporting her husband. Consequently, three of the four women quit the company to get married, because obviously a good German woman should pop out babies for a man rather than have a career.
  • Smoking Is Cool: In-Universe, the four companions get a job designing ads for a cigarette company, in which they strive to make smoking look cool.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: A teacher-student unspoken attraction, as Stefan waits until the graduation party to tell Marianne that he wants to marry her and take her to Dresden, where he has a new job.
  • Time Passes Montage: Marianne's frustrating search for employment is shown in a montage of her crossing streets and riding buses and cutting out classified ads, mixed with shots of office people shaking their heads "no".
  • Title Drop: "The Four Companions" is the name of the start-up advertising firm that the four women found.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: The depths of Marianne's feelings for Stephan are shown when she shows up at the train station and dashes after his train as it chugs away, even as she's still refusing to give up work to be a housewife.
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