The Mortal Storm (Borzage, 1940)

The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage, 1940)

The Mortal Storm is one of my favorite directors doing one of my least favorite genres. The Nazi regime has to be the hardest subject one could possibly approach. 99% of the time the Nazis are presented as robot-like vessels of hate – for obvious reasons. But this approach really does leave a director with no choice but to make a political film. But Borzage is able to mix a love story into the time period when Hitler is on the rise, and he does so well.

This isn’t as strong as Borzage’s other love stories. With such a strong historical event hovering over everything, it wasn’t possible to make this as timeless as his others feel. The central relationship also moves along rather smoothly with no real conflict or pain, making it slightly less interesting. But Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan go good together, and the excitement on her face when, at one point, she learns he is back from an extended absence makes up for most of it. The Nazi stuff (outside of a couple of deeply affecting, standout scenes) could mostly be replaced by a guy holding a big sign that says ‘Nazis = Bad’.  8/10


4 Responses to “The Mortal Storm (Borzage, 1940)”

  1. Wow, this looks very interesting since it was made in the 40s before everything really starts….

    Speaking of Nazis as robot-like vessels of hate, have you seen Visconti’s The Damned?

    I think my favorite film about the Nazis and their legacy is Michael Verhoeven’s The Nasty Girl (nominated for best foreign film in 1990). It’s a really odd film (definitely an acquired taste) inspired by Bertold Brecht. I’ve had two wonderful discussions with the director when he came to a mini-festival on his films…. The other happened when they showed Die Weiße Rose (1982) — The film Sophie Scholl – The Final Days dir. Marc Rothemund covers the same subject. I disliked Die Weiße Rose….

    • chrisfilm Says:

      Yeah, I guess this probably was one of the first of its kind. Perhaps I’m not giving it enough credit.

      I haven’t seen any of those movies you listed, but The Nasty Girl sounds like it’s worth looking into.

  2. Hey, I just saw this today when I was home with Nathan! It is pretty impressive for coming out in 1940, when America wasn’t even in the war yet. Apparently Hitler banned all MGM movies after he saw this. I can’t imagine why…

    I did think Robert Young did alright at not being completely evil, and the last scene with Freya’s brother is pretty frightening as an about-face too late. I was impressed there was no happy ending, and I was impressed by Frank “The WIzard of Oz” Morgan’s performance in general as a man of integrity and grace. The skiing sections are pretty good too (aside from the close-ups).

    • Yeah, I really should see this again. I’ve gotten so used to ‘after the fact’ WWII movies, that I didn’t even think about when this one actually came out. Borzage makes me happy, so a rewatch of this would be well worth my time.

      Ah yes, I do remember the skiiing scenes being pretty awesome.

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