Watch on the Rhine (1943)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

An expansion of, and improvement upon, Lillian Hellman's stage play of the same name, Watch on the Rhine stars Paul Lukas, recreating his Broadway role of tireless anti-fascist crusader Kurt Muller. As the clouds of war gather in Europe in the late 1930s, Muller arrives in Washington DC, accompanied by his American wife Sara (top-billed Bette Davis) and their children Joshua (Donald Buka), Bodo (Eric Roberts) and Babette (Janis Wilson). The Mullers stay at the home of Sarah's wealthy mother Fanny Fannelly (Lucille Watson), who lives in her own world of society get-togethers and can't be bothered with politics. Also staying with Fanny is Rumanian aristocrat Teck de Branovis (George Coulouris) and his American wife Marthe (Geraldine Fitzgerald). To protect his family, Muller keeps his "underground" activities a secret from Fanny and her guests, but de Branovis is suspicious of the mild-mannered visitor. It turns out that de Branovis is actually a Nazi sympathizer, willing to betray Muller for a price. Using blackmail as one of his weapons, de Branovis threatens to destroy all that Muller has been fighting for. To prevent this, Muller kills de Branovis in cold blood. Now technically a murderer, Muller bids his family a reluctant goodbye, heading back to Europe to continue his vital work. If ever there was a justifiable homicide in a motion picture, it was the killing of the odious de Branovis in Watch on the Rhine. Still, the Hollywood production code dictated that a murderer must always pay for his crimes, thus a coda is added, alluding to Muller's death-providing a golden opportunity for a nifty smiling-through-the-tears curtain speech by Bette Davis. Scripted by Lillian Hellman's lover Dashiel Hammett, Watch on the Rhine earned several Academy Award nominations, as well as a "best actor" Oscar for Paul Lukas. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Paul Lukas
as Kurt Muller
Bette Davis
as Sara Muller
Geraldine Fitzgerald
as Marthe de Brancovis
Lucile Watson
as Fanny Farrelly
George Coulouris
as Teck de Brancovis
Donald Woods
as David Farrelly
Henry Daniell
as Phili Von Ramme
Donald Buka
as Joshua Muller
Eric Roberts
as Bodo Muller
Janis Wilson
as Babette Muller
Helmut Dantine
as Young Man
Mary Young
as Mrs. Mellie Sewell
Kurt Katch
as Herr Blecher
Erwin Kalser
as Dr. Klauber
Rudolph Anders
as Overdorff
Clyde Fillmore
as Sam Chandler
Clarence Muse
as Horace
Joe Bernard
as Trainman
Jack Mower
as Trainman
Creighton Hale
as Chauffeur
Elvira Curci
as Italian woman
Anthony Caruso
as Italian Man
Jean De Briac
as Mr. Chabeuf
Leah Baird
as Miss Drake
Howard Hickman
as Cyrus Penfield
Frank Reicher
as Admiral
Robert C. Fischer
as German Ambassador
Walter O. Stahl
as German Embassy Butler
Glen Cavender
as German Embassy Servant
Joseph DeVillard
as Spanish General
Wedgewood Nowell
as American Diplomat
Hans Tanzler
as German Diplomat
Garry Owen
as Taxi Driver
Eric Roberts
as Bodo Muller
Robert O. Davis
as Oberdorff
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Critic Reviews for Watch on the Rhine

All Critics (5) | Top Critics (2)

Watch on the Rhine is a distinguished picture. It is even better than its powerful original stage version.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

A fine, sincere, outspoken film.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic


Full Review… | January 31, 2012
TV Guide important today as its was in 1943. (Bette Davis Collection, Volume 3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2008
Movie Metropolis

Starring Bette Davis, Lillian Hellman's anti-Nazi play was made into simplistic film, full of contrivances and propagandistic speeches, meant to justify U.S. involvement in WWII.

Full Review… | January 30, 2008

Audience Reviews for Watch on the Rhine

It is not noble. It is only the way we must live. Sara and Kurt flee Germany back into the United States with their three children. They have extended family in the US. Kurt sympathizes for his countrymen and creates an underground railroad of sorts to save German refugees. When Kurt turns up missing, Sara tries to keep her sons from finding out about their father's past and following in his footsteps. "Idiot." "Walrus." Herman Shumlin, director of Confidential Agent, delivers Watch on the Rhine in his directorial debut. The storyline for this picture is very good and well executed. The characters and sub plots are entertaining and the acting is very good. The cast includes Bette Davis, Paul Lukas, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Eric Roberts, Anthony Caruso, and Henry Daniell. "Please do not talk. Please don't seem nervous." I came across this on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and decided to give it a shot because it starred the magnificent Bette Davis. She was excellent in this film and the content was well told. This has some worthwhile sequence of events that makes it worth watching once for fans of the classics. "Fashions of sin change." Grade: B

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

Slightly weird, talky anti-Nazi film that doesn't seem to "get" Nazis. Of course I'm talking from the hindsight of history, but the exact nature of Nazi Germany doesn't seem to be well established. Placing the film in Washington D.C. really hurts the film, I think; it just doesn't make sense for a Resistance leader to be convalescing there during the war. I feel like London was maybe the original setting, and this would make a lot more sense. Also, just too "talky," even for a play; too many grand speeches that don't really land.

Matt Heiser
Matt Heiser

A middling Bette Davis film which doesn't happen very often. I get the sense that this is yet another propaganda film and thus the actors only have one dimension to explore. Only mildly entertaining.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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