Director: Fred Niblo
Writers: John Colton (titles) Willis Goldbeck
The play “The Enemy” opened at the Times Square Theater (New York City) on October 20, 1925 and ran for 203 performances. An incomplete print of this film–missing its last reel–survives in the MGM film library.
Photo: Behind the scenes of The Enemy (1927) Fred Niblo (left) – Lillian Gish (center) as Pauli Arndt (Everett Collection)
New York Times – 1927 Austria and the War. By MORDAUNT HALL. Published: December 28, 1927
Hysterical though it is in some of its chapters, the pictorial transcription of Channing Pollock’s play, “The Enemy,” which was launched last night at the Astor Theatre, is quite a strong though obvious argument, against war. The sufferings caused by the conflict of nations are hammered home with a bludgeon, but, as it flows along, there’s no denying the truth of this preachment, not even the glorification of a hardened profiteer. In this film, the scenes of which are laid in Vienna and, for a while, on the Austro-Russian battlefront, Lillian Gish fills the rôle of Pauli Arndt, whose young husband is taken from her arms the morning after her marriage.
Although Miss Gish’s acting is on her own familiar lines, she has, as always, that valuable asset of restraint. Fred Niblo, who was responsible for the film version of “Ben Hur,” does not display in his direction any great imagination in the handling of the players nor in the continuity of action. You feel at times fearful that he is going to adopt the methods of King Vidor in “The Big Parade,” and when that is not actually done, but merely suggested, you are apt to feel grateful. He also indulges in tantalizing suspense, and where he strikes quite a good idea he sometimes overdoes it and thus loses much of its effect. Mr. Niblo is rather irritating through his constant flashes of marching feet; his comedy is not especially bright, and some scenes that might be telling are spoiled by the zealousness of the title writer. Occasionally, however, Mr. Niblo comes to the fore with a realistic glimpse, either of the fighting or of the deprivations suffered by Professor Arndt and his family.
He gives an excellent idea of the cheer in the Austrian capital before the Serajevo assassination, and he makes the most of the shock of the declarations of war. It hardly seems necessary, however, to depict such gourmandizing as he shows in one scene to reflect the notion that the characters are enjoying the horn of plenty. As a contrast to this in later episodes, this director dilates upon the satisfied expression of the mother who is suddenly seized with the idea of serving up the parrot in the soup. The hunger scenes in this subject are bound to bring to mind David W. Griffith’s trenchant and artistic picture, “Isn’t Life Wonderful,” which was at all times well within reasonable limits, even in the matter of the amount of food. Mr. Niblo is invariably tempted to stamp in his pathetic incidents, especially when Pauli finally, after an awful sacrifice, obtains a half bottle of milk for her baby. In the trenches, he pictures the Austrian soldiers exchanging a spoonful of meat for a few cigarettes.
- THE ENEMY, from left, Frank Currier, George Fawcett, Lillian Gish, 1927
There is nothing particularly subtle about this production. Hokum is Mr. Niblo’s standby, and with it he garnishes his story, even to having the young lieutenant, supposed to have been killed, brought back to life. While Mr. Niblo was about it, he might perhaps have had the profiteer, August Behrend, eventually, pay the penalty for his greed. August Behrend, however, is quite cheery at the end, when he appears with baskets of wine and food. Ralph Forbes gives an efficient performance as Carl Behrend. Neither he nor Miss Gish are responsible for the hysteria of this picture. It is rather Mr. Niblo and the writer of the captions who are guilty of this shrieking. George Fawcett, in the part of August Behrend, does not impress one as an especially flint-hearted old cornerer of food. Karl Dane, one of the trio in “The Big Parade,” figures as a minor character. Frank Currier is wonderfully sympathetic as the aged professor, Pauli’s father. The play from which this picture was adapted was presented at the Times Square Theatre in October, 1925, with Fay Bainter in the leading rôle.
THE ENEMY, with Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Ralph Emerson, Frank Currier, George Fawcett, Fritzl Ridgeway, John S. Peters, Karl Dane, Polly Moran and Billy Kent Schaefer; adapted from Channing Pollock’s play of the same name; directed by Fred Niblo. At the Astor Theatre.
Lillian Gish … Pauli Arndt
- Ralph Forbes … Carl Behrend
- Ralph Emerson … Bruce Gordon
- Frank Currier … Prof. Arndt
- George Fawcett … August Bejremd
- Fritzi Ridgeway … Mitzi Winkelmann
- John S. Peters … Fritz Winkelmann
- Karl Dane … Jan
- Polly Moran … Baruska
- Billy Kent Schaefer … Kurt
THE SHADOW STAGE (Photoplay)
THIS picture offers the most stirring anti-war propaganda ever filmed, yet maintains a heart interest which will thrill you during every moment. Not just another war yarn. Not a trench scene in the entire picture; not a gun tired; not a bayonet shown. It is the woman’s side of war.
Lillian Gish ceases to be the ethereal goddess. She is an every-day woman who sacrifices her man, her child and finally her honor, for the necessity rather than glory of battle. As the Austrian bride of an Austrian soldier she proves that she is a really great actress. Her love scenes with Ralph Forbes are superb with genuine emotion; her sufferings as realistically tragic as though she had lived behind the German trenches. A happy ending; but not a happy ending which spoils the realism. Men did return from battle.
Loews Ohio Newsette UA – The Enemy – Columbus OH 1928