Austria and the War – New York Times (1927)

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.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes 327-82 The Enemy

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.

The Big Parade - Karl Dane, John Gilbert
The Big Parade – Karl Dane, John Gilbert

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.

the enemy 1927 - ralph forbes - carl behrend and lillian gish - pauli arndt

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.

David Wark Griffith Isn't Life Wonderful 1924
David Wark Griffith Isn’t Life Wonderful 1924

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.

Lillian Gish by Ruth Harriet Louise (MGM, 1920s) The Enemy

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

  • 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.

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THE ENEMY, with Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Ralph Emerson, Frank Currier, George Fawcett, Fritzi 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.

Mordaunt Hall – New York Times – 1927

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes - The Enemy Hollywood Collection (MGM, 1927)

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

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