“The Enemy” Pros and Cons (Chicago Tribune 1928)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 22, 1928 – Page 91

Film Depicts War Minus the Glamour

“The Enemy”

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Directed by Fred Niblo, Presented at the Chicgo theater tomorrow.

The Cast:

  • Pauli Arndt …………..………… Lillian Gish
  • Carl Behrend ………………. Ralph Forbes
  • Bruce Gordon ………….. Ralph Emerson
  • Professor Arndt ……….…. Frank Currier
  • August Behrend ….….. George Fawcett
  • Mitzi Winkelmann …… Fritzi Ridgeway
  • Fritz Winkelmann ……… John S. Peters
  • Jan …………………….…………….. Karl Dane
  • Baruska …………….…………. Polly Moran
  • Kurt …………….………. Billy Kent Shaefer

By Mae Tinee

Director Fred Niblo (left) Lillian Gish (center) – The Enemy – behind the scenes

Good Morning:

And now comes “The Enemy” to put its influence on the side of the outlawry of war. The picture, adapted from Channing Pollock’s play, does not have war outlawry as its subject, but it’s portrayal of Hate as “the enemy”; its argument that profiteering and not patriotism is, in the last analysis, the spirit behind the wars of nations, makes strong food for the thoughtful.

Again one sees gallant youth marching to death on bloody battlefields for “God and country.” So many boys! So many countries! Only one God, to whom all are praying for aid and vengeance! And safe and snug at home – the profiteers! – crooning exultant lullabies to their war babies. That is what “The Enemy” is about. The action takes place in Austria, before, during and after the world war. With the exception of a few instances in which the director became rather awkwardly entangled with his material, Mr. Niblo has made his picture a telling one that whams the author’s meaning home with force and pain.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes – The Enemy

The Story is Laid in Vienna.

The principal characters are Pauli, a gentle German maiden, daughter of an old university professor, dearly beloved by the student lads who come to Vienna to study from every other country in the world. A kindly philosopher is Prof. Arndt; a believer in all the powerfulness of love …

Pauli; the professor – then Carl Behrend, the German youth who has been Pauli’s sweetheart from babyhood; Bruce Gordon, an English student and Carl’s best friend, who also loves Pauli, and August Behrend, Carl’s father, the profiteer.

The other players are important asides, but the ones named bear the brunt of the story on their shoulders.

On the eve of the war the student body of the university at Vienna breaks class. There is an atmosphere of great good fellowship and later, at dinner at Pauli’s, the love of Pauli and Carl is wholeheartedly toasted and by none more cordially by Bruce Gordon who has accepted the fact that Pauli can never be his.

Into this gathering, like a bomb bursting in the air, comes the announcement that war has been declared. Bitter argument starts that ends in a fight between the students. Bruce leaves to serve his country.

Pauli and Carl are married – the music of their wedding march broken in upon by strains of martial music as the soldiers march to the front. And Pauli spends a sleepless wedding night, her anguished eyes on the clock that soon will strike the hour of five when her husband must leave her, perhaps forever.

Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Fritzi Ridgeway, Frank Currier, George Fawcett, John S. Peters – Wedding scene – The Enemy

War, as It Was Behind the Lines.

After that the picture shows war as it was at home while the guns on the battle front were taking their toll. Starvation. Suffering of all kinds.

Pauli’s father is dismissed from the university because of pacifist utterances, and the Arndts and their devoted maid, Baruska, know utter poverty. Behrend, the profiteer, offers money that is refused.

“It is stained with the blood of women and children. The price for a corner in wheat. And you call yourself a patriot!” says Arndt.

“It is war,” says Behrend, shrugging, and takes his departure.

I need to go no further into detail regarding events that cause Pauli to make a good woman’s ultimate sacrifice in order that her baby may have milk; her terrible joy when it dies; or the fighter incident of the parrot who cries, once too often “Hurrah for the glory of war!” at a time when something is needed to strengthen the soup.

Nor of course, do you care to know about the ending.

Lillian Gish – promotional for “The Enemy”

As Pauli, Miss Gish has (I believe) her first modern role. Her characters have always lived in the past – Hester Prynne, Mimi, Romola, Annie Laurie … Personally I prefer her in portrayals of femmes of an earlier day. She is fundamentally, the most unmodern person in the world and is no more to be brought up-to-date than a crinoline. Her Pauli was, to me, somewhat of a ghost lady, to be approved  of and pitied in shadowy fashion. A ghost lady whose troubles chill the heart like a cold mist but are incapable of awakening that heart to strong, passionate, protesting response. She may affect you differently, but that’s how I felt about her. ***

Ralph Forbes you will find lovable and convincing, as is Ralph Emerson – great nephew, by the way, of the Emerson who has meant so much to so many of us.

Frank Currier is a dear as the professor, and George Fawcett a devil as the profiteer. Polly Moran and Polly the parrot contribute bits of needed mirth. And maybe you will care more for the others in the cast than I did.

Intelligent thought has been given stagings and the picture is excellently photographed. It is a production you will not lightly forget.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes in “The Enemy” (MGM, 1927)

*** Admin note: Below are written some of the opinions of others, well known others, who indeed were affected by Miss Gish’s performance somewhat different than Miss Tinee here. Also if one cares to read more detailed and well documented reviews of above mentioned film, kindly access the home page and search for “The Enemy” (upper right corner)

“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.” (Mordaunt Hall – NY Times)

“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.” (Photoplay – The Shadow Stage)

“Lillian Gish A Hit in her First Big Modern Role” (Loew’s Ohio Newsette UA 1928)

“Most of the interest goes to Lillian Gish, who never has done a more honest bit of acting. It is earnest, sincere, and save where the author grows over hysterical, convincing. It rises superior to her “Hester Prynne” and atones for “Annie Laurie.” (MOVING PICTURE WORLD December 31, 1927)

“The star is Lillian Gish and, as is her custom, she acts with fine poise and restraint and yet releases an admirable suggestion of pent-up emotions.” (Laurence Reid – Motion Picture News – December 31, 1927)

“Lillian Gish comes to the Strand theatre in her first modern role on the screen. Heretofore the famous star has always lived in the past, so far as her plays were concerned; in fact, it was often held that her type of wistful appeal could only be brought out in period plays and stories harking back to the days of long ago. But in “The Enemy,” she is even more effectively dramatic as a modern woman than even as a Romola or Mimi or Hester Prynne.” (San Pedro News Pilot, Volume I, Number 98, 27 June 1928)

“Beneath her frail exterior, Lillian Gish conceals an indomitable spirit and unshakable courage and willpower. Long ago, when she left D. W. Griffith’s direction, disaster was predicted. Few believed that she could stand alone, away from the man under whose guiding genius she had risen to the first rank of screen stars. But Lillian was no Trilby, to collapse when Svengali’s spell was removed. She determined to show a critical world that she had brains of her own and could use them. She made her first independent film, and to-day Lillian still ranks amongst the first-class stars.” (Picture Show Annual – 1929)

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