It's 1938, and Carol Hoffman (Joan Bennett), a New York art critic, takes a three-month leave of absence to accompany her German-born husband, Eric (Francis Lederer), to Germany, along with their little boy, Ricky (Johnny Russell). The Hoffmans intend to combine a long vacation with Eric helping his elderly father (Otto Kruger) sell the family business.
The Hoffmans arrive in a much different Germany than Eric had left years before. Carol is increasingly troubled by the oppressive atmosphere under Hitler, but Eric falls under Hitler's spell and decides he wants to remain in Germany permanently with a new love, devoted Nazi Frieda (Anna Sten). Her marriage in ruins, Carol must find a way to get her little boy out of the country against her husband's wishes. There's a humdinger of an ending which couldn't have been more perfect.
This was an excellent film which was interesting on many levels. Some of the attitudes seemed quite modern; for instance, Eric and Carol initially believe stories about concentration camps have been exaggerated by the press to sell newspapers. Their lack of trust in the media would fit right in over seven decades later. They soon discover, of course, that if anything the press was underplaying what was happening in Germany.
Another "modern" angle is that Carol is both a career woman and a mother; she and her husband seem to be the very model of a glamorous New York dual-career marriage. Unfortunately for Carol, her independent attitudes aren't a good fit for Nazi Germany, and as her husband grows more uptight and "German," outspoken Carol and Eric clash repeatedly.
Naziism is examined in detail. I loved a conversation Eric and Carol have on a train, innocently marveling over stories in a German paper that there are so many jobs in Germany that workers are being transported in from Austria; they also wonder how the new Volkswagen car can be so inexpensive. A fellow passenger dares to sarcastically set them straight.
Carol has a harrowing run-in with Nazi authorities when a neighbor is arrested, and she finally has had enough after watching her husband swept up in the excitement of a Nazi party rally. As she tells the American newsman (Lloyd Nolan) who comes to her aid, "I've seen men go mad over football games, but nothing like this!"
I won't spoil the ending, but I didn't see it coming till the last minute and it was jaw-droppingly perfect. This really is a must-see movie for anyone who is interested in the films of WWII.
I particularly loved Joan Bennett as the American whose dream of a lovely vacation in Germany is replaced by a crumbling marriage in a very scary environment. She does an excellent job taking her character through this transition in a film which is only 77 minutes long.
It's always interesting to me how actors criss-cross my viewing in unexpected ways. I was recently reading about Austrian-born actor Francis Lederer in the context of some research on the TV series THE HIGH CHAPARRAL; it seems that Don Collier, who plays ranch foreman Sam on the show, got his start as the real-life foreman on Lederer's ranch. The home and stables are today Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monuments.
THE MAN I MARRIED was directed by Irving Pichel from a script by Oliver H.P. Garrett. The black and white photography was by J. Peverell Marley. Joan Bennett's wardrobe was created by the great Travis Banton.
The film's supporting cast includes Maria Ouspenskaya and Ludwig Stossel.
THE MAN I MARRIED is available on DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives. It's a beautiful print. Recommended.