One of the most thoughtful films about World War II, this 1958 Edward Dmytryk (The Left Hand of God) drama, based on a novel by Irwin Shaw, tells parallel stories of two American soldiers (Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin)... more » and one German officer (Marlon Brando), whose war experiences we follow until they intersect outside a concentration camp. Martin plays what he calls "a likable coward," Clift is intense as a Jewish GI, and Brando experiments with the limits of his part as a Nazi reevaluating his beliefs. Legend has it that Clift accused Brando of bleeding-heart excessiveness. Interestingly, the two Method actors share no scenes together. --Tom Keogh« less
"Released in 1958, this black and white WW2 story traces 3 men - two American, one German - through the trials and tribulations of that war. Stars Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.Marlon is a young German watchmaker who always dreamed of being a doctor - but the strict caste system of europe has held him down. While he realizes the Nazis are a bit extreme, he hopes they will help to bring opportunity to all people. Dean is a young Broadway god who loves the wine, women and song. When he's drafted, he tries to get out of it, to maintain his easy going life. He runs into Noah (Clift) at the draft board - a young, poor Jewish man who has no family and only a simple job at Macy's. The two hang out and Noah falls in love with a quiet Vermont girl.The movie is truly an epic as it spans the entire war, from its quiet start to its brutal end. Along the way we realize that there is good and bad on all sides. Marlon's character tries to make a stand for what is right, but is told repeatedly that a good German soldier follows orders. He falls in love with a French widow. Noah is repeatedly beaten on (both emotionally and literally) for being a poor Jew by those whose side he is on. His future father in law only reluctantly accepts him, and his squadron mates steal his money and fight him. Dean refuses to marry his long time sweetheart and does his best to avoid any risks.While some might say the story is a cliche, perhaps this is only because the story is so TRUE. It is always good to be reminded just how rough a war really is, and how there are no real "bad guys" and "good guys". There are only brave men and women who try their best and grow along the awy.Although filmed in black and white, you do get some lovely Bavarian landscapes at the beginning, when Marlon is a ski instructor. Later, Marlon goes to Berlin a few times to meet with the wife of his commanding officer. The rest of the footage is in war-torn Paris, the surrounding countryside, the deserts of Africa, and the cities of London and New York."
Book to screen adaptation
Allen Eaton | Longmont, CO USA | 12/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The film is very enjoyable. The music score is one of the best dramatic pieces ever composed for a war film. My article focuses on the real events of the transition from novel to screenplay. Marlon Brando was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's. With THE YOUNG LIONS, he wanted to pursue a "can't we just get along?" approach to a different issue: American/German relations in the wake of WWII. To this end, he changed the character of Christian Diestel from Irwin Shaw's original portrait of a sadistic, sex-crazed thug into an idealistic Tutonic knight, whose purity of action is destroyed by the reality of the Nazi system. Brando was actually apologizing for the average German's participation in Hitler's war. Brando's vision is epic, attempting to rise above petty squabbles. He was trying to see the "larger historical impact" of war in general, and how idealism can be led so tragically astray. Brando met Shaw in France during location shooting and was surprised to find out that Shaw didn't even know his novel was being filmed. Shaw hated the Germans and wanted to keep them down with stern military occupation. Brando disagreed and wanted to debate the topic on television, but this never came about. Shaw's Christian Diestel isn't even an officer, just a sargeant. He possesses no lofty idealism. He probably wouldn't know what the word meant. When we first meet him, before the war, he is arranging for a local man to peep in on Margaret Freemandle, an American tourist, as she changes her clothes in her Alpine hotel room. Hardly the charming ski instructor that Brando represents. The ending of the novel was so drastically changed on screen as to be unrecognizable. In the film, Brando's character is finally demoralized, his ideals shattered. He decides to turn himself in to the Americans and face his own, and his country's, crimes (he has just come from a Nazi concentration camp on the verge of being captured by American troops). He breaks his machine gun on a tree and stoically marches down the hill. He is spoted by Michael (Martin) who shoots him. Brando falls down the hill and eventually falls into a pond and drowns. Noah (Clift) is unharmed and returns to wife and child as the film ends. In the novel, Christian is hiding in a foxhole as Michael and Noah wander through the forest. Christian shoots and kills Noah. He would do the same to Michael, except that his machine gun jams. Michael walks up to him and puts his rifle to Christian's head. All Christian can do is grin and say, "Welcome to Germany." Michael kills him. Which version is better? Shaw's novel is a personal memoir. The Germans were the bad guys - totally evil and without redemption. The film is Brando's vision of tolerance for all races and creeds. Brando was a major star in 1958 and his vision dominated. Take the film story as is or leave it. The DVD is a good, widescreen presentation of the movie. Yes, a commentary track is definately in order."
Brando takes acting honors in 'The Young Lions'
DBW | Chicago, IL USA | 11/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Of the three primary story threads traced in "The Young Lions" --Marlon Brando as a conflicted Nazi soldier, Dean Martin as an American showbiz type who fights to overcome his fear of entering the war, and Montgomery Clift as a Jewish-American soldier who has to overcome the racism of his Army mates -- the Brando storyline emerges as the most compelling. It's certainly the most purely dramatic storyline, and the most complete. Add to that Brando's brilliant performance, and the strong supporting performances of Maximillian Schell, Parley Baer and Mai Britt, all of whom surround the Brando character, and you have enough for a satisfying movie by itself. Further, Hugo Friedhofer's masterful score always seems -- at least to me -- to soar to its greatest heights when we find ourselves in a boiling desert with the Afrika Korps, or in Paris with Brando's Nazi unit during the occupation. Does this nearly three-hour film suffer from this lopsided state of affairs? Not really, and that says a lot for the sheer craftsmanship of "The Young Lions." The cinematography and direction are first rate, and while the Clift and Martin storylines aren't as fascinating as Brando's, they do hold your interest. Clift gets across the fierce determination his character possesses, and Martin makes the most of several nice bon mots the script tosses his way."The Young Lions" is a fine World War II film, one that definitely rewards repeated viewings."
Outstanding War DRAMA (Interlaced with Some Action)
- Durrkk | Ohio/PA border USA | 11/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Young Lions" is a black & white 1958 WWII drama featuring Marlon Brando, Dean Martin (in his film debut) and Montgomery Clift.
THE PLOT: The film attempts to show the German, American and French sides of the war. Brando stars as a young German officer who becomes increasingly disillusioned with Hitler's regime and the world war he caused. Martin plays a worldly Broadway musician who struggles with cowardice. Montgomery Clift's character is a poor, naive Jewish American who falls in love with Hope Lange and fights the anti-semitic guys in his platoon.
VARIOUS HIGHLIGHTS: I'm a huge fan of Marlon Brando and his outstanding performance in this film illustrates why. Brando is utterly captivating! 'Nuff said. Most reviewers note that Brando's German storyline is far more interesting than the two American storylines, and this is true, yet repeat viewings grant the viewer more appreciation for the latter.
There are three incredibly gorgeous women featured in the picture: Barbara Rush, May Britt and Liliane Montevecchi. Rush is Martin's marriage-minded gal, who flirts with Brando early on, Britt plays the luscious sexpot wife of Brando's captain (Maximilian Schell), and Montevecchi performs as a French girl who initially insults Brando (because he's a German occupant) yet ultimately falls for his charm.
CLOSING WORD: "The Young Lions" is not a war action film, it's a powerful war DRAMA. Yes, there is quite a bit of action (France, Northern Africa, etc.), but the emphasis is on the characters and their stories. The climax involves a horrified and utterly disillusioned Brando, leaving a strong impact.
If you're looking for a mindless action flick this is not the one to see. This perhaps explains some of the less-than-stellar reviews. Yet, make no mistake, "The Young Lions" is without a doubt a WAR film. It's also a masterpiece of cinematic art, not to mention one of Brando's most mesmerizing performances."
By no measure a "classic" war film
Dr. Glenn W. Briggs | KSC, Florida & Chengdu, China | 07/31/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Having a very large collection of war films, there is a lot on shelf by which to compare and contrast this one. This is by no measure a "classic" war film, because that label would rank it up there with "Saving Private Ryan," "The Longest Day," "Tora-Tora-Tora," and many others through which the "classic" standard was developed.
Given, this COULD have been, and perhaps should have been a great film, but it is full of flaws, and unfortunately three of them are the acting of three pretty fair actors. The adaptation from the book was basically ineffective, and thus rendered the movie an almost painfully plodding experience. It is far too long, and opportunities to deliver a powerful message on war itself were lost. Frankly, the obvious efforts to render this an idealistic classic failed.
In terms of the acting, none of the three central characters were presented effectively, and perhaps not even believably. Part of the problem was that Brando, Clift, and Martin were not challenged, and at times actually seemed to be disinterested in anything but reading their lines. Because of his inexperience, Dean Martin can be forgiven, but Clift and Brando were extremely weak in their portrayals of the characters, and again, appreared to be merely going through their lines.
The best part of the entire film was the musical score, which was exceptional. Naturally, if the "...best part of the film..." was the music, the prosecution rests when it comes to further elaboration on the qualities - or the lack thereof - of the film. On a purely personal note, I had some trouble with what I perceived as an attempt to portray Brando's German officer character as an even "cuddly Nazi," and the director took the attempted idealism a bit too far."