Crimson Romance (1934)




Director: David Howard.

Starring:  Ben Lyon (Bob Wilson), Sari Maritza (Alida Hoffman), Eric Arnold (Von Muller), Erich von Stroheim (Wolters), Hardie Albright (Hugo), James Bush (Fred von Bergen), William Bakewell (Adolph), Herman Bing (Himmelbaum), Bodil Rosing (Mama von Bergen), Vince Barnett (the courier), Brandon Hurst, Arthur Clayton (Baron von Eisenlohr), Oscar Apfel (John Fleming), Purnell Pratt (Franklyn Pierce), Jason Robards Sr. (Pierre).

 fly the World War I sky with the Luftwaffe



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

May 7, 1916.  The headline in the paper is that "Hindenburg Forces Advance", "French Rush Reserves to Front" and  "America Remains Neutral."  At the Pierce Aircraft Corp. they assemble airplanes.  Bob Wilson talks with fellow test pilot Fred von Bergen about chasing women.  The boss comes over and introduces the pilots to the company's vice-president, Mr. Pierce.  When the vice-president hears the name von Burke he asks if Fred is a citizen.  No, he's not.  Bob speaks up to say that Fred has his first papers.  And the boss vouches for Fred. 

The vice-president worries about the possibility of sabotage of some of their aircraft.  The test pilots take off.  The boss is really fond of the pair, who have been together ever since they were kids.  Up in the air a strut works loose and the men must get the airplane down.  They get down but the aircraft crashes at the end of the field.  One of the workers makes a nasty remark about Fred cracking up the airplanes and calls Fred a "Heine". 

Bob and Fred have to report to the office.   The boss has to let Fred go, because Mr. Pierce thinks Fred may be deliberately sabotaging the planes.  Bob gets mad over this injustice and quits the job, saying that he won't work for a firm that fires a man just because he has a German name. 

Bob and Fred go to another firm for a job, but the employer says they don't employ Germans here.  The same thing happens at another company.  At another firm they can't even get in to see the employer.  At dinner with Bob and mother von Bergen, Fred tells mom that he can't get a job because of prejudice against Germans.  Fred tells Bob to take a job, but Bob says they will stick together like they always have.  Fred says that he is going back to Germany.  His mother is very upset at this news, but Fred says he's sick to death of being called a Hun and a Heine.  Mom says they will make her son a soldier in Germany.  She cries while holding her boy. 

Fred gets on a train.  To his great surprise, Bob gets on the same train. 

In Germany the guys do pretty well because they are such experienced pilots.  They are sent to a special squadron, number 32.  The guys are driven in a side car to the squadron, but along the way Bob demands to drive.  And Bob, racing an ambulance, crashes.  The ambulance driver turns out to be a pretty woman named Alida Hoffman.  She stops the ambulance to check on the fellows.  All three are stuck in a deep hole.  She has to get a rope to get them out.  The guys get out and Bob starts putting the moves on Alida. 

They tie the wrecked motorcycle to the back of the ambulance and pull it to headquarters.  Captain Wolters is there when they pull up to headquarters.  When he hears that the motorcycle is wrecked, he says the driver will be severely punished.  Alida steps up and says it was her fault.  Captain Wolters says, in that case, he will report it as just an unavoidable accident.  When Alida and Fred are alone, she comments that his friend is very sure of himself.  Fred says Bob doesn't mean any harm and Alida comments that Fred is very loyal to his friend.  She invites him to a cup of coffee.

Wolters tells Bob it's rather amusing to have an American in a German squadron.  He says his best friend was shot down by an American flying for the Lafayette Escadrille.  He sends the men to go get cleaned up.  Himmelbaum tells the men where their room is and brings up their duffel bags. 

Wolters introduces the guys to two of the other pilots:  Sternberg and Meyer.  Allied planes are heard overhead.  There are thirteen of them.  Later, one of the pilots, von Muller, falls dead while standing in formation.  Our two guys have to go in to see the major.  He looks over their papers, then tells them they have many difficult days ahead of them because they are in the most active of all the squadrons.  Their job is to defend what is the largest concentration of munitions in this sector. 

The pilots drink beer and sing songs accompanied by an accordion player.  Fred waits outside for the arrival of Fraulein Hoffman.  They come in together and Bob is shocked to see them with each other.  Bob goes and gets Himmelbaum and sends him to tell Fred that he has to report to the Captain at once.  Fred goes out and Bog goes in. 

In the morning Fred talks with Alida while helping her work on the ambulance engine.  Fred has fallen in love with Alida and tells her he wants her to be his wife.  Alida says she can't think of such things now.  Bob interrupts them and Fred leaves.  Alida tells Bob that he is never serious, but Bob shows her a different side when he says in the air he just couldn't shoot down a helpless man.  Alida says:  "I'm glad. . . . It all seems so senseless." 

We find out Alida really likes Bob when Allied planes are overhead and he says he must go.  She screams that he can't, betraying her deep feelings for him.  The next scene is of Alida kissing Bob under a tree.  When Bob returns, Himmelbaum tells him he's in trouble for not reporting for duty.  Such an offense can even be punished by execution.  Bob runs out to get into formation and Captain Wolters really chews him out.  He says that Bob was hiding out of cowardice.  He could have Bob court-martialed, but he needs every pilot he can get, even one like Bob. 

Fred asks Bob where was he.  He was with Alida.  Fred gets angry and condemns Bob's actions with women.  He tells Bob that he loves Alida and he won't let Bob break her heart.  Bob just walks away from Fred.  Bob asks pilot Hugo for some advise and Hugo tells Bob that he thinks Bob is so irresponsible that he's a man without a future.  Hugo also says that pilots often die, leaving their loved one to grieve for them.  Bob says he never thought of that.

Bob sees Alida and tells her to forgot what has happened between them.  He's a rotten soldier and man and she should be with someone like Fred.  But Alida is in love with that crazy American Bob.  She suggests that they escape to Switzerland, but Bob won't desert the squadron. 

Wolters breaks the news that the United States has declared war on Germany.  He wonders if Fred will be affected by this, but he tells Wolters no, that Germany is his country. He tells Fred to go get Bob.  Fred finds Bob but he is busy kissing Alida.  Fred walks over and hits Bob, but Alida steps between them.  Now Fred condemns Alida for not being descent.  Bob starts to stand up for Alida, but Fred says he has to go speak with Wolters.  America has declared war on Germany.

Bob says he won't fight against America.  He is arrested to be held for court-martial.  Fred suggests that he take off in the plane that is warming up.  He also calls Bob a coward and Bob knocks him down.  Then he runs for the plane.  Fred is angry, but won't shoot at Bob.  He fires into the air.

Bob lands at an allied airfield.  He has to explain himself to the top officers.  The problem is that they can't confirm his story.  But another officer says he has a test for Bob.  He will lead the bombers over the munitions dumps and destroy them.  That will be the sign for the start of the Allied offensive.  Bob agrees to do it.   

Fred is in trouble with Wolters, because his conduct in the escape of Bob is very suspicious.  Wolters receives a report that Allied bombers are headed their way.  He tells Fred that he thinks Bob will be leading the bombers and the only way Fred can be sure he won't be court-martialed is to shoot Bob down. 

The two forces meet in the air and the dog fights begin.  The bombers also start dropping their bomb loads. The munitions dumps are blown up.  Fred sees Bob in his bomber.  He waves to him.  Bob sees him.  Another German airplane opens fire on Bob.  This makes Fred mad and he crashes his plane into the offending German plane and they both explode and go down. 

The Armistices is signed.  The boys come home again. 

Bob and Alida pay a visit to Fred's mother.  They explain that Fred gave his live for them.  Alida says they will try to bring happiness to the mother by partially substituting for Fred.   Mom hopes that Alida will never have to send a boy of hers off to war.  She wishes for the day when war will be seen as a barbarous thing and men will fulfill God's mandate:  Peace on Earth.  Goodwill to men.   


Entertaining movie.  Short and sweet.  It was interesting to watch Erich von Stroheim as Captain Wolters.  I had never seen him in a film before.  I thought he would have a thick German accent and was surprised that he talked without an accent (other than American that is).  Frankly, I was a little disappointed.   I thought he would be meaner in his demeanor. Sari Maritza (Alida Hoffman) was good in her role.  She was pretty and lively.  It's a simple story about friendship and love.  They loyalty between the two men saved them from destroying each other when one fights for Germany and the other goes over to the Allied cause when America declares war on Germany.  Love of country proved not be be as strong as loyalty to a lifelong friendship.   (In fact, it is primarily the commitment of fighting men to each other that keeps them fighting so hard.) 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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