Days of Glory (1944)
Director: Jacques Tourneur.
Cast: Tamara Toumanova (Nina Ivanova), Gregory Peck (Vladimir), Alan Reed (Sasha), Maria Palmer (Yelena), Lowell Gilmore (Semyon), Hugo Haas (Fedor), Dena Penn (Olga), Glen Vernon (Mitya), Igor Dolgoruki (Dmitri), Edward L. Durst (Petrov), Lou Crosby (Johann Staub).
guerrillas fight back against the 1941 Nazi invasion of Russia
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
It is the fall of the first year. The Germans control the roads, but they must be careful of going off the roads for that area was home to the Soviet guerrillas. Two German soldiers on motorcycles are coming up the road. A sniper shoots and kills the first one with one shot. The second shot kills the other German motorcyclist. The sniper turns out to be a young, blonde woman named Yelena, who has now killed 63 Germans.
In the basement floor of a destroyed convent, a small group of Soviet guerrillas run their operations. The leader is Valdimir. Second in command is the intellectual Semyon. A young man named Mitya and his very young sister, a girl named Olga, are also there. Olga mentions that Fedor the blacksmith brought in a "package" who is now sleeping in one of the rooms. The tough Petrov returns from a mission. He brings in a dispatch from German headquarters. He strangled to death the German message carrier. Obviously, he really hates the Germans. The group is having borscht for dinner once again and there are some complaints.
Vladimir arrives. He learns that they lost two of their men. While everyone is eating dinner, the "package" shows up. This is Nina Ivanova, a well-known Soviet dancer. She was part of a theatrical group that was broken up during the current conflict. She is quite a looker and Yelena tells Vladimir: "Send her away. She'll spoil everything." Mitya visits with Nina. He seems to have a real crush on the dancer. He tells her that the Nazis killed his father, took away his mother and destroyed his village. To cheer Mitya up, Nina starts doing a theatrical performance for him. She does not, however, get very far in the performance, because a German soldier climbs down the stairs and gets the drop on Mitya and Nina. The German soldier asks in German what is this place and what are they doing here. He suspects that it is a guerilla nest. And where are the others?
Olga sees all this happen. She grabs the hot soup from the stove top and throws it on the soldier. This allows time for Mitya to grab the rifle. The soldier then grabs Nina. Olga ran off and now brings back the other guerillas. They grab the German. They are about to kill him, but Nina objects. Semyon backs up the actress. So the group places the soldier in a room and has someone watch him.
Nina visits Semyon who is on guard duty. She tells her helper that the group has made her an outsider and she desperately wants to be accepted by the group. That, of course, is not easy since Nina stopped the group from killingthe German soldier. They feel that Nina is just not one of them. But Nina soon gets a chance to prove herself. The German soldier escapes. Nina sees the soldier, but he does not kill Nina because she helped save him from the guerrillas. As the soldier climbs the stairs, Nina grabs a pistol and shoots him three times, killing him. Now the group is impressed. Vladimir visits Nina to praise her for stopping the German soldier. He adds that he hopes that she now feels she is one of the group.
The guerrillas fight at night. This guerrilla group targets the railway lines. They put explosives under the track and wait for back to their headquarters. This is difficult because there are many German soldiers on horseback in the area. Petrov, Vladimir and Nina are cut-off. It is obvious from Nina's actions that she is in love with Vladimir. He soon gets the message and in no time they are soon kissing.
A German airplane flies slowly overhead. Vladimir and Nina watch as it heads over Tula where the front line is. The plane runs into a great deal of flak. The flak blows up the airplane. The pilot parachutes down, but is killed before he can reach the ground. Nina notes Vladimir's glee over the downed airplane. He tells her that he was an engineer. He built factories and bridges. He even helped build a dam, but once the Germans arrived, he helped destroy that same dam.
Yelena sees Vladimir and Nina together and this upsets her. Mitya seems to be getting a bit of cabin fever. He complains that he wants to see some real action. Vladimir tells the group that some real action is on its way. He has to send a woman messenger to the frontlines to tell their comrades about the German troop strength in the area. He chooses Yelena because she is more experienced. On her way, riding on a horse Yelena is killed by the Germans. Yelena's horse returns to the convent with fresh blood on the saddle. Nina feels responsible for Yelena's death. Vladimir now has to send her as the messenger. But this time he sends Mitya too. The two of them reach their objective safely. One of the officers recognizes Nina and tells the others who she is.
Vladimir told Mitya and Nina that they should meet him in one of the village cabins in the area. When the two reach the cabin, Vladimir is absolutely beaming to see Nina again. The message she brings to him is "Snow will fall tomorrow." The message means that the Soviet counter-attack against the Germans will begin the next day. A German officer and enlisted man enter the cabin. They tell the residents to get out because Germans will be billeted in the cabin. Mitya becomes angry and spits on the officer. This quickly ends the officer's examination of the cabin. The officer takes Mitya into custody and takes him to headquarters. By making this sacrifice, the officer never finds the hiding Vladimir.
The decision is made to hang Mitya. Nina is very upset about this and tries to get Vladimir to save him. But Vladimir has strict orders and cannot risk drawing attention to himself and the guerrillas. He hates the idea, but he cannot save Mitya. Nina goes to the public hanging. The Germans hang a sign around Mitya's neck saying "guerrilla". Mitya makes the statement that "You can't hang a nation. Death to the Germans." With this outburst, the Germans carry out the sentence.
When Vladimir returns to headquarters, Olga demands to know where her brother is. Vladimir tells her what happened. Nina does what she can to console the little girl. At night, Vladimir goes over the plan of attack for the Soviet counter-attack. The bulk of the German reserve forces are in the village near Tula. The assignment of the guerrillas is to attack the reserve forces and then retreat while drawing the Germans away from the village. Vladimir sends Nina with Olga to the north and to safety. Nina does not want to go, but Vladimir insists.
The guerrillas have their work cut out for them. They not only have to face the German soldiers, but German tanks as well. Petrov sacrifices his life in order to take out two of the tanks. Vladimir receives praise for his actions against the village, but is told to keep fighting the reserve forces until the Soviet troops have fully taken the village. Sasha and Fedor man the artillery piece to take take out the rest of the German tanks. Sasha is mortally wounded, but does not die until he helps Fedor pull the lanyard and destroy a German tank. Fedor tries to knock out the next tank, but a German shell lands nearby, destroying the artillery piece and killing Fedor. Vladimir and the few men left with him take up positions at the convent.
German tanks close in on the convent. Nina returns to the convent to be with Vladimir. The defenders start firing on the nearest tank. While they do so, Nina takes the oath to be a soldier. The nearest German tank catches fire, but still keeps on going. The tank runs into the convent basement. We do not see it, but the movie is suggesting that all the defenders in the convent were killed, including Vladimir and Nina.
Pretty good movie. Nice love story. The movie was made to improve the image of the Soviet Union and its efforts in defeating the German Nazis. (I wonder if the McCarthyites later used movies like this to prove the existence of pinkos and communists in the Hollywood community?) At the time, the Soviet Union was an ally to the Americans. The movie stressed that it was presenting two new faces: Tamara Toumanova, who I never heard of, and Gregory Peck, who all movie fans know.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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