Fršulein (1958)

 

 

 

Director:     Henry Koster.

Starring:     Dana Wynter (Erika Angermann), Mel Ferrer (Maj. Foster MacLain), Dolores Michaels (Lori the piano player), Margaret Hayes (Lt. Berdie Dubbin), Theodore Bikel (Col. Dmitri Bucaron), Luis Van Rooten (Fritz Graubach), Helmut Dantine (Lt. Hugo Von Metzler), Herbert Berghof (Karl Angermann), James Edwards (Cpl. S. Hanks), Ivan Triesault (Prof. Julius Angermann), Blandine Ebinger (Frau Berta Graubach), Jack Kruschen (Sgt. Grischa).

German woman escapes from being raped by the Russians, gets wrongly registered as a prostitute and has trouble marrying an American army major because of it

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

Cologne on the Rhine during the last weeks of World War II. German citizens are being rushed into air raid shelters. American POWs are being transported from the city, but the trucks stop to put everybody into the air raid shelters.

One of the Americans escapes. He enters a house where he hides, but he is soon found by the owner of the house. The escapee is a captain in the army and he has a huge wrench in his hand that he can use as a weapon. He explains that he is a prisoner of war. He wants some civilian clothes to wear.

When the bombing is over the Germans start looking for the escapee. They go past the university professorís house and the American relaxes a bit. He says his name is Captain Foster Maclain. The professor says his name is Professor Julius Angermann.

The professorís daughter, Erika, comes home. She finds a letter from Berlin for her from her boyfriend Hugo. Heís in a Berlin hospital with a shrapnel wound in the right arm, and heís going to be alright.

The professor now tells her that they have an American with them. Erika is shocked to see the American with the wrench in his hand. She says theyíre looking for the man all over the place.

German troops knock on the door. Erika takes the prisoner upstairs and he hides in the bathroom. Meanwhile, she starts taking her clothes off.

The Germans knock on the bathroom door. The shower is running and Erika comes to the door with a shower cap on. She acts annoyed at being disturbed and the soldiers go away.

The captain apologizes to Erika for upsetting her and her father like this. He sees a photo of Hugo on her night stand and asks if itís her husband. No, thatís her fiancť. She hasnít seen him for two years.

When itís dark enough, the captain says heís leaving. He thanks her for what she did for him, but she says she was only helping her father. She does, however, say to the captain that she hopes he makes it back safely.

The professor gives the captain an overcoat, and the captain leaves. The professor and Erika hear someone shout and then two shots are fired. The professor comments: "He never would have made it anyway."

Another air raid siren goes off and Erika says they have to go to the shelter. Dad goes upstairs for something and Erika tells her father that thereís no time, and a bomb explodes upstairs causing considerable damage to the house.

Berlin. Erika is now in Berlin. Everybody seems to be leaving the bomb damaged city and they are curious to see a young woman going into the city. Erika makes her way to the house of her cousin Karl Angermann. He is happy to see Erika and say he knows about the death of her father. He then introduces her to his two renters: Fritz and Berta Graubach.

They all go inside the house. Erika explains that she came to Berlin to see if she could find Hugo in east Berlin. Karl says that east Berlin is closed off. Thereís real combat going on over there.

The renters act as if Erika is making life harder for them. They wonít even give her any of their water for which they waited in line two hours to get.

Karl puts Erika in one of the beds in the cellar. She sleeps for six hours. Erika even sleeps through the bombing. She awakens and soon the bombing stops.

Russian tanks roll by near the cellar. Fritz suddenly realizes that he has to take down his Nazi flag flying over the house. He grabs his wifeís red petticoat and rushes to take down the swastika flag and put up the red petticoat.

Karl now locks Erika into a room upstairs and puts a big armoire in front of the door. Meanwhile, Russians comes into the home. They will stay there. They start drinking, playing music and dancing.

One of the soldiers finds Frau Graubach and to get herself out of real trouble, she tells the soldier about the young, pretty woman upstairs. The Russian goes upstairs. Karl sees this, he grabs a bayonet and goes upstairs to stop the soldier. A soldier downstairs sees this and he shoots Karl twice in the back while going up the stairs.

The soldier moves the armoire and then kicks in the door. He finds Erika. She tries to run away, but he stops her. He throws her down on the bed to have sex with her. He is drunk, so she gets away from him and climbs out the window. The man follows but soon he falls off the roof onto the stones below.

More soldiers come over to see what happened. They grab Erika and now she sits in an office with eight soldiers around her. They have her make her report and then have her sign it. The report says that Erika pushed the sergeant to his death because her relative was killed. Erika didnít even know Karl was dead. Now she starts to cry.

Col. Dmitri Bucaron takes over now. He takes up the report and she decides just to sign the form to get it over with. The colonel tells her sheís doesnít have to sign if the report is wrong. He crumples up the report. The colonel tells her she will go back home, but Erika doesnít want to go back there. He orders her to return to the house and says no harm will come to her anymore. Heíll see to that.

At home the Graubachs have adjusted very well to the Russian occupation. The colonel lives in the house and he gets lots of fresh food delivered to him. The Graubachs even have clean clothes now. They act as servants for the colonel.

Erika doesnít want to have breakfast with the colonel, so he goes upstairs. She tells him that she didnít invite him into her room. The colonel says he showed Erika respect, and he expects Erika to show him respect. He tells her that she hates Russians. Erika says she was never taught to hate anyone. Sheís just tired, she says.

He tries to kiss her but she pulls away from him. He tells her that he saved her from prison or possibly from worse. All he asks is that she returns to him what he feels for her, and itís not hate.

The colonel takes Erika out to eat and dance. She looks very pretty in her fancy dress, but sheís just exhausted. She still resists his advances. He gets a bit drunk and tells her heís being transferred to Bucharest, and sheíll be going with him. Dmitri even says he will marry Erika.

He grabs a guitar from a member of the band and sings a Russian song to Erika. Erika excuses herself and goes into another room. A woman helps Erika get away. She lets her take one of the dresses and she tells her how to get to the American side of Berlin. In return Erika gives the lady her fancy dress and fur wrap.

Erika gets away by riding on a garbage barge. There are others trying to escape the same way. They hear the American band playing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". The refugees get off the barge and watch as the Americans ride by throwing candy to the people watching.

Captain Maclean is now Major Maclean. Lt. Berdie Dubbin works for him. He has a really nice office. He tells Berdie about the coat he escaped in. It has a bullet hole in it. He explains that some Germans helped him get away when he was a POW. He would really like to thank those people, but now he canít reach them. Their house has probably already been bombed out. Berdie says she will send out some feelers to see if she can locate the people. The major thanks her for this kind suggestion.

Little does the Major know, but Erika Angermann is working at cleaning up the mess created by the bombed out houses. The Graubachs come walking by the area. They are dressed very well now and must be relatively wealthy. They spot Erika and go over to greet her.

They pull her away from her work. The supervisor gives her a slip for four days of work that she can cash out. They take her to their fancy place that has many bedrooms. They introduce her to their two "nieces". They then tell her that they must register her, so they give her a document to sign. She signs.

Berdie gives the major the document with information that Professor Angermann was killed in the bombing. The major says that the document doesnít say anything about his daughter, and he wants Berdie to keep searching for the daughter Erika.

Over with the Graubachs, Erika is in the midst of a party with men and beautiful women. The Graubachs encourage Erika to dance with one of the men. She excuses herself. A man follows her into the room to have sex with her as a customer, but she knocks the champagne glass into the manís face and rushes out of the room. She leaves the building. The man rushes into the living room to tell the Graubachs about the trouble he had with one of his "nieces". Fritz goes after Erika and grabs her. A tussle ensues and the American military police come to her rescue. They send Fritz back to his place and let Erika go. The black MP was very concerned for Erikaís welfare but she just kept saying she would be alright.

Erika gets in line for a job as a waitress in a night club, There she finds the woman who helped her escape from the Russian zone to the American zone. The woman remembers Erika. Now they are both in the American zone.

The helpful woman now helps Erika again. She gets her a job at the night club as one of the pretty women who sit on a platform that when triggered by a thrown object suddenly drops the platform out from beneath the woman and spills her into a small swimming pool. The thrower then rescues the woman and usually gets a kiss from her.

And wouldnít you know it, "out of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world", the major shows up. He sits down with his fellow soldiers for a drink. All of a sudden, the major recognizes Erika as she sits down on the platform. She falls into the water and the major rushes over to help pull her out of the pool. He calls her by name, but she doesnít remember him. He tells her who he is and asks her to come back and sit with him after she changes her clothes.

The major waits and waits for Erika. The bar starts closing. Erika finally shows up. She was hoping he would no longer be there. He says he knows that and he knows that he must remind her of the saddest day in her life. She asks how he found her. He tells her he was looking for her father and he just happened to come into this club tonight and found Erika.

He asks her how can he help her. He wants to return her and her fatherís kindness to him. At first Erika refuses any help, but when the major asks about her fiancť, she does ask him for help in trying to find Hugo. He has her write out all the vital information on Hugo so he can track him down. As she writes, she suddenly says that the major has no intention of finding her fiancť. He only wants to laugh at her plight. The major tells her just to finish giving him the information, and if he can be found, he will find this Hugo for her. After she gives him the information, he says she must have gone through a lot to be that suspicious.

Lori, the piano player and helper of Erika, now has Erika as a room mate. She mentions "your major" to Erika, but she says heís not "her major". Lori says well, no one sends her any flowers to her dressing room, and nobody ever comes to her place to call on her. Erika asks if the major came here? Yes, he did.

The doorbell rings and Lori goes down to get the major. It is, however, not the major but a health inspector checking on Erika Angermann as sheís registered with the health department. Lori says heís got the wrong person, so the inspector lets Lori read Erikaís registration. On the form she sees: "Occupation: prostitute". Lori still canít believe it.

Now the major arrives. Lori opens the door for him. Erika comes out of their room and the major asks her if she would like to take a ride with him? Lori says sure, Erika would love to.

The major takes Erika for a ride. He has a driver. On the trip she apologizes for how she treated him that first night in the club.

The major has found Hugo. He lives in a poor section of Berlin amidst squalor. Erika is very happy about this. A woman answers the door and Erika asks to see the lieutenant. The lieutenant wears his German army coat. He has lost his right arm.

Erika hugs Hugo, but he stands there as if at attention. He says that the life they knew before is dead and gone. Erika restates that she is still extremely devoted and loyal to him. He then sees the engagement ring on her finger. She says, yes, she went through hard times, but she never gave up on finding Hugo and she never would sell the ring.

But now reality slaps Erika in the face. Hugo says that in the new hospital they have prosthetic arms and legs for those who can afford them. He says if Erika would give him the ring, he could sell it and get one of those arms from the hospital. He begs her for the ring.

Erika is stunned, but she gives him the ring. She then backs up and leaves the shack. She is very upset as she walks back to the car.

The major wants to take her out on a mini-holiday. They take a river tour down the Rhine. The major tells her that she hasnít seen her smile since sheís been on this trip. Erika says: "At least, I havenít cried."

The major starts asking her a lot of questions about Hugo and her father and these really upset her. She walks away. Foster follows her. He scolds her for the way sheís behaving and she finally starts crying. Heís glad that sheís crying. He apologizes for badgering her, but he wanted to force her to cry and grieve over the loss of her father and her fiancť.

After her cry, Erika feels a lot better. At dinner, he asks her if she would someday like to see America? She says itís not so simple. She takes him up on the main deck to see a romantic place on the river.

Foster tells Erika that he has fallen in love with her. He had so wanted to go back home, but he stayed on, for why he didnít know. But now he knows itís because he loves Erika. They kiss.

Erika gets back to her room mate. She tells Lori that she is going to need a passport. Lori now tells her that she is registered with the health department as a prostitute and she wonít be able to get a passport. Erika is stunned once again. She runs out of the room and the building.

Lori now tries to get in touch with Foster. Berdie picks up the call. She tells Foster the news. Foster tells her to get the paperwork for the passport because he wants to take Erika to America. Berdie, very jealous, says oh, the German girls donít expect that much. All the major has to do is get the girl some nylon stockings. The major says that Berdie doesnít like Erika very much, does she? Berdie says everyone is very fond of the major and they donít want him getting hurt by a German girl. The major says he soon hopes to be a married man, and he thinks they should stop berating the Germans since the war is now over. Berdie agrees and will get the paperwork done as far as she can do it.

Erika arrives at the American Security Administration. She asks the clerk if she can look at her folder, but the clerk says he has to look over it first. The black MP that helped save Erika is there working on some papers. He recognizes Erika and is curious about what she needs.

The clerk calls out for someone to pull the file on Angermann. The black corporal volunteers immediately. He sees the word "prostitute" on the files. He comes over to Erika and says he will make some copies of the file. Erika panics and tells him not to, but he insists he has to. He says it will take a while, but he will make copies for her.

Erika is the last person remaining in the waiting room and the corporal is still typing away at those copies. When he hands a copy to Erika, she quickly looks at the occupation, but this time it doesnít say "prostitute". It says: "Occupation: none listed". Erika is relieved but still frightened. She asks if the clerk made a mistake. He tells her that he mentioned to her that heís a lousy typist and it would take awhile. She looks for the word "prostitute" elsewhere on the copy, but itís not there.

Erika asks the corporal didnít she see him before? He says he wouldnít know, Miss. But he hopes he will be seeing her again. She thanks him and then runs out of the office.

He sees her run over to the major and get in the car. Foster says heís taking her to see the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and his home state of New Jersey. She says she love Foster and they hug and kiss.

 

Nice love story set in the terrible situation of a bombed-out Berlin.  An American officer, a POW, escapes from the Germans and hides in a German house.  He has a huge wrench that he can use as a club.  The father and his young and beautiful daughter end up helping Foster escape.  The German woman loses her father and her home in the bombing of her house and town.  She goes to Berlin to her relative.  The American major now starts searching for the father and the daughter.  He has help from his secretary.  The major learns that the German father was killed in the bombing, but the girl is alive as far as he's concerned.  He searches for her amidst the rubble of Germany.  The film shows how much trouble the Major and the German woman go through in their attempts to stabilize the woman's poor situation and what they go through with the both German and American bureaucracies which makes for a good love story with the triumph over so many obstacles in their way.  Good movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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