Guilty of Treason (1950) 

 

 

 

Director:  Felix E. Feist.

Starring:  Charles Bickford (Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty), Bonita Granville (Stephanie Varna), Paul Kelly (Tom Kelly), Richard Derr (Soviet Col. Aleksandr Melnikov), Roland Winters (Soviet Comissar Belov), Berry Kroeger (Hungarian State Police Col. Timar), John Banner (Dr. Szandor Deste), Alfred Linder (Janos, the waiter), Thomas Browne Henry (Hungarian Secret Police Col. Gabriel Peter), Nestor Paiva (Hungarian Vice Premier Matyas Rakosi), Morgan Farley (Doctor), Lisa Howard (Soviet Official at School), Elisabeth Risdon (Mother Mindszenty), Gene Roth (Russian Soldier in Kelly's Bathroom), Kenneth MacDonald (Major Arresting Mindszenty).

Cardinal Josef Mindszenty protests against Soviet occupation of Hungary and is persecuted for it.

 

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

O.k. movie.  The movie starts with a meeting of the Overseas Press Club.  Member Tom Kelly, just back from Hungary, is the speaker.  His talk is about Cardinal Mindszenty who is being held prisoner by the Soviets.

His story starts in November 1948.  He is taking a bath when the police suddenly appear in the bathroom.  They ask him if he is Paul Jenkins of the Toronto Star.  He is not.  Paul is his roommate.  Tom is brought to see Soviet Comissar Belov who apologizes for the mix-up. 

Tom wants to know about what is going on in Budapest.  But he can't go there directly.  First he has to go to Paris and from there to Hungary.  Budapest on the outside at least appears quiet, even though its war scars are showing.  He passes by #60 Andrasse Street where the Russians use torture on those accused of treason.

Tom was here ten years earlier.  He goes back to his favorites restaurant where he sees some friends, the playwright Sanders and the waiter Janos. Sanders warns him that no one can be trusted in Budapest.  At the restaurant he meets Stephanie, a music teacher who served in the French resistance during the war.  (Hungary at the time was siding with Hitler.)  Stephanie is in love with the Russian Colonel Melnikov, but the two have to hide their relationship because of the sensitive nature of the Colonel's job at #60 Andrasse Street. 

What Tom has really come to Hungary for is to find about the current status of Cardinal Mindszenty.  Col. Melnikov follows the party line that the Cardinal is an enemy of the state, but Stephanie believes in the clergyman, who is very popular with the Hungarian people.  Stephanie volunteers to drive outside Budapest to see the Cardinal.  When Tom first sees the Cardinal, he looks just like any other Hungarian farmer.  The Cardinal explains that he works as a farmer when he is on the farm. 

Back from the visit with the Cardinal, Stephanie tells the Colonel that she and Tom have been to see Mindszenty.  The Colonel is scared for her.  But Stephanie is becoming more defiant, not less. 

At school an official enters Stephanie's classroom to get her and her students to sign a petition declaring the Cardinal an enemy of the state.  When Stephanie refuses to sign she is taken into custody and winds up at #60 Andrasse Street.  Kelly tells the Colonel that Stephanie has been picked up by the authorities.  The Colonel tries to convince Stephanie to leave Hungary.  She refuses and he says: "You patriotic little fool."  But the Colonel does get Stephanie released. 

Soviet Comissar Belov shows up in Hungary.  He calls Tom in to ask him about certain newspaper articles appearing in the American press that appear to be written by him.  Tom denies that he was the author of the articles.  They talk about Cardinal Mindszenty. 

The Soviets wanted the Cardinal to leave Hungary, but he refused.  And now he is under house arrest in the Cathedral of Esztergom. 

Christmas Eve.  Tom arranges a meeting of the somewhat estranged Stephanie and the Colonel. 

Finally, the Cardinal is placed under arrest.  They then begin to torture the Cardinal in order to get him to confess to his "treason."  An article appears in the local paper saying that the Cardinal has confessed.  (The authorities issue the order to arrest all those who have had dealings with the Cardinal in the past month.)

Tom gets badly beaten up by a gang of Hungarian Nazis thugs and finds himself in a hospital.

Stephanie visits the Colonel to tell him about Tom.  Comissar Belov walks in on the couple while they are embracing.  To cover himself, the Colonel denounces Stephanie and she is taken into custody where she is tortured.  They not only want her to denounce the Cardinal, but the Colonel also.  But Stephanie refuses to cooperate.  (Her record is stamped "No Record" which means that she is marked either for death or a live of  slave labor.)

The trail against the Cardinal and six others for treason begins.  All have confessed.  The death penalty has been requested for the Cardinal.  The Cardinal is found guilty.  At the sentencing, he is given a chance to say something.  He speakers of the laborers:  "I condemn the police state to which they are enslaved."  Sentence is pronounced: life in prison.

A while later Tom asks about the Cardinal:  has he had a complete breakdown as some are saying?  Does he really expect an honest answer?

The movie switches back to the present meeting of the Overseas Press Club and Tom says the west must remain vigilant in defense of freedom for "liberty is everyone's business." 

 

The movie is o.k. but that's what one expects from a B movie: not good, but not bad, just o.k.  What can I say?  Yes, the Soviet Union held a brutal tyranny over eastern Europe. As is typical of dictatorships, they used lies, distortion, torture, bribery and many other brutal and ugly means to keep their client states in line.  I think the movie could have dealt more with the motivation and courage of Cardinal Mindszenty.  The movie was more about Stephanie and the Colonel and Tom than the Cardinal.  A man who is willing to die for his beliefs in defense of freedom deserves a more thorough presentation.

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  

     


Historical Background:

 

1892  --  born Josef Prehm (later changed to Mindszenty; he took the name of his native town as his last name) in Hungary.

He was educated at the Seminary of Szombathely, Szombathely.

1915 (June 12)  --  Mindszenty ordained, Szombathely, by János Mikes.

1919  --  Béla Kun (1886-1938), a Hungarian Communist politician, ruled Hungary for a brief period in 1919.  On March 21, Kun and the small Communist Party established the Hungarian Soviet Republic (the second Communist government in Europe after Russia itself).

1919 (June 24)  --  a failed anti-communist coup led Kun to crack down on his opponents; he used the secret police, revolutionary tribunals and semiregular detachments.  (There were 590 proven victims.)

1919  --  Mindszenty arrested during the Communist revolt of Béla Kun.

1919 (August 1)  --  the Soviet government in Hungary only lasted for 133 days, falling on this day.  (The Romanians invaded Hungary, took Budapest, and forced the Communists to stand down in favor of a Social Democratic party.)

1944  (March 3)  --  Mindszenty elected bishop of Veszprém.

1944 (March 25)  --  Mindszenty consecrated, Esztergom, by Cardinal Jusztinian Séredi, O.S.B., archbishop of Esztergom.

1944  --  the Nazis occupied Hungary; Hungary suffered big losses against the Soviets; and the Fascists governed the county at the end of the war.

1944-1945  -- Mindszenty imprisoned by the Nazi regime.

1945  --  the Soviet Army liberated Nazi-occupied Hungary.

1945 (October 2)  --  Mindszenty promoted to the metropolitan and primatial see of Esztergom. (Primatial -- pertaining to a bishop of highest rank in a province or country.)

1946 (February 18)  --  Mindszenty created cardinal priest.

1947  --  the Soviet Union takes over control of Hungary.  What followed were show trials, imprisonment, executions, forced settlement of hundreds of thousands and a drop in living standards; in short, a Stalinist dictatorship.

1948  -- Mindszenty arrested and charged with treason against the state of Hungary.

1949 (March)  --  condemned to life imprisonment by the Communist regime in Hungary.  

1956  --  the Hungarian Revolt against Stalinism. The uprising was put down by Soviet troops. (János Kádár came to power with Soviet assistance.)  Retaliation and executions began. 

1956 (October)  --  Mindszenty freed by the Hungarian revolt.

1956-1971  --  Mindszenty was in political asylum in the United States embassy, Budapest.

1958  --  did not participate in the conclave of this year.  (Conclave - the meeting held to elect a new pope.)

1963  -- did not participate in the conclave of this year.

1971 (September 28)  --  Mindszenty left Hungary.

1972 (March 29)  --  Mindszenty turned 80 -- lost the right to participate in the conclave.

1975 (May 6)  --   Mindszenty died in Vienna. Buried temporarily in Austria.

1991 (May 4)  --  his body was transferred to the metropolitan and primatial cathedral of Esztergom.


Source:

The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Biographical Dictionary.   http://www.fiu.edu/~mirandas/bios-m.htm#Mindszenty

 

 

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