All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

When watching early films in some kind of chronological order, you can see how quickly filmmakers and producers used emerging technologies to make grander, better films. Immediately, All Quiet on the Western Front resolves all of the sound issues that plagued the previous year’s Best Picture Oscar winner. What may seem small, becomes crucial in a film that must balance the crash of exploding bombs, the squeal as they approach the earth, the yards of bullets making their way through the guns on the ground, and the voices of those trying to stay alive.

Based on the novel by German WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front is a fascinating study in movie studio greenlighting. The film is an empathetic look at the young German boys fighting and “saving the Fatherland.” If we remember our history, the United States fought against Germany in the Great War. One might think that the U.S. film industry wouldn’t feel kindly about making a film on those we fought againt, just as one can’t easily think of the Universal making a war film today about the young boys who fought for Al Qaeda. But perhaps we should. All Quiet on the Western Front reminds us that the casualties in war, far too often fall on the laureled, young heads of boys who have been sold a bill of goods that this is their obligation- to their manhood, their families, and their nations- when all they are, are boys wanting to catch a butterfly on their fingertips.

All Quiet on the Western Front. (1930) 136 minutes. Directed by Lewis Milestone, Starring Lew Ayres, Slim Summerville, Louis Wolheim, Walter Rogers.

About Amy L. Darnell

Teacher, scholar, student, wonderer, wanderer, fan, foe, friend, acquaintance, all of these and more, but ultimately just an Ohio daughter.
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