Escape (1940)


Personal opinion: “Escape” – the screen version of the homonymous novel by Ethel Vance – was Conrad’s first talkie in Hollywood, and it was also the film that brought him the award for Best Acting from the National Board of Review. This was his first motion picture in which he played the iconic role of the cruel Nazi official. In “Escape” he embodies the General Kurt von Kolb, a man who tries to harmonize the political interests with his love for the Countess Ruby von Treck, played by the lovely Norma Shearer. But their lives are drastically changed when she helps and eventually falls for a young American named Preysing (Robert Taylor), whose mother was to be executed at the General’s orders. The plot of the film was already explained above, but what matters is that we see again the aristocratic and commanding attitude of Connie, who impresses the little ladies with his imposing stature and unforgettable monocle, but also with his wonderful stories and piano songs. There are many brilliant scenes in this great film of the talented Mervyn LeRoy, but the most interesting one is the fight between the Countess and the General, by the end of “Escape”. In the initial version (directed by LeRoy), the scene was very “noisy”, and both Conrad and Norma used physical violence so they should show one to another who is stronger. But in the final version (directed by George Cukor, who also cooperated in the filming of several additional scenes), he becomes her victim, as he suffers a heart attack while she reproaches him very harshly for being so wrong about the innocent people, who shouldn’t pay with their lives for the Nazis’ hatred. In the end, the Countess is stronger than the brave Nazi official, whose delicate health condition determines him to ask her not to live him – and, of course, she doesn’t. After all, what lady could have the heart to live such a special man like Connie alone?


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