Movie legend Spencer Tracy is know for such movies as “Boys Town”, “Captains Courageous”, “Inherit the Wind” and all those films he made with Katherine Hepburn.
Last night I saw one of his films that I have never seen before and had not heard of until then. I don’t think it’s on Turner Classic Movies or any channels that show classic films very often. But it should rank as one of Tracy’s best.
It’s “The Seventh Cross” which came out in 1944 and is based on the novel of the same name.
Seven prisoners escape from a concentration camp in 1936 Germany. Six are recaptured and or killed. George Heisler, portrayed by Tracy, survives and is trying to find a way out of the country.
He is living moment to moment. Through Tracy’s performance, you can sense the pressure he feels knowing one mistake and he’s dead.
Some friends have become loyal Nazis and he can no longer trust them. He is searching for someone to help him as he goes from place to place. In an unusual movie-making technique, one of the prisoners who died narrates a good portion of the film.
Watching this movie, I appreciate the greatness of Tracy’s talent even more. He had to play George Heisler. No one else could. You feel trapped along with Tracy as he feels his world closing in around him.
It was one of director Fred Zinnemann’s first movies and he went on to a long and distinguished career with such films as “From Here to Eternity”, “A Man for All Seasons” and “The Day of the Jackal.” It was one of the few films released during World War II to deal with German concentration camps.
“The Seventh Cross” is another example of how frequently movie excellence does not get Oscar recognition. The film earned just one nomination for best supporting actor for Hume Cronyn, who played one of Heisler’s friends that helped him.
Cronyn’s actual wife, actress Jessica Tandy, played his wife in the film and it was the first movie that the couple worked together.
This is an outstanding movie. But beyond that, it’s a reminder that freedom should never be taken for granted. What happened in Germany in 1936 and later is an obvious example of that.
RATING — **** stars
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .