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Three Comrades

Posted by martinteller on April 5, 2013

After the first World War, three soldiers remain close friends.  The idealist Erich Lohkamp (Robert Taylor), the political Gottfried Lenz (Robert Young), and the jovial Otto Koster (Franchot Tone).  They open an auto repair shop together, and enjoy each other’s company in the midst of a disturbing and violent rise of nationalism.  Suddenly, Patricia Hollmann (Margaret Sullavan) enters their lives.  She easily becomes one of the gang, but it is Erich who captures most of her attention.  The two fall in love… but Pat has a sorrowful secret.

I’m afraid this movie just didn’t work for me.  It runs for almost exactly the same time as Lucky Star but felt twice as long.  It has Borzage’s usual lush sense of romanticism, and is a fine testament to devotion and friendship.  The relationships between the leads are endearing.  I just kept… tuning out.  There wasn’t a hook for me.  The script — partially written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and based on a book by Remarque — was a bit too flowery and meandering.  Some snatches of dialogue are quite beautiful, as are scattered scenes.  It simply didn’t add up to a whole lot for me.

Part of the problem may be the performances.  Sullavan is great, with a bittersweet, husky voice that reminded me of Ida Lupino.  But the three men are merely okay.  Tone, although probably the least prominent of the three, was the most enjoyable.  There’s also the matter of their demeanor.  These guys just exude America, they’re as American as a baseball stadium filled with apple pies.  Now I’m not one to insist that actors playing Europeans put on a silly accent (generally I’d prefer it if they didn’t) and I guess I can’t say how a German is supposed to act, but everything about them said America.

That’s not really the issue, but I thought it worth mentioning.  It kind of spoils the illusion (and the commentary on the German situation, which I understand was cut down quite a bit in production).  It may be a contributing factor, but whatever the reason I found this movie a bit of a slog.  My first disappointment with Borzage, but he’s still got a great batting average.  Rating: Fair (67)


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