Ernst Lubitsch – Broken Lullaby (1932)


From the AFI Catalog:

After World War I, Frenchman Paul Renard is haunted by the memory of Walter Holderlin, a German soldier he killed in the heat of battle. Having read and signed Walter’s last letter and memorized his home address, Paul goes to Germany to confess his deed to the soldier’s family. Anti-French sentiment is strong in Germany and Dr. Holderlin will not suffer Paul’s presence in his home until Walter’s fiancée Elsa recognizes Paul as the man who has been leaving flowers on Walter’s grave. Paul reveals that he knew Walter, but is unable to confess his past, and tells the grateful family he and Walter were friends during the war. Paul and Elsa fall in love and a close bond grows between Paul and the Holderlins, despite the entire town’s disapproval. When Elsa shows Paul Walter’s former bedroom, he is unable to contain himself any longer and confesses the truth to her. Paul also reveals his plans to tell Dr. and Mrs. Holderlin his secret and then leave, but Elsa intervenes and advises him that his confession and departure would deprive the Holderlins of their second “son.” Eventually, Elsa convinces Paul to sacrifice his conscience and stay to make the Holderlins happy. After Paul consents, Dr. Holderlin gives him Walter’s violin to play to Elsa’s accompaniment.

The working titles of the film were The Man I Killed and The Fifth Commandment. According to a news item in Film Daily, the title was changed to The Fifth Commandment because the original title “caused wrong impressions in the minds of the public about the character of the story.” Although the film was billed initially as The Man I Killed, it was copyrighted and released as Broken Lullaby. Although Motion Picture Herald lists the film’s running time as 94 minutes, this time is probably an error. The Censorship Dialogue Script in the Paramount script files at the AMPAS Library, lists Phillips Holmes’s character as “Pierre.” According to an article in Variety the film was dubbed into French under the supervision of Jacob Karrol at Joinville studios in France. The dubbed version was released in Franch under the title L’homme que j’ai tue, but the English version was also available for distribution in France. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Czechoslovakia banned the film because of its “pacifistic theme.” Photo voted Lionel Barrymore for best individual performance of 1932. A modern source notes that shooting took place September-October 1931.

Subtitles:French hard subs

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