THE PIED PIPER Monty Woolley

THE PIED PIPER. 20th Century Fox, 1942. Monty Woolley, Roddy McDowall, Anne Baxter, Otto Preminger, J. Carrol Naish, Peggy Ann Garner, Marcel Dalio, Marcelle Corday, Odette Myrtil, Helmut Dantine. Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson from a novel by Nevil Shute. Director: Irving Pichel. Shown at Cinevent 35, Columbus OH, May 2003.

   There was a time when I objected to the addition of films from the 1940s to the programs at Cinevent, but the quality of productions like this one I has pretty much taken care of my objections.

THE PIED PIPER Monty Woolley

   Woolley is an Englishman vacationing in France in the spring of 1940 as the Germans have swept across France and are beginning to think of conquering England. As Woolley attempts to return to England in advance of the German army, he acquires — against his curmudgeonly objections — a group of English and French children he attempts to shepherd to safety.

   Their escape — with the help of sympathetic French patriots — seems assured until they fall into the hands of a German company headed by Major Diessen, played by Otto Preminger.

   Garner and MacDowall are both superb and there’s not a typical Hollywood child actor in the small group recruited for the film. I’ve listed some of the French actors in the film. Although their roles are small, they are distinguished film performers. (Dalio starred in Jean Renoir’s masterly The Rules of the Game.) I found this to be a moving film, and with not a false step by the numerous fine actors.

THE PIED PIPER Monty Woolley

YouTube Notes: The confrontation scene between Preminger and Woolley can be seen here. A longer ten-minute clip can be found here. This one’s from earlier in the movie, as Monte Woolley begins to discover what fate has in store for him.

   The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: for Best Picture, losing to Mrs. Miniver; Best Actor, with Wooley losing to James Cagney for Yankee Doodle Dandy; and Best Cinematography.