How will Lady Ashmore save her Hungarian freedom fighting lover from the cruel clutches of the evil Soviet Major? That's the central question in this 1959 MetroColor romance/adventure story set against the background of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Versatile Yul Brenner (1920-85) plays the Russian Major. Brenner could play an Egyptian Prince ("The 10 Commandments"), a Jewish King ("Solomon and Sheba"), a gunslinger ("The Magnificent Seven"), an Asian ("The King and I"), a robot ("Westworld"), and a Ukrainian warlord ("Taras Bulba"). In 1956 he received the distinction of a NBR Award for his performances in 3 films - "The King and I", "Anastasia", and "The 10 Commandments", and won the Oscar that year for "The King and I".
Deborah Kerr (1921-2007) plays Lady Ashmore. Kerr was nominated 6 times for an Oscar ("Sundowners", "Separate Tables", "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison", "The King and I', "From Here to Eternity", "Edward My Son") but never won.
FWIW - Kerr and Brynner had been in the highly successful "The King and I" three years earlier, but their chemistry in that film is not re-captured here. Apparently the chemistry was there for Brynner and director Litvak who also teamed to make the highly successful "Anastasia" (1956).
Jason Robards Jr. (1922-2000) debuts as a Hungarian freedom fighter. The son of a popular film star from the 20s and 30s, Robards won two Oscars ("All the President's Men", "Julia"), received the Best Actor Award at Cannes in 1962 for "Long Day's Journey Into Night", and won an Emmy for "Inherit the Wind" (1988).
Kerr and Robards are two passengers on a bus bound from Budapest to Vienna, stopped at a customs check point controlled by Brynner. Some of the other passengers include -
E.G. Marshall (1914-1998) plays an American family man. Marshall had 150 film and TV appearances to his credit and won 2 Emmys for his TV series "The Defenders". I remember him best in "12 Angry Men" (1957).
Robert Morley (1908-92) plays an English TV producer. Morley was nominated for a Golden Globe for "Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe" (1978), but personally I thought his best performance was as the missionary in "The African Queen" (1951).
Look for 5 year old Ron Howard in his second film, and just one year before he gained fame on "The Andy Griffith Show".
The film was produced and directed by Anatole Litvak (1902-74), a Ukranian born Jew. Litvak is best known for his work on "The Snake Pit" (1948) for which he was nominated for an Oscar and a DGA. He was nominated for a second time for "Decision Before Dawn" (1951). Litvak made several anti-Nazi films (e.g., "Divide and Conquer", "The Nazis Strike", "The Battle of Russia", "War Comes to America", "Night of the Generals").
In 1959 the big money makers were "Ben Hur", "Sleeping Beauty", "North by Northwest", "Some Like it Hot", and "Pillow Talk". The big Oscar winner was "Ben Hur" (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor). Other notable films released that year include "Room at the Top", "The Diary of Anne Frank", "The 39 Steps", "The 400 Blows", "Anatomy of a Murder", and "The Last Angry Man".
The NY Times called the film "an absorbing romantic adventure film."
The direction is good, but the script is a little long. The photography is excellent and the acting by the ensemble cast is great. Brynner, of course, steals every scene but Morley and Krazner also do a good job.
Only two films have been made about the Hungarian Revolution - "Children of Glory" (2006) and "Revolution's Orphans (1979) - so this makes this Hollywood feature film a rare treat. Of course abuses of occupying troops has been covered in many many films, and often in much better detail. There is little that is specifically "Hungarian" in the film, and this might as easily been any occupied country at any time.
Bottom line - a good drama and character study about a time that is rarely filmed.