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The Young Lions is a 1958 war drama film directed by Edward Dmytryk, based upon the 1948 novel of the same name by Irwin Shaw, and starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Dean Martin.


German ski instructor Christian Diestl (Brando) is hopeful that Adolf Hitler will bring new prosperity to Germany, so when war breaks out he joins the army as a lieutenant. Dissatisfied with police duty in Paris, he requests to be transferred and is assigned to the front in North Africa. He sees what the war has done to his captain (Maximilian Schell) and the captain's wife (May Britt), and he is sickened by their behavior.

Michael Whiteacre (Martin) and Noah Ackerman (Clift) befriend each other during their U.S. Army draft physical examination and attend basic training together. They are then stationed in London. Michael is in show business and romantically involved with socialite Margaret Freemantle (Barbara Rush) who, coincidentally, in 1938 dated Christian in the Bavarian Alps when she went on a skiing vacation. She was upset by his Nazi beliefs and deserted him on New Year's Eve to return to Michael.

Noah, who is Jewish and works as a lowly department store clerk, attends a party Michael throws, where he meets Hope Plowman. She falls in love with him and introduces her fiancé to her provincial father, who doesn't like Jews but has never met one. After a chat with Noah, the father approves of the marriage.

In the service, a commanding officer and some of the tough guys in his company try to bully Noah and demonstrate their bigotry. Noah gains the respect of the enlisted men by standing up to them in a series of fist fights, even though he's much smaller and is badly hurt. Authorities discover the truth, and reprimand the officer.

Each of these soldiers comes to view the war differently. Christian is conflicted, hating what the war has done to his fellow Germans, but unable to escape from his role in it. He despises what his fellow soldiers have done in the name of the Fatherland but is determined to fulfill his duty to the end. While visiting his injured captain in a hospital, he unwittingly brings him a sharp weapon, and later learns from the captain's attractive and seductive wife that he had committed suicide there.

Michael spends most of the war in a comfortable job, nowhere near any fighting, thanks to his Broadway fame. He finally decides to join the fight after Margaret shames him into it. By pulling strings, he rejoins his old outfit on the front in the war's final days, almost too late to matter.

Noah simply does his duty to the best of his ability, hoping to live through the horrors of war and get home safely to his wife and their new baby. He has a heroic moment where he risks his own life by swimming across a river to save a frightened fellow soldier, one who was especially prejudiced against him in boot camp. Meanwhile Christian discovers the reality of the Nazi regime when he stumbles upon a concentration camp filled with Jews, and hearing the commander tell of the exterminations. Shortly afterwards, the camp is liberated by American forces including Michael and Noah. The mayor (John Banner) of a nearby town offers working parties of his constituents, anticipating media attention. However, he is rudely rebuffed by Whiteacre and Ackerman's company commander, Captain Green, when an imprisoned rabbi asks Green for permission to hold a religious service, and the mayor protests.

Seeing how Ackerman is affected by the camp, Green instructs him to take a walk and sends Whiteacre with him. Shocked and disgusted, the two GIs wander away from the camp. Nearby, a dazed, tired, and hungry Christian hides with his weapon, but then screams in rage as he breaks his MP 40 apart. The noise draws Michael and Noah. On seeing the German, Michael shoots Christian. The two Americans silently watch Christian die, and then quietly walk back towards camp.

The final scene shows Ackerman emerging from the same subway station he left home through. As Hope notices him, she lifts up their daughter for him to see, and he ascends the stairs to his family.

Posted by George Freund on August 21, 2014 at 5:06 PM 4484 Views