|A Time to Love and a Time to Die|
|Directed by||Douglas Sirk|
|Produced by||Robert Arthur|
|Written by||Orin Jannings|
Erich Maria Remarque
|Based on||novel by Erich Maria Remarque|
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||Ted J. Kent|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||2.8 million admissions (France)|
A Time to Love and a Time to Die is a 1958 Eastmancolor CinemaScope drama war film directed by Douglas Sirk and starring John Gavin and Liselotte Pulver. It is based on the book by German author Erich Maria Remarque, set on the Eastern Front and in Nazi Germany. With a nod to Remarque's better-known All Quiet on the Western Front, this film has been referred to as All Quiet on the Eastern Front.
Ernst Graeber is a German soldier stationed on the Eastern Front during the war's last days. Fellow soldiers Steinbrenner and Hirschland and he are ordered to kill Russian civilians, but Hirschland commits suicide, instead.
Given his first furlough in two years, Ernst returns home to find his village bombed and parents gone. Elizabeth Kruse, daughter of his mother's doctor, tells him that her father is being held by the Gestapo. Constant air raids interrupt any peaceful moments while Ernst and Elizabeth enjoy their love.
An old friend, Binding, a wealthy Nazi, welcomes Ernst to his home and prepares a feast for the newlywed couple, while a sympathetic professor, Pohlmann, offers his help, should they decide to flee the country.
Ernst is ordered back to the front, where he finds Steinbrenner about to shoot arrested Russian civilians. To prevent their shooting, Ernst himself shoots Steinbrenner and frees them. One of the prisoners untouched by such sentimentality in a total war retrieves Steinbrenner's rifle and then shoots Graeber. He dies while reading a letter from Elizabeth, telling him that she is expecting their child.
Remarque met Sirk in 1954 and the director persuaded the writer to adapt his own novel for the screen. ("I found him an extraordinarily understanding and capable man", said Remarque. "He knew what he wanted to do with my book.") Sirk's own son, actor Klaus Detlef Sierck (1925–1944), died in the Ukraine as a soldier of the Panzer-Grenadier-Division Großdeutschland when he was 18 years old.
Universal decided to cast two relative unknowns in the lead. As studio executive Al Daff said:
We could have put two well-known personalities in it and proceeded on the basis of making a star vehicle. Or we could, as we decided to do, cast the story for inevitability and put into the lead roles talented, fresh performers who would not have to overcome the handicap of personality identification and could be accepted as a young Nazi officer and his sweetheart.
At one stage Ann Harding was going to play a role.
Filming took place in West Berlin, which Sirk had fled over 20 years before and the US Army Europe training area at Grafenwöhr. Interiors were shot at CCC Film's Spandau Studios in Berlin. The film's sets were designed by the art directors Alexander Golitzen and Alfred Sweeney. Gavin was accompanied by his wife who he had just married and they used the movie as an opportunity to honeymoon.
The musical score was composed by Miklós Rózsa on loanout from M-G-M, where he had been the primary composer for over a decade.
Universal sent a screen test of Gavin to critics in advance of the film's release. Hedda Hopper saw a preview and predicted that Gavin will "take the public by storm and so will the picture, which should also put its co-star, Lilo Pulver in the top ten."
The Los Angeles Times said the film wasn't as good as All Quiet on the Western Front but was "vivid, sometimes brutally shocking and, less often, emotionally moving."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The film was one of the most popular of the year in France. Kinematograph Weekly listed it as being "in the money" at the British box office in 1958.