Arch of Triumph (1948): Milestone’s Romantic War Thriller, Starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer

From Our Vaults

Lewis Milestone directed Arch of Triumph, a middling romantic war drama film directed, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton.

Grade: B- (**1/2* out of *****)

This was Bergman and Boyer’s second teaming after their more successful collaboration in George Cukor’s far better noir thriller, Gaslight (1944), for which Bergman earned the first of her three Oscar Awards.

It is based on the 1945 novel Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque, which he wrote during his exile in the U.S.

Irwin Shaw spent five months writing the screenplay, but he quit when Milestone wanted him to add a love story. Milestone then rewrote the script with Harry Brown.

Pre-World War II Paris is crowded with illegal refugees, trying to evade deportation. Dr. Ravic (Boyer), who under a false name practices medicine illegally, is helping other refugees.

In the first scene, he saves Joan Madou (Bergman) from committing suicide after her lover’s sudden death. They become involved, but he is deported and she becomes the mistress of the wealthy Alex.

Meanwhile, Ravic seeks revenge against the Nazi officer Haake, with war eventually declared between France and Germany.

The film’s name refers to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where the tale is set.

The rough cut was four hours long, and in reducing it to two hours several actors were cut.

Ingrid Bergman’s salary for the part was $175,000 + 25% of net profits.

William Conrad, in his fourth film, has a small (uncredited) role, as a policeman.

MPAA’s head of the Production Code Administration at the time, Joseph Breen, made the film’s studio tone down the violence in the script.

The scene where Ravic kills Haake  included him stuffing Haake in the car’s trunk, stripping him naked, burying him and burning his clothes — this was cut from the film.

Breen also objected to the murder going unpunished, but relented. Breen’s initial objection contradicted the novel which made clear that Haake was a torturer whose victims included Ravic and a girl he loved.

Remake

The film was remade in Britain in 1984  by Waris Hussein under the same title as a made-for-television movie with Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ravic, Donald Pleasence as von Haake, Lesley-Anne Down as Joan Madou and Frank Finlay as Boris Morosov.

Cast
Ingrid Bergman — Joan Madou
Charles Boyer — Dr. Ravic
Charles Laughton — von Haake
Louis Calhern — Boris Morosov
Ruth Warrick – Kate Bergstroem
Roman Bohnen — Dr. Veber
J. Edward Bromberg — Hotel manager at the Verdun
Ruth Nelson — Madame Fessier
Stephen Bekassy — Alex
Curt Bois — Tattooed waiter
Art Smith — Inspector
Michael Romanoff — Capt. Alidze