Frieda – 1947 | 98 mins | Drama | B&W
Frieda, based on a stage play by Ronald Millar, who co-wrote the screenplay with Angus MacPhail, was a bold examination of social problems after the war, could the Germans be forgiven for the infamy of the Nazis? An RAF officer marries the German girl who helped him to escape from a prison camp, and takes her home to his English county town. “Would you take Frieda into your home?” asked the posters. They face both the open hostility of the townsfolk and an unhelpful family – his sister in particular is fervently unforgiving. At a cinema, Frieda is publicly humiliated when before the main feature a newsreel showing the concentration camp horrors is screened. But because she appears to be a fundamentally decent and attractive person she overcomes much of the prejudice, and is on the verge of being accepted, when her brother turns up in Polish uniform, reveals that he is still a dedicated Nazi and alleges that she is one also. Surprisingly, although her husband fights and beats her brother, he believes him and in his disgust rejects Frieda cruelly. She attempts to commit suicide, but is saved from drowning at the last moment by her husband who has finally come to his senses. It is then left to them both to face the future with all the difficulties it holds, but with their own guilt purged. Significantly Frieda’s staunchest and, at times, sole supporter is the widow of her husband’s brother who was killed in action.
Basil Dearden‘s film tackles its subject with integrity, but there is a nagging feeling throughout that the issues are not being resolved. The husband, played by David Farrar, is a stolid, decent British type, yet he treats his wife with astonishing insensitivity and prefers to believe the worst of her, even when the source of his information is manifestly unreliable. Mai Zetterling, making her British debut as Frieda, comes across convincingly and the supporting cast includes Flora Robson as the hardline sister (who is also a Labour MP) and Glynis Johns as the young widow, with Albert Lieven, typecast as ever, as the Nazi brother.
Extract© George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Basil Dearden: Director
Jim Morahan: Art Direction
Michael Relph: Associate Producer
Gordon Dines: Cinematography
Bianca Mosca: Costume Design
Leslie Norman: Editing
Ernest Taylor: Make-Up Artist
John Greenwood: Music
Ernest Irving: Musical Director
Michael Balcon: Producer
Ronald Millar: Script
Angus MacPhail: Script
Cliff Richardson: Special Effects