February 24, 2017


The Divided Heart – 1954 | 89 mins | Drama, War | B&W

Plot Synopsis

The Divided Heart

The Divided Heart was directed by Charles Crichton, representing a notable change of pace for him, and was written by Jack Whittingham with Richard Hughes. The story was based on a heart-rending real-life situation in which a Yugoslav mother, whose baby had been snatched by the Germans during the war along with thousands of others, to be given to childless women in the Fatherland, had managed to trace her child. The baby had grown to be ten years old without knowing anything of his real background, supposing his adoptive parents to be his own. Faced with the judgement of Solomon, the American Control Commission awarded the boy to his real mother without even the bond of a common language between them. In the film, Cornell Borchers and Armin Dahlen play the German couple, with Yvonne Mitchell as the Yugoslav mother and Alexander Knox as the presiding judge.

It ends on a highly-charged emotional note, intensified by the closing remark from the court that they are not handing the son into the custody of the mother, but the mother into the custody of the son. After that, there cannot be a dry eye in the house. Nevertheless, The Divided Heart, though it was a critics’ picture, did not catch fire at the box office. What marred it was a somewhat barren style of construction in which, apart from two flashbacks inserted to show what happened during the war, the story moved at a measured pace towards its climax, losing some of its emotional edge because of an over-deliberate editing pattern. There is a characteristic reticence to become too deeply involved, almost as though, having uncovered an undoubtedly explosively charged affair of heart-breaking proportions, the film-makers were reluctant to be drawn too close and so risk being forced to make a commitment. Yvonne Mitchell was in general sensitive and moving, conveying an air of sadness and determination, contrasted with the hysterical possessiveness of the other woman. But the ultimate effect is a subdued one, and perhaps the reason for the film’s comparative failure with the public lies in its own lack of involvement in the drama which it relates. It is, in essence, far too British about everything.

Extract© George Perry: Forever Ealing.

Production Team

Charles Crichton: Director
Edward Carrick: Art Direction
Otto Heller: Cinematography
Peter Bezencenet: Editing
Georges Auric: Music
Michael Truman: Producer
Jack Whittingham: Script
Richard Hughes: Script


Cornell Borchers: Inga
Yvonne Mitchell: Sonja
Armin Dahlen: Franz
Michael Ray: Toni
Alexander Knox: Chief Justice
Liam Redmond: 1st Justice
Eddie Byrne: 2nd Justice
Geoffrey Keen: Marks

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