After seven prisoners escape from a Nazi concentration camp in the years preceding WW II, the camp's commandant has crosses nailed to seven trees, intending the prisoners to be crucified on the crosses when they are recaptured. One by one they are caught, until only one cross
remains--that meant for Tracy, who has lost all faith in humankind and become thoroughly embittered after his years of captivity. He narrowly escapes the Gestapo time and time again while friends and strangers help him make his way for neutral Holland, and, although he meets with a great deal of
betrayal from those he thought he could trust, his faith in others gradually returns. By the time he reaches safety, he is a better man than the hollow shell that survived the death camp.
Playing a man who watches everything he thought he could believe in give way to fascist power, Tracy gives a performance that is is almost unbearably strong. The actor was depressed throughout the shooting of this dark film; his mother and several of his friends had died shortly before shooting
began, and during filming a telegram arrived informing Tracy that an orphan he had met during the production of BOYS TOWN had been killed in battlefield action. (The boy had listed Tracy as his next of kin.) Tracy, who surprised everyone by agreeing to do a series of publicity interviews for THE
SEVENTH CROSS, praised novice director Fred Zinnemann lavishly, which quickly gave Zinnemann a reputation as a top-drawer director. Many of the cast members give beautiful and subtle performances in small parts, especially Hume Cronyn, playing an old friend who helps Tracy along, and Jessica Tandy
(in her film debut), Cronyn's wife in real life and on screen here. Cronyn's performance earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, though he lost to Barry Fitzgerald for GOING MY WAY. Upon its release, the film was attacked in some quarters for being too soft on Germany, but now THE SEVENTH
CROSS stands as one of the best of the swarms of anti-Nazi films Hollywood produced during the war years.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: After seven prisoners escape from a Nazi concentration camp in the years preceding WW II, the camp's commandant has crosses nailed to seven trees, intending the prisoners to be crucified on the crosses when they are recaptured. One by one they are caught,… (more)