Fred Zinnemann’s The Search (1948) comprises intersecting plots and displaced persons presented within the illusion of documentary film. Its narrative develops on three levels: the documentary with a voice-over, the historic providing both contemporary context and flashbacks, and the individual showing us a boy and mother’s search for each other while he finds temporary refuge with an American soldier. The film dramatizes post-war European recovery; Zinnemann’s approach combines documentary and melodramatic techniques. The Search becomes a portrait of post-war Europe and an emotionally wrenching tale of family loss and reunification. The film’s presentation of displaced persons rediscovering their identities is not mere melodrama, nor are its characters but figures in a pseudo-documentary. Zinnemann is subjective but self-consciously so. The film is both historical documentation of cultural displacement in post-war Europe and a document of displacement of conventional Hollywood filming methods by documentary-style cinema technique.

A look back at The Search, directed by Fred Zinnemann (1948) allows us to consider why its vigorous liberal sensibility no longer resonates. While the film spotlights the continuing ambivalence towards displaced persons, it is most useful in presenting aspects of documentary-style melodrama and realistic narrative. The film is also historic in its own right; it was among the first American films made on location after the war. The film is about a boy who survives Auschwitz and his mother’s search for him in the aftermath of World War II. It stars Montgomery Clift (Ralph "Steve" Stevenson), Ivan Jandl (Karel Malik), Jarmila Novotná (Mrs. Malik), and Aline MacMahon (Mrs. Murray).

The Search chronicles and dramatizes displaced persons attempting to relocate themselves. The film was acclaimed at its release: Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler won Oscars for best story, a juvenile Oscar was awarded to Ivan Jandl, not to mention Montgomery Clift’s nomination for the best actor Oscar for his first starring role, and Zinnemann’s nomination for the Directors’ Guild Award. Bosley Crowther’s review’s valedictory comment, “The Search, in our estimation, is a major revelation in our times” is representative of the contemporary reaction.[1] The contrast between the style of the film and its narrative can inform a discussion of the nature of cinematic “realism.” Even outside of its post-war context, the film offers an emotional impact and imparts cultural awareness.

The film’s narrative is presented on three levels: a “purely” documentary one with a voice-over, an historic one providing both contemporary context and flashbacks, and finally what could be called the personal or family level that shows us both the boy and the mother’s search for each other while the boy has found temporary refuge with an American soldier. The film dramatizes this of course, but for us it also dramatizes the “history” of post-war European recovery.

The plot reveals how Zinnemann uses his background as a documentary filmmaker and the year he spent in Europe, before filming, researching the refugee children catastrophe. We watch a trainload of children,classified as Displaced Persons or “DPs”, being given over to Mrs. Murray (Aline MacMahon) of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The children are sent to a transit camp where UNRRA officials will process them and try to find their families. Quickly Zinnemann directs our attention to a boy named Karel (Ivan Jandl) who only answers "Ich weiß nicht" ("I don't know") to whatever questions the staff put to him. The children are separated and put onto trucks and ambulances to be sent to other camps. Karel and the children with him panic because they associate ambulances with the Nazis and poison gas.

Eventually the children are coerced into the vehicles, and Karel and another boy jump out at their first chance. Escaping in the confusion, they try to swim across a river to escape from their pursuers. The other boy drowns, but Karel gets to shore and becomes a wanderer. An American army engineer, Steve, finds him atop a pile of rubble and coaxes him down with food. Steve takes him in and teaches him English. Karel is unable to tell Steve his own name, so Steve calls him “Jim.” Looking at a picture magazine’s feature on animals and their babies, Karel recalls that he last saw his own motherby a fence in the concentration camp. He runs away to find her. Steve eventually finds Jim and tells him that his mother is dead. Steve honestly believes she has died, and he wants Karel to give up searching for her; he tells him that he will adopt him and bring him back to America.

Interspersed with the scenes of Karel and Steve’s growing relationship is Mrs. Malik’s search for her son. We learn that she has been inadvertently following Karel. She ends up at the same transit camp where Karel had been and is engaged by Mrs. Murray to help with the children there. She does her job so well that they implore her to remain, but though the UNRAA wants her to stay, Mrs. Malik insists that she must leave to continue her search for Karel. The plot itself can instigate a discussion of what makes the film fascinating as cinema because it is superficially a conventional melodrama of a mother’s reunion with her son.

Zinnemann’s technique deepens the film. He never lingers over emotionally charged scenes, and he usually cuts away rather than relying on close-ups. Considered in the context of both post-war Europe and the way that the Hollywood studios were being forced to deal with changes in their audience and the economics of the film industry, not to mention changes in film-making style, The Search can be taken as representative of a turning-point in American film as a whole. André Bazin admired Zinnemann, praising him in the second volume of What is Cinema? for, “combining the effect of moral drama with the aestheticism of his framing.”[2] Bazin identifies film’s chief ambition as remaking “the world in its own image.”[3]

Zinnemann’s film uses fact-based methods, both actual (locations and details from his actors’ lives) and technical (newsreel and documentary movie making) to “re-make” the world. However, “fact-based” is not the same as factual,a key word in the World Union of Documentary’s definition of the genre, and thereby lies a difference between documentary-style and documentary. Zinnemann’s technique is both of its own time, and something that warrants 21st century scrutiny.

Consider what Zinnemann does in the film’s finale. He distills a series of tense, missed connections into a terse, yet affecting conclusion. Steve has brought “Jim” back to the UNRRA camp before shipping him back to America. He plans to leave the boy there,then send for him as soon as the paperwork clears for the boy’s adoption. When Mrs. Murray sees “Jim,” she remembers him and senses that he is Mrs. Malik’s son. She rushes to the station to stop Mrs. Malik from boarding the train, but it has already left. Fortunately, Mrs. Malik was not on the train, at the last moment she had decided to go back and resume her work at the camp. Finding her on the station platform, Mrs. Murray takes her to the UNRRA camp and Mrs. Malik immediately resumes her duties. At that instant, Steve tells “Jim” to get together with the newly assembled children. Mrs. Malik leads the children into the camp, but “Jim” does not recognize her. Suddenly, as though by instinct, Mrs. Malik turns and calls out his name and Karel rushes back to her and leaps into her arms.

This synopsis provides the “documentary” details but can only refer to the emotions the film summons. Paradoxically, even as it presents at times an almost “newsreel” sensibility, The Search is a wrenching film. This “paradox” also represents cinema’s greatest anomaly: while for many audiences it is the standard for realistic storytelling, better-informed spectators know that not one second of a film is real. Even ostensibly “raw” footage can only be viewed through the perspective of whomever controls the camera, and once edited becomes an onscreen narrative much more removed from “reality.”

For this discussion, let us not consider The Search in the context of the history of film documentary, but rather as a film perceived as a documentary narrative. Zinnemann selectively draws on certain documentary techniques, coincidentally defined by the World Union of Documentary one year prior to the film’s release as,

any aspect of reality interpreted either by factual shooting or by sincere and justifiable reconstruction, so as to appeal to either to reason or emotions, for the purpose of stimulating the desire for, and the widening of human knowledge and understanding, and of truthfully posing problems and their solutions.”[4]

Zinneman’s film offers us the opportunity to interrogate the formalist use of documentary technique. This is not only perinent because the postwar years are generally regarded as the last years of “modernism,” but because it enables us to consider Zinnemann’s use of a documentary aesthetic to inform his liberal humanist one. This is in harmony with postwar idealism and as we have seen, the fleeting nature of that idealism is as poignant as the story of Karel and his mother. John Grierson, who for the Anglophone world begins the formal discussion of documentary, was UNESCO’s director of mass communications. The definition of documentary quoted above is representative of his ideas. Even Paul Rotha, who believed that documentary method was more important than genre , accepted this explanation.[5]

Zinnemann’s film uses certain locations and reconstructions, but is certainly not “factual shooting.” The latter part of the definition, with its qualification of what a documentary should “appeal to” is so broad as to apply to almost any serious or “sincere” film narrative. Moviegoers not concerned with the fine points of documentary probably would have no doubt been sincerely entertained by the location shooting and the narration. The usefulness of the UNESCO-inspired World Union criteria for documentary here is amplified by Zinnemann’s reflecting the postwar zeitgeist not only in its use of more “realistic” techniques, but also in his summoning of Trümmerfilm imagery.

We note this particularly in the film’s opening shots of a bombed-out train station and later when the Czech boy emerges from a rubble heap when he is first seen by the American soldier. The concept of Trümmerfilm is also interesting in the context of Zinnemann’s career and the placement of the urban milieu in documentary film. Grierson had enthused about the possibilities of “urban poetry” in the early 1930s, writing in the wake of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927). Such “poetry” may be the antithesis of the Trümmerfilm. Nevertheless, Zinnemann’s work on Menschen am Sonntag, the abortive Russian project with Flaherty, and Los Redes demonstrates the problems inherent in crystalizing any debate about the redemptive powers of documentary. Grierson’s 1946 essay, “Postwar Patterns” almost gives Zinnemann instructions for “rehabilitation and reconstruction”:

What remains, now that the war is over, is what we have done to describe the nature and the aspirations of the United Nations to each other, what has been done to describe the new spirit of unity at home and of international co-operation abroad.[6]

Grierson’s aesthetic is fundamentally unchanged from his pre-war statements, and turning to some aspects of the Trümmerfilm can amplify this issue.


Figure 1. Shots of the destroyed city, then Karel emerging from the rubble, prepare us for the first meeting of the American soldier and the boy.

The shot of Karel emerging from the rubble aligns with Eric Rentschler’s definition of the mise-en-scène of the Trümmerfilm that emphasizes the “space” of rubble.[7] Rentschler’s attention to Burghardt’s argument that “most filmmakers who worked in this vein ...sought to create documentary verisimilitude through realistic images of ruined houses and rubble mountains” could be a direct reference to scenes from The Search.[8] Zinnemann, of course, differs from contemporary German directors who were confronting their own history. This is not to suggest that The Search is a Trümmerfilm, but it might allow a paraphrase of Adorno: Zinnemann’s film asks, “What does coming to terms with the present mean?”[9]

In another discussion of Trümmerfilme, Gertrud Koch emphasizes the idea of social reconstruction that the Trümmerfilm offers.[10] Because Zinnemann’s film is not about Germany, does not need to be so expansive. It is sufficient that it portrays the partial reconstruction of a family. However, it could also be suggesting that Americans should rebuild the values of the New Deal. Kracauer would certainly approve of such a notion. Rentschler rehearses the debate over how to reconcile the enduring values of German culture with the Nazis’ horrors.[11] He amplifies Koch’s argument for altruism, asserting, “the Trümmerfilme issued from the same state of emergency that produced Jaspers’ call for ethical, moral, and political renewal.”[12] Zinnemann’s film dramatizes what is ultimately a temporary emergency: a boy separated from his mother. The film begins in the context of the European crisis of displaced persons, but quicklyfocuses on one child. Here again, The Search is no more a Trümmerfilm than it is a documentary.

Moreover, since the personal or rather, individual struggle is at the core of Zinnemann’s film, another aspect of the Trümmerfilm aesthetic does not obtain. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction is frequently cited in Trümmerfilm discussions. Near the conclusion of his essay, Sebald brings up a disturbing letter from “Dr. H.” that he received, and Sebald’s use of the letter crystalizes the larger cultural issues with which Zinnemann’s film does not engage. Dr. H.’s letter is the antithesis of the arguments that Jaspers inspires. The letter, unrepentantly and bitterly, accuses the Allies of waging a bombing campaign designed to “cut the Germans off from their origins and inheritance by destroying their cities, thus paving the way for the cultural invasion and general Americanization that ensued in the postwar period.”[13] Dr. H. dismisses the possibility of cultural rebuilding or renewal. Sebald also reveals the letter’s anti-Semitic imprecations.

This dismissal is anathema to Zinnemann’s liberal humanist aesthetic, which requires the hope of reconstruction. Nonetheless, The Search makes only a passing reference to the Holocaust. The original screenwriter Peter Viertel quit over the limited emphasis to Nazi atrocities. Of course, it is unjust to criticize the film for what it should have done. The film’s main concern is with the present, not the immediate past. The point is not to indict Zinnemann for what the film lacks, but to recognize that Zinnemann’s cinematic place lies between an American and a European sensibility.[14] Zinnemann’s own history deepens the film’s subtext, and a few biographical details about the director might indicate how The Search became the film that it is. In the particular context of The Search, Zinnemann’s Jewish heritage adds to the sharpness of his perspective. Born in Vienna in 1907, both his parents would die in the Holocaust. Zinnemann learned this just as his Hollywood career as a feature-length film director was taking off.

This background is something that can be used by those who would question the absence of any explicit reference to Nazis or even German aggression in The Search. For example , the film only identifies “the enemy” when depicting occupied Prague. I would argue that Zinnemann is not rejecting the statement of the obvious so much as attempting to go beyond the immediate circumstances of the film and present a broader humanist perspective of inhumanity. Zinnemann is also a canny filmmaker well aware of his audience:

All of us realized of course, that it would be necessary to soften the truth to a certain extent, because to show things as they really were would have meant—at least in our sincere opinion—that the American audience would have lost any desire to face it, used as they have been through the years to seeing a sentimentalized world.[15]

Zinnemann’s “sincere” recognition of the importance of “the sentimentalized world” is endemic to his understanding of melodrama.

The question of presenting humanity takes us to Zinnemann’s relationship with Robert Flaherty. Zinnemann declared that Robert Flaherty was his “godfather” and cited his direct influence on The Search.[16] He explains that working for the pioneer documentary filmmaker was an incomparable experience for him:

Flaherty taught me more than anyone else... Number one was to stick to your guns. I learned the importance of expressing what you want to say, to make a film the way you see it.... You have to imagine how an actor will relate to the other actors in a film.... [Y]ou must create an atmosphere in which they can function, give them as much assurance as you possibly can.[17]

Robert Flaherty, most famous for Nanook of the North (1922) and Man of Aran (1934), is a controversial filmmaker today. The blurring of “narrative” and “documentary” in his work reflects the disputes inherent in any discussion of anthropological fieldwork undertaken in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Zinnemann was in such awe of Flaherty that after journeying to California he met Flaherty, who asked if he could work with him on a Russian film project, provided Zinnemann would return to Berlin (and pay his own way). The young man was thrilled at the prospect. Zinnemann recalled that when he met Flaherty in 1930: “I was very much in search of a hero; disenchantment with Hollywood and its castrated talents had begun to creep in.”[18] Grierson comments that Flaherty’s “essential” element was location; this clearly influences Zinnemann. Kracauer will picks up on Grierson’s highlighting Flaherty’s “[coming] to grips with the essential story of the Eskimos, then with the Samoans, then latterly with the people of the Aran Islands.” This is why he credits Flaherty with making “stories of peoples” that are documentaries—-as opposed to “semi-documentaries.” Grierson also trenchantly “hopes that the neo-Rousseauism [sic] implicit in Flaherty’s work dies with own exceptional self.”[19] Here is a difference between Flaherty and Zinnemann: Flaherty could not work with studios at all; Zinnemann was rather successful with them. Regarding the neglect of Flaherty’s influence on Zinnemann and the emphasis on Rossellini, by the late 1940s the Italian director’s reputation had overwhelmed Flaherty’s. Nonetheless, at the time of his death, Flaherty was grandiloquently eulogized: the poet E. E. Cummings called him, “a god,” and Orson Welles declared him, "one of the two or three greatest people who ever worked in the medium."[20] Today early film specialists and ethnographers know him, but he is part of a distant past. “Nanook” lives on as stereotyped shorthand for Inuit individuals and is the brand name of a popular Central European ice-cream bar.

Later, when his documentary style was compared to Roberto Rossellini’s Zinnemann dismissed this, citing only Flaherty as an influence on him. In spite of this, neorealism has been used to frame The Search.[21] Particularly brought to bear in this argument is the Italian director’s Germany: Year Zero, which also came out in 1948. In spite of this proximity, neorealism is not really a useful term here. Zinnemann surely knew Rossellini’s work, but his own experience with documentary predates Rossellini’s earlier film, Open City (1945) by a decade: Los Redes (released in the United States as The Wave), a film he co-directed in Mexico in 1936 was filmed on location without professional actors.

As noted, the film is generally described as “an aesthetic precursor of” or as “anticipating” Italian neorealism. (Even when Zinnemann irrefutably predates the Italian movement, he is linked to it).[22] By the time of The Search, Zinnemann was already known for favoring location shooting and preferring non-professional actors as extras.[23] What is more, in addition to Flaherty, Zinnemann also worked with Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak in Germany, most notably as a cinematographer on the famous 1930 documentary-style silent film, Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday).

Looking beyond the plot of The Search, consider the way Zinnemann presents the film’s elements. The flashbacks used after the film’s opening sequence provide an historical backdrop. Yet this is not, strictly speaking, part of a narrative equation. The screenplay does not provide specific “historic” details, as they were unnecessary when the film was released. The voice-over is not a narrative device , but a stylistic one that Zinnemann uses to historicize the film. Contemporary audiences would have been quite used to a voice-over explaining current events as “objective” images moved across the screen.[24] This stylistic amalgamation makes The Search at once a traditional film, and something more. However, this historical aspect of the film’s narrative style does not historicize in the manner of the You Are There programs or March of Time newsreels, but in the way that it provides for a “past” in the film. Again, we see Zinnemann’s loose application of documentary conventions.

The flashback of the Malik family at home conjures the essence of the Central European bourgeois ideal. During Aline MacMahon’s narration, we witness a flashback of pre-war Prague and the domestic tranquility of the Malik family. The father, a physician, is shown with his family gathered around the piano for a family musicale. Mother plays the piano and sings; father accompanies on the cello, and sister on the violin. The music is by the Czech national composer, Smetana. The little boy who will become the film’s focus listens while doing homework.The room is well appointed with the heavy furniture that marks the proper Mitteleuropean home. As mentioned earlier, the voice-over tells us that “the enemy” has occupied the country.

Figure 2. Novotná singing "Má hvězda" (“My Star”) during the flashback sequence. The song is also heard over the opening credits.
Figure 2. Novotná singing "Má hvězda" (“My Star”) during the flashback sequence. The song is also heard over the opening credits.

While Novotná’s soprano soars (she was a major star of the Metropolitan Opera and one of Toscanini’s favorite musicians), the doorbell rings ominously. A close-up of Novotná’s anxious face punctuates the scene’s tension. In a moment, Zinnemann establishes for his audience everything that Mrs. Malik and her little boy have lost. Of course, by extension it is an entire world that is lost, which is Zinnemann’s point. The tasteful furnishings are emblems of the culture that the Malik family concert represents. They also contrast with the desolate landscape through which mother and son will journey in their desperate attempts to find each other. Later, even the comfortable quarters where the American soldier is billeted will seem stark in comparison. The lace collar of Mrs. Malik’s dress will seem luxurious when contrasted with the plain raincoat that she wears during the remainder of the film.

This “historical” part of the narrative is exposition, not only because it represents the past as prologue, but also reveals the discontinuity of Zinnemann’s modernist perspective. The bourgeois culture revealed in the vignette of the Malik family concert is a harsh counterpoint to the grim anecdotes related by George Steiner and others about Todeslager officers keenly listening to Mozart.[25] The placement of such cultural markers has led Zinnemann to be accused of having the genteel liberal sensibility that Andrew Sarris abhorred, hence his displacement of Zinnemann from the pantheon. Even so, Zinnemann does represent postwar idealism, as his 1948 comment reveals:

[the] concern was not to attempt an artistic achievement, but to dramatize contemporary history for the large American audience and to make them understand in emotional terms what the world outside looks like today. We felt that if we could contribute even a small amount to such an understanding, all our efforts would not be in vain.”[26]

Not only Zinnemann’s politics have been sniped at, there have also been complaints about the film’s accuracy.

Some of errors include: Dachau is described as having gas chambers (there was a crematorium, but it was not used for mass executions); children did not survive Auschwitz (there were children alive when the camp was liberated); and because of Karel’s “Nordic” features, it is likely that he would not have been sent to a death camp (such individuals were sent to these camps). Zinnemann’s selective use of historical details belies Andrew Sarris’ accusations of “neatness and decorum” in Zinnemann’s work. Sarris’ hatcheting of Zinnemann almost spares The Search, placing it in a “period of promise.” Nevertheless, Sarris ultimately dismisses Zinnemann as a “vestryman” and nothing but a “semi-realist” filmmaker.[27]

Siegfried Kracauer would use such inaccuracy to assign the film to the semi-documentary category.[28] For Kracauer, this categorization legitimizes Zinnemann’s film. Half a century later, Sarris’s auteurist pronouncements are dated, but his influence nonetheless had a negative effect on Zinnemann’s reputation.[29] For Sarris’s readers, Zinnemann could be dismissed as a sort of holdover from the studio era, competent, but artless. Sarris was a powerful voice in the 1960s, echoing Truffaut and Godard on the pages of a key counter-culture newspaper, The Village Voice. Sarris’s 2012 obituaries acknowledge his influence and his championing of auteurism. Re-reading them underscores that Sarris’ critical stance now seems to be something only of its own time, and is not relevant to further understanding of Zinnemann’s work.[30] Kracauer’s appraisals are more pertinent because they lack Sarris’s limitations.

Zinnemann’s best-known film, High Noon, has been the focus of most of the dispute over Zinnemann’s allegedly conventional liberalism. Bazin particularly praises High Noon for its real-time technique, regarding any contemporary analogues to McCarthyism as unimportant. Given Zinnemann’s heritage and cultural background, stereotyping him as some sort of Hollywood aesthetic do-gooder seems rather wrong-headed. If Zinnemann must be classified, European humanist is a better term. Additionally, his application of technology to history via documentary film methods, combined with his sophisticated use of melodrama, mark him as thoroughly modernist. Another of Zinnemann’s films, one of his last, The Day of the Jackal (1973) shows that Zinnemann used observational documentary technique throughout his career. The “Jackal” (Edward Fox) has almost no dialogue, speaking only as an assassination mechanism. Zinnemann’s mise-en-scène heightens the depiction of the “Jackal” and the historical details of the plot to kill Charles de Gaulle underlying the film’s storyline. The camera tracks the assassin through windows, doorways, and overhead shots while he drives. When he interacts with others, it is as though his conversations are being overheard. Overall, the effect is that of a surveillance operation. The film is based on Frederick Forsyth’snovel, which sprang from actual events. Several of Zinnemann’s other films were similarly sourced. Day of the Jackal was inspired by a genuine assassination attempt. The Search drew upon “Nazi documents, interviews with children, biographies, eyewitness accounts, and Zinnemann’s notes about the psychological trauma of the children and their subsequent behavior.”[31]

Trauma is at the heart of The Search’s opening, which brings us to the context of the Trümmerfilm. The scenes of devastation are something of an historic document in their own right. Zinnemann filmed the ruined cities of Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, Würzburg, and Münich as the film’s backdrop. This “woe to the vanquished” prelude is not so much a triumphalist vision so much as it shows us a liberal idealism that was about to vanish. The United Nations as the beacon of Rooseveltian altruism is depicted through the UNRAA’s tireless efforts to encourage rebuilding. This is the perspective that would enable the Marshall Plan’s creation in the year The Search was released.

This was also the year of the 1948 presidential election, a watershed in American political history. The way the presidential campaign of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party collapsed is an index of the implosion of the “Old Left.” The perspective that Zinnemann offers of simple, human kindness managing to overcome the horrors of the war is easily rendered jejune by the casual cynicism that prevails today. This film is a fascinating depiction of the liberal, internationalist, humane ideology in its last moments of ascendancy. The Cold War would sweep this away.

The Marshall Plan, conceived as the realization of an altruistic vision of international cooperation, was co-opted by hawks on both sides of the Iron Curtain. It was depicted negatively by followers of the Communist Party line, and even the most pure-hearted proponents of the Marshall plan became de facto Cold Warriors as a result. An example is Robert E. Sherwood, the playwright and screenwriter (an Oscar-winner for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1947), who repudiated his interwar pacifism and became a stalwart of Roosevelt’s wartime administration, and later a supporter of Truman’s foreign policy. Less than a year after The Search’s release, the Soviet Union exploded its own atomic bomb, and it would no longer be possible to offer internationalist sentiments without pandering to red-baiters.

The Search’s historical backstory is reflected in the film’s style. The use of a Czech family is also central to Zinnemann’s approach. Both he and his original screenwriter, Peter Viertel, wanted to highlight the revived Republic of Czechoslovakia as an emblem of “future European regeneration.”[32] Unfortunately, a month before the film’s release, the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia smashed this possibility. The Communist regime forbade the release of the film in that country.[33]

The stylistic duality of the film has a parallel in the film’s story line: the intersecting narratives of the mother, her son, and the American soldier. The most important intersecting narrative is the search the mother goes through to find her son and the depiction of the relationship between little Karel who is transformed into “Jim” by his G.I. rescuer who goes through much red tape to clear him for transport back to the United Sates. The UNRAA official played by Aline MacMahon consistently offers hope to Mrs. Malik even when Novotná’s character seems to give in to despair justifiably. The war-torn landscape, and the devastated children revealed in the opening of the film, underscores this dichotomy. The children have been rescued but are so traumatized they are unable to accept their newfound freedom. They are afraid to eat or move. They can only react to commands barked in German.

Despite having every good intention, the relief workers are daunted by the overwhelming terror that has stricken the children. Separated from his mother, holding on to the hat she gave him that has his name inside, Karel runs off, jumps into a stream, and swims away from his would-be benefactors. He subsequently loses the hat, which a Polish-Jewish boy will later take as his own. This leads to a scene of great anguish when this boy is introduced to Mrs. Malik as her “son.” She immediately knows he is not her son, but the relief workers do not trust her eyes, they do not take her seriously until she tells them that he is speaking Polish . We find out that the impostor took the cap and the name inside it for his own because his mother instructed him never to tell anyone his real name. He is shown to us as an altar boy in a Catholic church, a perfect disguise. Contrast this boy’s clever, willing assumption of another’s name with Karel’s resistance to leaving his identity behind.

Thus, we are confronted with an intersecting narrative in the film, which is also complemented by Zinnemann’s cinematic approach that affords full use of the documentary technique of “sincere and justifiable reconstruction” as well as proper employment of melodrama, the dominant dramatic and narrative mode of the last two centuries. The Search is both a portrait of post-war Europe and a wrenching tale of family loss and reunification. It cannot help but affect an audience’s emotions. To argue that this devalues the film is to misplace the film’s historical context and the dominant ideology of that time: nothing humane is alien. I will discuss issues of performance later, but the ease with which certain critics are willing to reject performance modes of the past is problematic for film studies.[34]

The previous generation’s “realism” always appears mannered to a younger generation. An irony here is that many performers from the oldest live performance mode, theatre, rejected the opportunity to “preserve” their performances precisely for fear of appearing ridiculous. Great stars of the American stage, Katharine Cornell, Alfred Lunt, and Lynne Fontanne all were loath to appear on screen. Sir John Gielgud acted in movies, but refused to have any of his great Shakespearean star turns filmed. Actors who came of age during the silent era had seen and heard audiences laugh at the performances of aging 19th century performers whose stage productions had been filmed. Another reason to keep the contemporary context of the film in mind is to avoid a superficial dismissal of the film’s dramatic elements.

Given Zinnemann’s awareness of cinema as a manipulative form disguised as a purely objective one, I would argue that he is using certain conventions of melodrama as expertly as he is using documentary technique. After all, the “human interest story” has always been the mainstay of the popular pressand is the source of the newsreel’s approach to journalism. The film begins with a shot of a ruined train station and UNRAA staff being prepared on how to deal with a trainload of rescued children. Through the first reel, we are treated to shot after shot of a devastated landscape; in 1948 this was quite remarkable. This was one of the first American films to have actual footage from Germany: a note in the credits thanks “the United States Army and the I.R.O.” (International Refugee Organization). The MGM trailer for the film claims it is the first footage from the “hitherto unphotographed American zone of Western Europe.”[35] While MGM is primarily remembered for glitzy musicals, high budget dramas, and lush productions, the studio made its share of smaller-scale pictures too. MGM was the largest film studio with extensive investment in European production and was eager to redevelop its frozen European assets. The film trailer boasts of MGM’s history of “realistic” on location filming, a sign of the studio’s postwar change of direction.

Figure 3. The MGM trailer for The Search emphasizes how the film is part of MGM’s tradition of making extraordinary efforts to bring on-location entertainment to American audiences.

MGM and the other studios were understandably anxious about the future. The “Paramount decree” of 1948 shattered the vertical integration of the film industry. Well before the advent of television, cinema admissions were dropping and the formula pictures the studios ground out were not selling tickets as before. MGM’s reliance on wholesome fare had led to a precipitous decline in its profits, even in the film industry’s banner year of 1946. Audiences were clearly looking for something different. The star system was breaking down as actors sought per-picture deals and profit sharing rather than the traditional seven-year contract.

While postwar movie fans still followed their favorite stars, they would not have paid as much attention to directors. Nevertheless, Zinnemann and many of his colleagues asserted themselves and were no longer willing to remain studio cogs. Mark Harris details how the wartime experiences of several directors reshaped their careers, whichwould impel changes in the American film industry as a whole.[36] Shortly before Harris’ work was published, Gerd Gemünden posited that The Search is a “realist” film and linked Zinnemann with “John Ford, John Huston, Frank Capra, Anatole Litvak, and George Stevens who had served in the army and could not return to escapist films.”[37]

The humane perspective that informs Zinnemann’s work is more relevant to The Search than economic factors. Much of the film does not look like a typical Hollywood movie. Any sort of location filming was still a novelty; Zinnemann had made back lot films but was clearly in his element filming amidst the rubble of post-war Germany. Making an “international film” is also in keeping with the liberal ideology of the time. Taking the cameras and the cast to Germany has the paradoxical effect of bringing post-war Europe “home.” Indeed this is where Zinnemann’s understanding of documentary technique, and his tight control over the flow of narrative and character development reveals his approach. Zinnemann draws on Flaherty’s pioneering technique of fictionalized documentary. From the first shot, The Search transgresses the boundary between what seems to be real versus what is real.

Zinnemann used few professionals, and most importantly, other than Jandl[38], the children were not professional actors. “Karel Malik” could be a character in a Flaherty film. This adds to the illusion and, despite the imperfect voice-over script, Aline MacMahon’s narration contributes to this. Zinnemann allows the atmosphere of an eyewitness account. The narration also aids in the creation of the illusion of “factual narrative” as it takes us into the documentary realm of narrative. Audiences implicitly trust the voice-over: it establishes that this is “reality.” Zinnemann’s expository technique in the opening scenes diminishes as the film’s plot progresses. Later in the film, we are shown a more “immediate” perspective when we observe the relationship between Steve and Karel. A sidelight is that Steve’s actual first name is “Ralph” and that he gives Karel the name, “Jim.” Neither uses his real name when they are together. Zinnemann uses different perspectives via the film’s characters to augment his technique.

A more complex aspect of the documentary/melodrama argument about the film, though, is the character played by Novotná. She features in each element of the tripartite narrative: the historic (pre-war), the documentary (overall plight of the refugees), and the personal/familial (what happens to Karel specifically). Aline MacMahon as the UNRAA official attempts to assuage Novotná’s/Mrs. Malik’s possible loss of her child by having her help with the refugee children at the transit camp. When the first group of children disperses, Mrs. Malik decides it is time for her to leave. A new group of children arrives just as Steve and Karel are preparing to leave the military base.

The mutual departure makes the catharsis of the film’s finale possible. Zinnemann concludes the film with a quick cut,and we see the reunion for only a few seconds; it is a profoundly emotional scene. It illustrates the dictum that the essence of film is not the scene but the shot. Because Zinnemann does not linger, he achieves maximum impact on the audience. The “fact” of a mother reunited with her child is enough. The camera does not need to dwell on it. The presentation of “Mrs. Malik” throughout offers us the full spectrum of Zinnemann’s technique.

It is perhaps easier to grasp the idea of what Zinnemann is doing if “documentary” is placed in the late 1940s context of the film, drawing on the definition offered by The World Union of Documentary discussed earlier. This was the last gasp of the Hollywood studio era. Zinnemann himself refers to using a “newsreel” approach in his work.[39] What does “documentary style” mean here? The continuing popularity of the reality television series would seem to make the term self-evident, though surely everyone recognizes by now that a “reality show” is anything but a documentary. Robert Flaherty, the pioneer of film documentary, was himself a creator of cinematic fictions, manipulating many aspects of his films. Film viewers may have generally assumed that a documentary filmmaker simply records action on film. The blatantly subjective work of Michael Moore has caused some audiences to reconsider what a “documentary” is. Yet this sort of skepticism does not go very far. One need only think of the reverence afforded to Ken Burns’s films by much of his audience[40] or Frederick Wiseman’s observational point of view.

Within the realm of Hollywood film, the documentary style of Zinnemann is both gritty and melodramatically satisfying. By 1948, American moviegoers would have been accustomed to newsreels of Europe in ruins. The melodramatic satisfaction comes about because it is just “real” enough to give its audience a sense of both ravaged landscapes and human lives. It is not so detached though, that too much objectivity is allowed. “Allowed” is the operative word because something that Zinnemann himself was much concerned with was measured objectivity, in spite of being resolutely liberal, though his film work has been characterized as “social realist.”[41]

Zinnemann explains his application of a newsreel style of cinematic narrative, revealing that he studied Matthew Brady photographs as research to help achieve historicism in High Noon.[42] Of course, we now know that Brady’s photographers actually “staged” his battlefield photographs, posing his figures and even moving corpses to achieve a particular effect. Even though this somewhat undermines Zinnemann’s assertion of his own historically accurate approach, I would submit that “accuracy” is irrelevant in this context. Indeed, it underscores the continuity of photographic narrative manipulation since the camera’s invention. We are aware of such things as General MacArthur’s striding ashore to mark his return to the Philippines being reshot several times to achieve fullest effect for the newsreel cameras. One of the most effective examples of World War II Allied propaganda was the editing of Hitler’s stamping of his foot after witnessing France’s surrender to turn it into a “victory jig” for the newsreel viewers, who delighted in Hitler’s apparent silliness. Footage in the documentary series Five Came Back, made from Harris’s book, shows how extensively combat scenes were recreated and that there were both successful and failed instances of such restagings.[43]

The films made under the auspices of the United States War Department, ostensibly to show the “real” war are telling the real story of American soldiers in combat. The Search fronts the problem of narrative in documentary film that has been present since cinema’s inception. Recalling the connection between early film and theatre, where the presentation of melodrama was perfected, explains the effectiveness of documentary melodrama. While one must not accept any film as transcription, certain cineastes consider any sort of objective confidence that documentary film offers to be as quaint as the genteel liberal aesthetic.[44] From a post-war perspective, Zinnemann’s legacy invites us to consider The Search and its intersecting narratives as a kind of total melodrama, the sort of historical perspective invoked by the Addison DeWitt character in All About Eve (1950): Eve says, “That sound[s]... [like] something out of an old melodrama...,” to which Addison replies: “So does the history of the world for the past twenty years.”

This character also refers to people of the theatre as “the original displaced personalities.”[45] Five years after the war, “displaced” was still an adjective present in the popular consciousness, here used by Mankiewicz as fodder for a witticism, markedly different, of course, from the displaced persons in Zinnemann’s film. The Search’s narrative, in which objectivity and subjectivity intertwine instantaneously and are inseparable from cinema itself, creates total melodrama. Zinnemann’s explanations of “newsreel” or “documentary” are better regarded as cinematic conceits closer to literary devices such as stream-of-consciousness or aureate language. As mentioned above, the detachment that Zinnemann creates through the opening reels of the film provides for the powerful emotions on which the conclusion of the film plays. This seamlessly combines objectivity and subjectivity.

Zinnemann was not only capable of documenting the appearance of German ruins on film via cinematography; he also elicited “documentary style” acting from his cast. These are the sort of performances that had so riveted American filmgoers who had seen Rossellini’s Open City. Ingrid Bergman was so struck by Rossellini’s work that she wrote to him requesting the opportunity to act in his films, and so began their fateful love affair. The performances in The Search were highly praised at the time. As noted earlier, Clift was nominated for an Oscar and Jandl was awarded a juvenile Academy Award that year. Clift, Jandl, and Novotná bring to mind the most troubling of all descriptive words in the critical lexicon of acting: “realistic.”

In contrast to the earlier point about one generation’s “life-like naturalism” becoming the next generation’s all-too-obvious-technique, even today after decades of Method acting, Clift seems effortless in his portrayal. There is nothing self-conscious or mannered in his performance. Amy Lawrence passionately argues that Clift had an almost divine aura about him—in the strictest sense—and that an appropriate culmination of his career would have been the fulfillment of George Stevens’ ambition to cast him as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told.[46] Icons of the “Method’ style from that era, Marlon Brando and James Dean, have not weathered as well as Clift. Even latter-day Method practitioners such as Al Pacino or Robert De Niro have fallen victim to certain mannerisms.[47]

Consider the “reality” of Novotná’s own situation: she was herself a refugee. She had fled Czechoslovakia at the time of the German occupation and while she became an acclaimed soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, her success was not instantaneous. She had left behind her homeland and a well-established European career. She also had to recreate herself as something of an American glamour girl as well. In 1944, she played the title role in a lavish Broadway reworking of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène, entitled Helen Goes to Troy. This provided her with a celebrity that allowed her to undertake extensive concert tours during the Met’s off-season. Her restrained acting style in opera was highly regarded. She performed in an era when singers were often able to do little more than take a few steps or raise an arm while they were singing to be considered competent singing actors.[48]

While Novotná had performed in a few films—a Max Ophüls directed version of the best known Czech comic opera, The Bartered Bride (Die verkaufte Braut, 1932) and films of operettas—she had not undertaken anything like the demands of the role of Mrs. Malik. In the hands of a less capable actress, the performance could have offered little more than the Gestus of long-suffering: wringing of hands, knitting of brow, or stifling of tears. Yet Novotná’s poise and carefully controlled reserve are crucial to the success of the film’s conclusion. Were she not so “held back” through the film we could not feel the great emotional release that the film’s finale provides.

The Search was Montgomery Clift’s break-out film and his acting has been justifiably praised. His “naturalness” as Karel’s rescuer perfectly complements Novotná’s. The TCM article on The Search reports Clift’s deep attachment to the film. He felt it was “the most fulfilling artistic experience of his career; it gave him a chance to dig deep and study a character far removed from his own life experiences.”[49] Using “The Method,” he immersed himself in the actual day-to-day life of the character he played, sharing quarters with an army engineers unit to acquire their habits and gestures. Clift was so convincing that Zinnemann was asked, "Where did you find a soldier who could act so well?”[50] Clift got along well with Zinnemann, who appreciated his acting style and gave him the freedom to improvise on the set. Clift was so energized by Zinnemann’s confidence that he gave a performance that won him extraordinary recognition. He had already made Red River with John Wayne, with whom he had had a less cordial relationship than he would have with his child co-star Ivan Jandl. The plaudits Clift won for his acting in The Search, and the matinee idol’s fan base he attracted from Red River’s audience, established him as a major star and respected actor.

As mentioned, Novotná needed no “research” for her role. Her rose-colored memoir cannot completely gloss over the fact that she was an exile who had lost everything. Like Clift, she regarded it as her finest film experience, and in later years she was more interested in talking about Clift’s performance than her own. In an interview with Bruce Duffie, she fondly recalled working on the film:

The best film was The Search. That is really a moving picture. We made it in 1947 in Germany, and it was a grim reminder of the war. It's about a mother and her little son who are torn apart in a concentration camp and they lose each other. He flees and is picked up by an American soldier played by Montgomery Clift. This was his second film, but the first had not yet been shown, so it was his introduction, and he was wonderful. He was a fine colleague and we had a wonderful time.[51]

Novotná often chose to deflect questions about herself. Byla jsem šťastná (“I Was Happy”), her autobiography, slights any upheaval or despair she may have encountered[52]. In her memoirs, as in the interview, she is consistently optimistic and praises Zinnemann’s film for its portrayal of the human spirit at its most indomitable.

The third relevant performance is that of Ivan Jandl. He did not speak English and had to memorize his lines phonetically. Clift was intently solicitous of Jandl. He went over his lines with him and gently guided Jandl’s performance, patiently allowing him the time he needed to go over his dialogue. Jandl responded in kind, becoming completely attached to Clift, perfectly mirroring his onscreen role. Zinnemann had tried directing him in German, which Jandl understood, but the boy refused to acknowledge the language and Zinnemann had to use a Czech interpreter, an on-set action paralleling the film.[53]

Figure 4. Jandl and Clift with Zinnemann on location.
Figure 4. Jandl and Clift with Zinnemann on location.

There is another level of “realism” to consider in the film. It has long been a given that the Russian director and theorist Pudovkin‘s notion that an actor’s film performance does not matter is a valid theory. Famously drawing on the Kuleshov effect,[54] Pudovkin argues that it is the context of the scene itself, not what a particular performer contributes on his or her own, that affects the viewer. Amplifying his work with Kuleshov, Pudovkin insists that montage creates the “scene,” not any one individual performance. The camera reveals the relationship of the performer to exterior objects and this is how the “intention” of the scene is revealed. Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous dismissal of individual performers, that they should be “treated like cattle,” supports this notion.

It would seem that the details we have seen about the behind the scenes actions of the actors in The Search highlight the difficulty of grand theory. Pudovkin is of course correct some of the time. This idea bears some relevance to Zinnemann’s documentary approach to narrative and the plot intersections in The Search that provide for total melodrama. Moreover, this is the key relationship in all melodrama in which nothing is more viscerally compelling than a mother and child desperately looking for one another. Pudovkin’s masterpiece is a melodrama of the failed 1905 Russian revolution, Mother (1926), in which the title character becomes a revolutionary to free her son from prison.

Zinnemann does rely on certain melodramatic conventions. He argues elsewhere that non-actors can “appear on the screen playing themselves.”[55] I apply Zinnemann’s argument here to the notion of total melodrama. The most obvious melodramatic convention is the tension created by Aline MacMahon’s character trying to stop Novotná from getting on a train near the film’s finale. Melodrama upstages montage.

The film theorist and critic Siegfried Kracauer’s concept of the “law of levels” is particularly relevant to Zinnemann; Kracauer was himself an émigré intellectual fascinated by film and most interested in how social consciousness could be amplified by cinema. He is clearly interested in the “social realist” perspective and his “levels” refer to microhistory and macrohistory. Kracauer regards the close-up shot or establishing shot as being able to create “contexts established at each level [that] are valid for that level but do not apply to findings at other levels.”[56]

Rather than parsing Kracauer’s detailed analysis of cinema as part of “history,” let us return to the issue of humane liberal idealism. He, among others, bewailed that liberalism was clearly in retreat in Hollywood after the war, in contrast to the prewar progressivism that he saw as marking a certain idealism in spite of the dire economic times. While I argue that Zinnemann uses the “voice of history” to good effect in his film, as noted, Kracauer calls The Search a “semi-documentary” and asserts that “the documentary material used in such films for references to ‘the world about us’ never assumes any vital function; it merely serves to increase interest in the story itself and enhance its suspense.”[57] While this is a misreading of melodrama and an example of taking documentary film at a literal level, Kracauer also elaborates on what he calls “self-containment.” He does not want documentary technique to be used to create narrative episodes. He praises another semi-documentary, the earlier mentioned Menschen am Sonntag, the film for which Zinnemann was a cinematographer.

Another connection is that Kracauer draws on Robert Flaherty’s ideas about using narrative in the documentary film. Kracauer takes issue with Zinnemann’s opting for episodic narrative, whereas Flaherty chose to emphasize not an individual’s story, but what he considers the story of a people. Kracauer argues that a documentary should have but a “slight narrative” that allows the sociological rather than the dramatic to take precedence. Such ideological purity is unsatisfactory to viewers who recognize that nothing is unmediated. From a 21st century perspective, Kracauer’s argument is intellectual nostalgia. Nevertheless, even Kracauer ultimately declares The Search to be “a fascinating blend of European and American mentality. ... render[ing] real distress with real understanding.”[58]

The “real distress” depicted includes the UNRAA and even Montgomery Clift’s soldier both reaching out to help fellow human beings. The slightly disembodied voice-over (it is not immediately clear that it is the voice of the UNRAA administrator) that accompanies the “newsreel” of the children as displaced persons obtaining food and shelter gives authority to this cinematic presentation of aid as it was actually being delivered. Early in the film when the children are shown eating their first meal, the narration intones: “Bread, bread and it’s there to be eaten.”

This introduces how the children are in effect being re-civilized. They can take as much as they like; but conditioned to starvation, they sneak extra slices. Karel is shown eating with his hands because he has forgotten how to use utensils. Zinnemann’s cultural milieu, indeed European culture as a whole, historically sustained by public behavior—by “manners”—has been shattered. In the contrast between Karel’s search for his mother and hers for him we note that not only does he have to rediscover basic standards of behavior, he must recover the child’s most primal instinct: his need for his mother.

Zinnemann shows this to us via Karel’s looking through the picture magazines Steve has lying about his quarters. Karel is particularly drawn to a picture of a dog and her puppy. He uses this as “evidence” that he himself must have a mother. This begins Karel’s search for his mother and creates the intersecting narrative. Its culmination will enable the film to conclude in a way that is most satisfying as a dramatic “documentary.” Zinnemann’s aesthetic of non-dramatic performance validates this recreation of reality.

The Search has been misread as merely a “good story” and as an artifact of documentary technique. It is much more than the sum of this superficial approbation. The film’s intersecting narrative and its presentation of displaced persons rediscovering their identities are not mere melodrama or any sort of pseudo-documentary. We should credit Zinnemann with aspiring to something other than a “family of man” aesthetic, which culminated in Edward’s Steichen’s 1955 curating of the Museum of Modern Art’s photography exhibition. Zinnemann is far too sophisticated a filmmaker to allow naive ideology to interfere with the construction of his film narrative.[59]

Zinnemann is subjective but self-consciously so. Moreover, he does not call attention to his subjectivity. He knows that he is making a fictional documentary, in the realm of total melodrama. He uses the grammar of film, intersecting narrative, and a particular cinematic depiction of “history” via newsreel technique to create a film that shows us the most primal of human longings and idealizes the beginning of the regeneration of European culture after the destruction of the war.

Author Biography

Thomas F. Connolly is Visiting Professor of American Studies at the University of Ostrava. Author of George Jean Nathan and the Making of Modern American Drama Criticism, British Aisles, Genus Envy: Nationalities, Identities and the Performing Body of Work, and numerous articles, he has been a consultant for The New Yorker, NPR, the BBC, and CBS. A former Fulbright Scholar, he was awarded the Parliamentary Medal of the Czech Republic.


    1. Bosley Crowther, “The Screen: ' The Search,' Arresting Drama of Europe's 'Lost Children.'” The New York Times. 24 Mar 1948, 30.return to text

    2. André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume II, Hugh Gray, ed., trans. (Berkeley: Univ. Of California Press, 1972), 151.return to text

    3. André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I, Hugh Gray, ed., trans. (Berkeley: Univ. Of California Press, 1967), 20.return to text

    4. Quoted by Zoë Druick, “Reaching the Multimillions”: Liberal Internationalism and the Establishment of Documentary Film,” in Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson, eds. Inventing Film Studies. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 82. Druick’s use of this 1947 statement as part of her argument is representative of 21st century dissatisfaction with the données of humane liberalism. She traces the uses to which “internationalist” sensibilities (ranging from the League of Nations through UNESCO) made use of documentary. This correlates with this essay’s discussion of the reaction against the “family of man aesthetic.”return to text

    5. Paul Manchel, Film Study: An Analytical Bibliography, Volume 1, (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1990): 245.return to text

    6. John Grierson, "Postwar Patterns." Hollywood Quarterly 1, no. 2 (1946): 163. doi:10.2307/1209557.return to text

    7. Eric Rentschler, “The Place of Rubble in the Trümmerfilm.” New German Critique no. 110, (2010): 9-10.return to text

    8. Rentschler quotes Kirsten Burghardt, “Moralische Wiederaufrüstung im frühen deutschen Nachkriegsfilm,” diskurs film 8 (1996): 243.return to text

    9. Adorno posed the question “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?” in a 1959 radio lecture. Reprinted in Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspectiv, ed.,Geoffrey Hartman, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 114-129.return to text

    10. Gertrud Koch, “Nachkriegsfilme als Werke der Restauration: Einige Thesen zur Ideologie desTrümmerfilms.” Kirche und Film 31 no. 2 (1978): 6-9.return to text

    11. Rentschler, “The Place of Rubble.” 18.return to text

    12. Rentschler, “The Place of Rubble,” 19. Rentschler is referring to Karl Jaspers, The Question of German Guilt, trans. E. B. Ashton, (New York: Capricorn, 1961).return to text

    13. W.G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. Anthea Bell, (New York: Random House, 2003), 98.return to text

    14. “My work is a symbiosis of Europe and America.” Zinnemann quoted in Gerd Gemünden, Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 141.return to text

    15. Fred Zinnemann, “Different Perspective” original article in Sight and Sound (Fall 1948); reprinted in Richard Kozarski, Hollywood Directors, 1941-1976 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 144. Kozarski complains that The Search has been virtually ignored by film historians. He avers that the film is sentimental, but argues that it is a significant film worthy of closer analysis. He was prescient.return to text

    16. Fred Zinnemann, A Life in the Movies: An Autobiography, (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1992), 26.return to text

    17. Quoted in Jay Leyda, ed. Voices of Film Experience: 1894 to the Present, (New York: Macmillan, 1977). 520-521.return to text

    18. Zinnemann, A Life in the Movies, 24.return to text

    19. John Grierson, “First Principles of Documentary (1932-1934).” In From Non-Fiction Film Theory and Criticism, (New York: E.P. Dutton. 1976), 21-22.return to text

    20. “Portrait of Robert Flaherty,” BBC Third Programme. Radio. 2 September 1952.return to text

    21. Neil Sinyard, Fred Zinnemann: Films of Character and Conscience, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003), 46-47.return to text

    22. The representative descriptions are found, respectively, at, Nace Zavrl, "Modernist Realism: Redes (Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, 1936)," Senses of Cinema. http://sensesofcinema.com/2017/cteq/redes/; and "Redes." The Criterion Collection. https://www.criterion.com/films/28408-redes.return to text

    23. Wheeler Winston Dixon discusses the “realistic” aspects of the directors’ early work in "Act of Violence and the Early Films of Fred Zinnemann," Film Criticism 18/19, no. 3/1 (1994): 30-45. JSTOR.return to text

    24. J. E. Smyth posits that Zinnemann later may have regretted the voice-overs, wishing for a more Rossellinian approach, but given Zinneman’s statements, this seems doubtful. “Fred Zinnemann's Search (1945-48): Reconstructing the Voices of Europe's Children,” Film History 23, no. 1 (2011): 872. In his autobiography, Zinnemann asserts that the “idea” of narration to “clarify historical context” was “sound,” but he was “dissatisfied with the text.” A Life in the Movies, 70.return to text

    25. George Steiner, In Bluebeard’s Castle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974), 77-78.return to text

    26. Zinnemann, “Different Perspective,” 144.return to text

    27. Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968(New York: Dutton, 1968), 169.return to text

    28. Siegfried Kracauer, Completed by Paul Oskar Kristeller. History: The Last Things Before the Last (Princeton, NJ: Markus Winer Publishers, 2013), 134.return to text

    29. Andrew Sarris, “Johnny, We Finally Knew Ye,” in Reflections on the Male Perspective: John Huston and the American Experience, eds. Gaylyn Studler and David Desser, (Washington,D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press,1993),273-276. Here Sarris modifies his dismissal of Zinnemann, granting him “object d’art” director status, “he was more concerned with cultivating the unique qualities of each individual work rather than projecting [his] own personalit[y],” 274.return to text

    30. Gemünden notes the damage Sarris did to Zinnemann’s reputation. Continental Strangers, 140return to text

    31. Claudia Sternberg, "Real-Life References in Four Fred Zinnemann Films." Film Criticism 18/19, no. 3/1 (1994). 109.return to text

    32. J. E. Smyth, “Fred Zinnemann's Search (1945-48): Reconstructing the Voices of Europe's Children,” Film History 23, no. 1 (2011): 87.return to text

    33. As evidence of the relative obscurity of Novotná’s film career in her homeland, it was not until 2013, the second year of the Jarmila Novotná Festival held at Zamek Liteň (the site of her husband’s family estate), that a program devoted to her film career was presented. http://www.zamekliten.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/FJN_brochure2013-eng.pdf.return to text

    34. This narrow perspective is not new. In an 1894 issue of The Critic an anonymous reviewer questions the accusation of “old-fashioned” by challenging “local critics” making such a “curious charge” against a recent production. “The Drama: The Kendals in Lady Clancarty,” The Critic, 25, no. 671 (1894): 454.return to text

    35. MGM trailer for The Search. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFZLsabOwNYreturn to text

    36. Harris, Mark, Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).return to text

    37. Gerd Gemünden, Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 141.return to text

    38. Zinnemann reports that Jandl had performed professionally in radio plays. A Life in the Movies, 69.return to text

    39. Gabriel Miller, ed., Fred Zinnemann Interviews. (Oxford, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 19.return to text

    40. Some professional historians have been critical of Burns’s most beloved film The Civil War, but many of its devotees would be nonplussed to learn that it is a film with a thesis.return to text

    41. Gabriel Miller, ed., Fred Zinnemann Interviews, 96.return to text

    42. Zinnemann, A Life in the Movies, 101.return to text

    43. Five Came Back, Directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Written by Mark Harris, Netflix, March, 2017.return to text

    44. Marco Grosoli, “Bazin: Film as Social Documentary,” New Readings 11 (2011): 1–16. This article engages with Bazin’s putatively “idealistic” vision of cinema as “social documentary.” Grosoli offers that Bazin discusses more than “empirical reality” in film (11). return to text

    45. Gary Carey and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, More about All about Eve: A Colloquy, (New York: Random House, 1972), 224. This text contains both the film script and commentary by Mankiewicz.return to text

    46. The author builds her argument on the biblical structure of Christ’s passion. Amy Lawrence, The Passion of Montgomery Clift, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010). The chapter, “Nothing Sacred” focuses on how Clift was characterized as Christ-like in various contexts, 254-286.return to text

    47. A 2013 British Film Institute retrospective on Clift reveals the critical re-estimation of this actor. David Gritten’s 3 February 2013 article from The London Daily Telegraph, “Montgomery Clift: better than Brando, more tragic than Dean”, sums up this reassessment. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9841724/Montgomery-Clift-better-than-Brando-more-tragic-than-Dean.html.return to text

    48. Ronald E. Mitchell, Opera—Dead or Alive: Production, Performance, and Enjoyment of Musical Theatre. (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), 53.return to text

    49. The Search (1948) – “Notes - TCM.com." Turner Classic Movies. N.p., n.d. http://tcm.com/tcmdb/title/938/The-Search/notes.htmlreturn to text

    50. Neil Sinyard, Fred Zinnemann: Films of Character and Conscience. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003), 80.return to text

    51. Jarmila Novotna Interview - with Bruce Duffie.” 26 March 1988. http://bruceduffie.com/novotna.html. N.p., Sept. 2006. Web.return to text

    52. Jarmila Novotná, Byla jsem šťastná, (Prague: Melantrich, 1991).return to text

    53. Neil Sinyard, Fred Zinnemann: Films of Character and Conscience. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003), 32.return to text

    54. Kuleshov’s demonstration of his “effect” may be viewed on Youtube. History club. “The Kuleshov Effect. “ Filmed 1921. YouTube video, 00:45. Published 16 January 2017. http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMRtWNEQRoreturn to text

    55. Fred Zinnemann, "On Using Non-Actors in Pictures," The New York Times, 8 January 1950: X7.return to text

    56. Siegfried Kracauer, completed by Paul Oskar Kristeller, History: The Last Things Before the Last, (Princeton, NJ: Markus Winer Publishers, 2013), 134.return to text

    57. Johannes von Moltke and Kristy Rawson, eds. Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture, (Berkeley: U of California P, 2013), 225.return to text

    58. Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture, 108.return to text

    59. Fred Turner’s article “The Family of Man and the Politics of Attention in Cold War America” challenges the belittling of this exhibition’s aesthetic. Public Culture 24, no. 1. (2012): 55-84.return to text