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The Night of the Generals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Night of the Generals
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnatole Litvak
Screenplay byJoseph Kessel
Paul Dehn
Gore Vidal[1] (uncredited)
Based onThe Night of the Generals
by Hans Hellmut Kirst and an incident written
by James Hadley Chase
Produced bySam Spiegel
Georges Lourau
Anatole Litvak
StarringPeter O'Toole
Omar Sharif
Tom Courtenay
Donald Pleasence
Joanna Pettet
Philippe Noiret
CinematographyHenri Decaë
Edited byAlan Osbiston
Music byMaurice Jarre
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 29 January 1967 (1967-01-29) (London premiere)
  • 10 February 1967 (1967-02-10) (UK)
  • 24 February 1967 (1967-02-24) (US)
  • 1 April 1967 (1967-04-01) (France)
Running time
145 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$2,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]

The Night of the Generals is a 1967 World War II mystery film directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Sam Spiegel. It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Donald Pleasence, Joanna Pettet, and Philippe Noiret. The screenplay by Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn was loosely based on the beginning of the 1962 novel of the same name by German author Hans Hellmut Kirst. The writing credits also state the film is "based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase", referring to a subplot from Chase's 1952 novel The Wary Transgressor.[3] Gore Vidal is said to have contributed to the screenplay, but was not credited onscreen.[1] The film's musical score was composed by Maurice Jarre.

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  • The Night of the Generals (1967)-Love Theme-Maurice Jarre
  • March (From "The Night of the Generals")
  • Love Theme (From "The Night of the Generals")



The murder of a prostitute, who was also a German agent, in German-occupied Warsaw in 1942 causes Major Grau of the Abwehr to start an investigation. His evidence soon points to the killer being one of three German generals: General von Seidlitz-Gabler; Major General Kahlenberge, von Seidlitz-Gabler's chief of staff; or General Tanz, a highly decorated officer and a favorite of Adolf Hitler. Grau's investigation is cut short by his sudden promotion and transfer to Paris at the instigation of these officers.

There are no further developments in the case until July 1944, when Grau and all three of the generals are in Paris at the same time. The city is a hotbed of intrigue, with senior Wehrmacht officers plotting to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi government. Kahlenberge is deeply involved in the plot, while Gabler is aware of its existence, but sitting on the fence, awaiting the outcome whilst having various extramarital affairs, and Tanz is unaware of the plot and remains totally loyal to Hitler. Tanz has transferred to the SS, and is a Waffen-SS General (SS-Obergruppenführer), in command of the SS-Panzer Division Nibelungen (a fictitious stand-in for the 12th SS Panzer Division).

On the night of 19 July 1944, Tanz orders his driver, Kurt Hartmann, to procure a French prostitute for him. Tanz butchers her and implicates Hartmann, but offers Hartmann the chance to desert, which he accepts. When Grau, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel, learns of the murder, committed in the same manner as the first, he resumes his investigation and concludes that Tanz is the killer. However, his timing is unfortunate, because the very next day the Wehrmacht officers attempt to assassinate Hitler, and, while Grau is accusing Tanz of murder face to face, word arrives that Hitler has survived, so Tanz kills Grau and labels him as one of the conspirators to cover his tracks.

In 1965, the murder of a prostitute in Hamburg draws the attention of Inspector Morand of Interpol, who worked with Grau in 1944 and owes Grau a debt of gratitude for not revealing his connection to the French Resistance during the war. Almost certain the killer of the prostitutes in Warsaw and Paris is at it again, Morand reopens the cold case and zeroes in on Tanz, who was recently released from prison after serving 20 years as a war criminal, as the killer of all three women and the man Grau suspected had framed Hartmann for the murder in Paris. Morand tries to find Hartmann, who is still in hiding, by talking to General Gabler's daughter Ulrike, who was known to be in a relationship with Hartmann during the war, and learns she is estranged from her parents and lives on a farm near Munich.

At a reunion dinner for Tanz's former panzer division, Morand confronts Tanz. When he produces Hartmann, who (apparently) is secretly married to Ulrike, as his witness, Tanz goes into a vacant room and shoots himself.



Both O'Toole and Sharif were hesitant to take their roles in the film, but, feeling they owed it to producer Sam Spiegel for making them international stars with Lawrence of Arabia, they did so anyway.[4] Because they were held to the terms of an old contract agreement, O'Toole's and Sharif's combined salaries were, reportedly, less than that paid to Donald Pleasence.[5]

Gore Vidal, one of the many writers of the script, claimed he urged Spiegel to hire a "new, hot director", but Spiegel, instead, chose the experienced Anatole Litvak, who owned the rights to the novel.[6]

Although the film was a French-British-American international co-production, permission was granted for its first section to be shot behind the Iron Curtain on location in Warsaw, a rarity for a Western-made film at the time. The last scenes of the film were shot in Munich.


Bosley Crowther, in an unenthusiastic review for The New York Times, described the film as "a lurid and mordant screen account of the unmasking of a general officer who likes to disembowel prostitutes." He went on to say:

It is an engrossing exhibition that mainly gives Mr. O'Toole a chance to build up the tensions and the twitches of a sex maniac, with something of the glazed-eyed characteristic of those old vampires who used to suck blood. But once this phase is completed—once we know who the killer is and have made the obvious connection of his war crimes and his private deeds—the excitement of the picture is over. At least, it was for me.[7]


  1. ^ a b CNC
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  3. ^ p.762 Gifford, Dennis The British Film Catalogue Routledge; 1st edition (April 1, 2016)
  4. ^ 2015 Twilight Time Blu-Ray Liner Notes by Julie Kirgo.
  5. ^ p.281 Fraser-Cavassoni, Natasha Sam Spiegel Time-Warner Books U.K. February 28, 2003
  6. ^ p.170 Herzberg, Bob The Third Reich on Screen, 1929-2015 McFarland 2016
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (3 February 1967). "Screen: 'The Night of the Generals': O'Toole Stars in Story About Nazi Officers". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 08:59
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