From the Stars and Stripes archives

Film producer, stars await verdict on 'Judgment at Nurnberg'

Photographers zoom in on Spencer Tracy during the filming of "Judgment at Nuremberg" in Berlin in 1961.


By WALLACE BEENE | Stars and Stripes | Published: June 9, 1961

(Editor's note: Stars and Stripes' style in 1961 was to use the German spelling of Nuremberg.)

THE PRODUCER AND STARS of the recently completed movie "Judgment at Nurnberg" are anxiously awaiting the verdict.

This verdict will be handed down Dec. 14 when the film gets its world premiere in Berlin.

Producer Stanley Kramer and stars Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift will be on hand to see what the reaction will be toward the film based on the war-crimes trials.

Kramer, Tracy and Widmark faced a large group of newsmen at the completion of the filming in Berlin.

"I wouldn't dare to say what some of the questions in the back of your minds might be," Kramer said. "This film is not a documentary. No single character is portrayed. It is a synthesis of all the trials.

"I don't expect everybody to agree with the film, but it points out that everyone must stand in moral judgment for his actions sooner or later."

Tracy spoke up to add, "I'd like to put myself on record as saying this film will get as good a press in Germany as anywhere."

Widmark was equally emphatic. "Any piece of film on this subject is needed. The world must not be allowed to forget. This could happen anywhere."

Kramer, the wonder boy of Hollywood famed for off-beat pictures, claims to have made more unsuccessful pictures than anyone.

"Not bad pictures - just unsuccessful financially. I don't know what the public wants and, regardless of how arrogant it sounds, I don't care. I hope that by pleasing myself I can please the public. The escapist film makers have been right no more often than I have."

Kramer jokingly admitted: "It might get mighty lonesome over at the Congress Hall the night of December 14, but of course Judy and Marlene can always sing."

Tracy, described by one member of the crew as "a magnificently uncured ham," got his big laugh when Kramer was asked why his films were so free of sex.

"What about Marlene and I?" roared Tracy indignantly.

The veteran star made his first trip to Berlin to make a scene that supposedly takes place in Nurnberg. He portrays the jurist presiding over the trials and the scene calls for him to ride by the rubble of the city in a magnificent 1938 Mercedes. It was rented from a man in Munich for $75 a day.

When Tracy arrived on the set, Kramer greeted him with, "What are you doing here?"

Without hesitation, the 61-year-old Tracy flipped back, "I thought you'd tell me."

Tracy admitted that the courtroom scenes — about half the picture — posed a difficult problem. Unlike the court scenes in "Inherit the Wind" where he battled the scene-stealer Fredric March and got to use all the tricks he has learned in 30 years of movie making, "Judgment" keeps him stuck behind the bench.

But Tracy is always capable of surprise. When he left Berlin by car returning to West Germany, one of the passengers in his car was Katharine Hepburn. The Berlin press hadn't even been aware that she was in the city.

Widmark is another veteran of the Hollywood wars, but he has a problem.

"I've made about 40 pictures, but the only one, anybody remembers was my first one where I pushed the little old lady in the wheelchair down the flight of stairs," he lamented.

Widmark plays the American prosecutor in the film and he made the trip to Berlin, just to take a two-block jeep ride for the cameras. "I'm supposed to be in Berlin looking for Judy as a witness in the trial," he explained.

The picture marks Judy's debut as a dramatic actress. "Judy is a great dramatic actress," he insists.

Kramer runs a one-man show, picking the story and then acting as both producer and director. This means he has to worry about everything from the bankers down to the minor headaches of film making.

"That looks like Miss Munich over there breaking rock," he complained when one of the extras clearing rubble turned up with a fresh bleached hairdo. A large handkerchief reduced the glamor girl to the properly dispirited appearance.

To get the needed background shots for bomb-torn Nurnberg, Kramer took the cast to Berlin and shot the scenes within a block of the East Berlin border where ruins are still plentiful.

He had a mountain of rubble piled up at one particular point for background instead of using the authentic ruins.

"And we have to clear off the stuff soon as the scene is over," explained one of the crew.

Nor does Kramer show signs of weakening on the off-beat story front. His next picture will concern mentally retarded children, a subject most producers wouldn't touch with a pole considerably longer than 10 feet.

Spencer Tracy waits for filming to resume on the set of "Judgment at Nuremberg" in Berlin in 1961.

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