One of the Most Rousing War Films Produced During the Third Reich
Prussia’s fateful hour is at hand. Fridericus is an epic costume drama that recounts the tumultuous years of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), which pitted Frederick the Great against Austria’s Maria Theresa and involved all of the great powers of Europe. Although he played the Kaiser in Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (1920) and the King of Saxony in Wolfgang Liebeneiner’s Bismarck (1940), Otto Gebühr is best remembered for his portrayal of another authority figure—Frederick the Great, whom he impersonated in no fewer than a dozen films made over the course of twenty-two years. Gebühr made a career out of resurrecting the great eighteenth-century Prussian leader, for his astonishing incarnation was the spit and image of the older Frederick so well known from contemporary paintings.
The series began in the early 1920s and was promoted heavily during the Nazi era. Earlier Frederick the Great biographies often sketched the crown prince or the flute-playing philosopher-king. Gebühr’s monarch is depicted here as a tragic military hero, the father of his people whose sacrifices make Prussia a great power. As Siegfried Kracauer once observed, this Frederick “surpassed all previous Fredericks in his resemblance to Hitler. The whole series was a thorough attempt to familiarize the masses with the idea of a Führer.” The moral—submit unconditionally to absolute authority—was unmistakable: Germany’s national aspirations, once fulfilled by Frederick the Great, will soon be fulfilled by the Führer.
Fridericus is one of the most rousing war pictures produced during the Third Reich. Otto Gebühr’s performance as Frederick the Great is as charismatic and inspiring as any Hollywood portrayals of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. German, 1937. Directed by Johannes Meyer. Starring Otto Gebühr, Hilde Körber, Lil Dagover, Käthe Haack.
Germany, 1936, B&W, 101 minutes, German dialogue. DVD has switchable (optional) English subtitles.
Bonus Material: Historical Slideshow.
NTSC Region 0 encoding (Entire World)
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