All Quiet on the Western Front (partially lost original version of anti-war film; 1930)

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Poster for the film

Status: Partially Lost

All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 film adaptation of the 1929 anti-war book authored by Erich Maria Remarque. It starred Lew Ayres as Paul Bäumer, who among other German soldiers of the 2nd Company become greatly disillusioned while experiencing the horrors of the First World War. With Lewis Milestone as director, the original silent 152-minute film received strong acclaim, especially in the United States, winning the Oscars for Outstanding Production (Best Picture) and Best Director. However, the work was also subject to censorship and other heavy edits, resulting in substantial footage being removed from later cuts. Following restoration projects carried out in the 1980s and 1990s, it was revealed that just under 15 minutes of the work has been lost to time.


All Quiet on the Western Front was composed by Erich Maria Remarque, who had served for Germany during the Great War.[1][2][3][4] It is told through the narration of Paul Bäumer, who along with his classmates are goaded by their teacher, Kantorek, to enlist in the army and protect the Fatherland.[5][6][7][8][2][4] Initially believing an optimistic, even romanticised viewpoint of the War, Bäumer and the 2nd Company quickly become disillusioned after realising its true form, especially the deadly and depressing nature of trench warfare.[4][8][5] Alongside Bäumer include the ruminative Albert Kropp;[9] the academic-focused Friedrich Müller;[7] the former locksmith Tjaden, who bares a major grudge over the abusive training regime imposed by Sergeant der Reserve Himmelstoss;[10][7] and Stanislaus "Kat" Katczinsky, the oldest of the Company at 40, an expert scavenger who also becomes the Company's essential leader and mentor.[11][7][8]

Overtime, Bäumer grows further cynicism upon witnessing several harrowing situations.[5][8][4] Among these include the early deaths of his best friend Franz Kemmerich and Joseph Behm; sympathetic encounters with Russian POWs; stabbing a French patrolman and having to watch his agonising demise; and how a brief return to civilian life reveals the sharp disconnect between his past and present lives.[8][5][4] Not even schadenfreude over Himmelstoss being called up to the front and Kantorek's enlistment into the Homeguard, is able to prevent the greatly lowering morale of the company.[8][10][6] As the years pass and Germany's grip on the War weakens, Kroop suffers a leg amputation and contemplates suicide, while Müller is killed and Tjaden's fate is left unknown.[9][7][8][4] Despite Bäumer's attempts to save a wounded Kat, the latter dies from shrapnel striking the back of his head.[8] Following Kat's death, Bäumer becomes the only living member from the original 2nd Company, further destroying his psyche.[8][5][4] His body is found just a month before Armistice Day, his seemingly calm demeanour suggesting he was nearly thankful that his demise had commenced.[2][8][4]

Completed in 1928, and initially published as a German novel titled Im Westen nichts Neues in January 1929, the book was swiftly translated into English by Arthur Wheen with the title All Quiet on the Western Front.[12][2] It became a major commercial and critical success in and outside its home country for its genuine showcase of trench warfare, and soon caught the attention of Universal Pictures' founder Carl Laemmle.[13][14][15][16][2][4][3] The distributor gained the rights to adapt the work to the big screen for $40,000, with Lewis Milestone becoming the film's director.[3][13][2][16][14] Starring Lew Ayres as Bäumer, the film's production occurred as the transition from the silent era of cinema to the talkies commenced.[17][3][14][15][16] To appeal to all theatres, not all of whom were yet able to play talkie films, two versions of the film were released.[18][19][16][3] One consisted of a sound film, while the other was edited as an International Sound Version, which was silent and contained music and inter-titles intended for non-English markets.[18][19][3] The production budget was cited at $1.25 million, and filming began on 18th November 1929.[13][14][2][3][15]

The film adaptation mostly reflected the scenes depicted in the book, but also expanded on Bäumer's death.[20][13][15] As he is holding out on a remarkably quiet day, he witnesses the rare appearance of a butterfly just outside the trench.[20][15] Momentarily distracted by attempting to touch it, he is consequently shot dead by a sniper.[20][15] The film ends with footage of the 2nd Company joining the front for the first time, before the picture transitions to a cemetery.[20][3] Originally released in America in April 1930, the film received wide acclaim in the country for its gruelling and honest depiction of World War I, particularly from the opposing force.[3][15][2][16][14] The work received four Academy Award nominations for Outstanding Production (Best Picture), Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Cinematography, winning the first two.[21][15][13][3][16] It was also the first Universal film to win Best Picture.[16] It is additionally cited as allowing Ayres' film career to take off.[17][16]

Cut Footage

The film premiered in Los Angeles on 21st April 1930, and was showcased eight days later in New York City, with neither the sound or silent versions receiving any censorship.[22][23][24][15][14] Both consisted of 14 reels, with the silent version lasting 152 minutes.[22][16][23][24][14] Overseas, however, significant altering was mandatory for the film to potentially avoid bans.[22][23][3][14] Many cut scenes from international versions were likely deemed too graphic or politically controversial for censors.[23][22] For example, seven minutes were removed from the UK version before its first London showcase on 14th June 1930.[23][22] Similarly, the French version does not contain the scene featuring Bäumer witnessing a French soldier's slow and painful death in a bomb crater.[22][23][14]

The most infamous censorship occurred in Germany; while the Nazi Party was not in power in 1930, its influence was steadily growing.[22][15] It opposed All Quiet on the Western Front for being anti-war and seemingly anti-German, and, under Joseph Goebbels' command, disrupted the film's German 124-minute premiere on 4th December 1930.[15][2] The film was banned a week later, but was accepted under a heavily censored 85-minute form in 1931.[15][2] However, when the Nazi Party was elected in 1933, the film and the book were both outlawed, even going as far as to burn book copies and revoke Remarque's German citizenship.[1][15][2] The work was likewise banned in Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, and Yugoslavia, some lasting for decades.[3][2]

Starting from 1933, Universal had also begun cutting the film for marketing reasons.[23][3][24] Back then, re-screening an old film was not widely appealing, so these productions were cut down to their most memorable moments, allowing it to be screened as a double bill with a new work.[23] When the Second World War commenced, All Quiet on the Western Front suffered further alterations for a 1939 release intended for propagandic purposes.[23][3][22][24] Not only was it reduced from 14 to ten reels, clocking in at fewer than two hours, but also contained a narration generally favourably comparing the First World War German soldiers to the Nazi counterparts.[3][23][22] This cut ends with Nazis burning various books in 1933, including Im Westen nichts Neues.[25] Music also plays over Bäumer's death scene and the transition to the cemetery.[23][24] Similar propaganda versions were made during the Korean War and the Cold War.[3][23] Further censorship and edits over the years for television broadcasts saw the film cut down to just 101 minutes.[22] The numerous changes infuriated Milestone, with a 1964 letter of his denouncing the editors responsible for cutting footage as "vandals".[22][24]

On 25th September 1980, Milestone would pass away.[26][27] Prior to his death, he had written to Universal requesting that the production be restored to its full, original form.[27] By that point, over 17 film cuts were circulating in Europe alone.[23] One restoration occurred in West Germany in 1984, amazingly harnessing a print found in Goebbels' collection.[3][22] This version was later released on VHS.[22] Additionally, a 1990 German restoration was made, this time based on a 1950s cut lasting 120 minutes.[22] In America, the Library of Congress began its own restoration, with financial backing from Universal.[23] After discovering a pristine master copy from Universal's vaults, Library of Congress' Motion Picture Division produced a restored film more akin to Milestone's original version.[23][3][24]

By March 1998, the restoration was complete, with three minutes of previously lost footage reincorporated into the work.[23][27] Among rediscovered scenes included a grim depiction of the Last Supper, where Bäumer and company pass and consume food and drink splattered in blood.[23] This scene was originally removed because of time constraints.[23] After reaching cinemas, this restored version received home media release, with silent and sound versions present on Blu-Ray.[22][23][24]


Because of the indignities All Quiet on the Western Front received over the decades, not all footage was available or in sufficient quality for the Library of Congress restoration.[16][22][23][24] In total, this cut lasts 133 minutes and 25 seconds, suggesting just under 19 minutes of footage was not recovered.[22][16][24] However, it is known that a German VHS lasts 135:36 minutes.[22] Analysis from Movie-Censorship reveals whereas the German VHS is missing around 2:12 minutes of content contained in the Blu-Ray release, it also contains 7:52 minutes of 16 scenes not seen from the Library of Congress version.[22] When adding the missing 2:12 minutes to the German VHS, one will receive a work lasting 137:48 minutes.[22] Ultimately, the German VHS version is less common, as all subsequent DVD and Blu-Ray releases are based on the Library of Congress restoration.[22] When including the exclusive German VHS scenes, around 14:12 minutes of film footage is missing, having either been destroyed or ended up poorly preserved that they eventually ended up in a non-airable state.[22][24] It is the only Best Picture film to no longer exist in its original form.[24]

Among the rarest clips includes scenes that never actually made it into the final version.[28][24] Originally, ZaSu Pitts portrayed Bäumer's mother, in emotional scenes where the young German reunites with his family on leave, Bäumer's mother having also been diagnosed with cancer.[29][24][28][8] Pitts was an actress most notable for her roles in silent and sound comedy films, being typecast within the genre.[29] This caused problems when All Quiet on the Western Front was presented to preview audiences, some of whom bursting into laughter during Pitts' scenes and drowning out her speech.[29][24] As the film was a serious production, it became clear Pitts' portrayal was simply not suited for the work.[29][24] Thus, she was hastily replaced by Beryl Mercer for those scenes, and was not featured in any version of film, despite speculation she featured in the silent edition.[28][24][29][14] The only available footage of Pitts is in a trailer, in a scene where Bäumer reassures his dying mother.[28][29]



Film trailer featuring footage of Pitt. Her voice originates from a 1938 radio adaptation of the book, where she recreated the bedroom scene.

Wendigoon detailing the film.

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 CliffNotes biography on Remarque. Retrieved 17th May '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Smithsonian Magazine detailing the book and film adaptation's legacy. Retrieved 17th May '23
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 Moviediva review of the film and the various alterations and restorations over the years. Retrieved 17th May '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Western Front Association review of the book. Retrieved 17th May '23
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 CliffsNotes analysis of Paul Bäumer. Retrieved 17th May '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 SparkNotes analysis on Kantorek. Retrieved 17th May '23
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 CliffNotes summary of each character. Retrieved 17th May '23
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 As depicted in the book. Retrieved 17th May '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 CliffNotes analysis of Albert Kroop. Retrieved 17th May '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 CliffNotes analysis of Himmelstoss. Retrieved 17th May '23
  11. CliffNotes analysis of Kat. Retrieved 17th May '23
  12. The Guardian noting Arthur Wheen provided the first English translation of the novel. Retrieved 17th May '23
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Filmsite summarising the film and its first three parts. Retrieved 17th May '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 American Film Institute page on All Quiet on the Western Front. Retrieved 17th May '23
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 The Hollywood Reporter detailing the film's release and its ban in Germany. Retrieved 17th May '23
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 Medium reflecting on the film and noting the full 152-minute version is missing. Retrieved 17th May '23
  17. 17.0 17.1 Hollywood's Golden Age page on Ayres. Retrieved 17th May '23
  18. 18.0 18.1 Leonard Maltin comparing the two versions of the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  19. 19.0 19.1 Silent Volume comparing the two versions of the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Filmsite detailing the final parts of the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  21. Oscars noting the film won two Academy Awards and was nominated for another two. Retrieved 17th May '23
  22. 22.00 22.01 22.02 22.03 22.04 22.05 22.06 22.07 22.08 22.09 22.10 22.11 22.12 22.13 22.14 22.15 22.16 22.17 22.18 22.19 22.20 22.21 Movie-Censorship detailing the edits done because of censorship and the numerous restorations, comparing footage from the German VHS to the modern Blu-Ray edition. Retrieved 17th May '23
  23. 23.00 23.01 23.02 23.03 23.04 23.05 23.06 23.07 23.08 23.09 23.10 23.11 23.12 23.13 23.14 23.15 23.16 23.17 23.18 23.19 The Los Angeles Times reporting on the Library of Congress' restoration of the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  24. 24.00 24.01 24.02 24.03 24.04 24.05 24.06 24.07 24.08 24.09 24.10 24.11 24.12 24.13 24.14 24.15 24.16 The New York Post summarising the cut content and noting Pitts' footage being cut completely from the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  25. The Guardian noting the 1939 cut contained footage of the Nazis engaging in book burning. Retrieved 17th May '23
  26. Britannica biography on Milestone. Retrieved 17th May '23
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 War Films noting Milestone's request to Universal to restore the film. Retrieved 17th May '23
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 Classic Movie Hub noting that Pitts did not feature in the silent version of the film, despite speculation she did. Retrieved 17th May '23
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 Mary Pickford biography on Pitts, noting her deleted scenes in the film. Retrieved 17th May '23