This 1948 romantic comedy explores the stark reality of post-WW II Berlin. Directed by Hollywood legend Billy Wilder and starring Marlene Dietrich, John Lund and Jean Arthur, the film revolves around a congressional fact-finding mission to investigate the morale of the 12,000 U.S. troops occupying the city, who are described as “being infected by a kind of moral malaria.” A love triangle ensues between Berlin resident Dietrich, Army Captain Lund and Congresswoman Arthur, hence the romantic comedy angle. But below the surface, the movie examines the underbelly of a conquered civilian population under the control of an occupying army, where the only thing that matters is survival. Filming took place on location in Berlin while bodies were still being recovered from the ruins we see on screen. Dietrich, a real-life Berlin native and vocal anti-Nazi who fled Hitler’s Germany for the United States, plays the role of a pro-Nazi cabaret singer. We witness a black-market economy where barter reigns and cigarettes are the prevailing form of currency. This dark social backdrop is lightened by the comedic and romantic interplay among the main characters and an improbably happy ending.
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