Review: Irving Pichel’s “The Pied Piper,” Starring Monty Woolley

Anne Baxter, Monty Woolley, and Roddy McDowall in
Anne Baxter, Monty Woolley, and Roddy McDowall in "The Pied Piper"

An old Englishman vacationing in France finds himself attempting to escape the 1940 Nazi invasion in Irving Pichel’s The Pied Piper. Monty Woolley plays a curmudgeonly old man who ends up transporting a group of children (led by Roddy McDowall) to safety, and of course, finds himself slowly warming up to them over the course of the film. It’s heavily sentimental, manipulative stuff, though the film takes an interesting turn in its third act with the introduction of the Nazi villain, Major Diessen (Otto Preminger in his acting debut). Alfred Newman’s score pushes the emotions harder than necessary, and the cramped sets give the film an inescapable cheapness. The Pied Piper wound up with three undeserved Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and one for Woolley’s satisfactory performance.

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Read the review in The New York Times