The Seventh Cross (film)

The Seventh Cross
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Helen Deutsch
Based on The Seventh Cross
by Anna Seghers
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Karl Freund
Edited by Thomas Richards
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • July 24, 1944 (1944-07-24)
Running time
110 minutes
Language English
Budget $1.3 million[1]
Box office $3.6 million[1]

The Seventh Cross is a 1944 film starring Spencer Tracy, Hume Cronyn, Ray Collins and Jessica Tandy. Cronyn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It was the first film in which Cronyn and Tandy, who were married, appeared together.

This was among the first feature films directed by Fred Zinnemann, later noted for films such as From Here to Eternity, High Noon, Julia, A Man for All Seasons, Oklahoma!, and The Nun's Story.

The movie was adapted from the novel of the same name by the German refugee writer Anna Seghers. Produced in the midst of the Second World War and released on 24 July 1944, it was one of the few films of the era to deal with the existence of Nazi concentration camps.


The year is 1936. Seven prisoners escape from the fictitious Westhofen concentration camp near Worms, Germany near the Rhine. They represent a cross-section of German society: a writer, a circus performer, a schoolmaster, a farmer, a Jewish grocery clerk, and two prisoners who are apparently political activists. One is George Heisler (Spencer Tracy) and the other his mentor Wallau (Ray Collins), the leader of the group.

The camp commandant erects a row of seven crosses and vows to "put a man on each." The first to be apprehended is Wallau, who dies without giving up any information yet continues to narrate the film. The film follows Heisler as he makes his way across the German countryside (Rhenish Hesse), steals a jacket to cover his prison garb, and watches out, as the Nazis round up every other escaped prisoner and puts them up on the crosses, and the local population remains largely indifferent.

Despite the common brutality of some of his countrymen, Heisler does receive help. Still, he is somewhat soured on the German people and humanity in general. He first makes his way to his home city of Mainz where his former girl friend, Leni (Kaaren Verne), who had promised to wait for him, but has since married, refuses to help him in the slightest way, and threatens to "report" him; he steals a bit of her food and departs. He next witnesses the suicide leap of the cornered circus performer and then goes on to see a contact whose name he had given him, where he encounters Mme. Marelli (Agnes Moorehead) who gives him the outfit she was holding for the performer and slips some money into his coat pocket. Next he goes to a Jewish doctor a few doors away who had been suggested by Mme. Marelli, who treats a hand injured during his escape which had become infected. Intercut with Heisler's escape odyssey are some scenes involving some of his friends who are trying to locate and help him. When he finally reaches the home of his prearranged contact he finds that the contact has been arrested. He cannot visit his family, because they are being watched, so he goes to his old friend, Paul Roeder (Hume Cronyn). Though Paul is a factory worker with a wife, Liesl (Jessica Tandy), and young children, he still risks all to help Heisler.

Roeder gets in touch with the German underground, whose members risk their lives to get Heisler out of the country. Through his exposure to this courage and kindness, and with the help toward the end of a sympathetic waitress (Signe Hasso) in an inn where he's hiding out and with whom he has a brief tryst and promises to send for later, Heisler regains his faith in humanity. Thanks to their help, the film ends as he approaches a cargo ship that is to take him away, "perhaps to Holland", with a shot of the empty seventh cross.


Uncredited Appearances

Refugees from Nazi Germany played many small roles, with the small uncredited bit part of a janitor played by Helene Weigel, the prominent German actress and wife of Bertolt Brecht.

MGM publicity played up the fleeting romantic element Between Tracey's character the Swedish actress, Signe Hasso, with the tagline "The revealing novel of a hunted man's search for love!"

The novel vs. the film

Anna Seghers, the author of the novel from which this movie was adapted, was a Communist, and Wallau and Heisler were Communists in the book. In the film, their political affiliation is not given.

The film also conformed to Hollywood norms by showing Heisler as unmarried. In the novel, he is married with a small child and had been cheating on his wife.

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $2,082,000 in the US and Canada and $1,489,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $1,021,000.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.

External links

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