Gene Kelly: The Devil Makes Three (1952)

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The Devil Makes Three (1952) Gene Kelly's few serious roles may not have been nearly as popular as his more lighthearted ones, but it is my opinion that his performances in those were certainly no disappointment, and this movie is a good indication of why.

It's post war Munich, and Captain Jeff Eliot is returning for a two week visit to thank a family who helped him during the war.

Upon arrival he goes to deliver gifts to their address only to discover the home in ruins, so he naturally wants to know what happened.

He discovers that the couple who lived there died when their home was bombed, but their daughter survived and is now working for the underground smuggling goods to help the nazis.

Pier Angeli and Gene KellyThe good Captain meets up with the girl and begins to get to know her better, then decides that he's in love with the daughter and is going to stand by her and help her get out of the mess she's in, and this is where the plot takes off.

This movie's content, I thought, was strong and entertaining. Kelly's ability to add an element of humanity and compassion to a character filled with action is incredible and was the crucial element that made his character so heroic.

This production has some melodramatic fun, as well. For example, our hero wears his hat more noticeably to the side than all the other military officers, and our heroine is a doe-eyed thing who presents as more innocent than she really is. Additionally, there is some German speaking throughout the script, yet all the signs are written in English, and a handwritten note on a door is not written in typical Germanic handwriting despite that the person who wrote it is German.

The viewer is also likely to enjoy the contemporary jazz lounge music along with the traditional German song and dance that served as an embellishment to this engaging cinematic work.

There were a few key areas where there were some overly dramatic scenes, typical of melodramas, but they were still somewhat subtle. One of those is when Captain Eliot is trying to make a phone call - and he's yelling into the phone and acting all hyper. Or for her, one of those was the scene where they just met up and she's having a classic, "woe is me" moment complete with an exaggerated forlorn countenance.

Our heroine seems to have a lot of those. Here's another one:

And, of course, we see that our longsuffering hero is going to hang around a while and save the object of his affections from her situation. Now, I ask you, how would that work in the real world, especially in this day and age?

And that's yet another mark of a good melodramatic film. It has a very manly topic (war, nazis) yet has a distinct appeal to women - and that is, an upstanding hero who stands by her no matter what. That is something that speaks to women - we look to our men to be our heroes and film makers knew how to play on that trait to bring in the feminine audiences.

I really enjoyed watching this movie - they just don't make them like this anymore. Although it was a serious film, I enjoyed picking out the moments of lightheartedness - and when you watch it, be sure to listen for a particular rendition of Oh Christmas tree - and pay attention to the sad but humorous lyrics.

You can purchase this film from the Warner Archive Collection at