Being a huge fan of Spencer Tracy, I was surprised to come across this movie, The Seventh Cross (directed by Fred Zinnemann and released in 1944), which I had never seen or even heard of before. I was as well shocked to see Spencer Tracy at the beginning of the movie contemplate harming a small child whom he runs across in a field after escaping a German concentration camp with seven other prisoners. The year is 1936. The movie begins with Tracy angry and cynical toward his fellow Germans for being complacent with the Gestapo and the goals of the Third Reich. The commandant of the camp places seven crosses in the camp and vows to put each of the escaped prisoners on a cross.
As the movie progresses, Heisler (Spencer Tracy) is hiding in his former hometown as he has witnessed the capture and death of some of his fellow escapees. Feeling despair with his changing country, another escapee tries to convince Tracy to surrender since trying to hide amongst the German population is hopeless.
Desperate and disillusioned at the cruelty of his fellow man, Heisler (Tracy) finds his way through the film encountering militant German citizens and eventually old friends who are willing to help him escape at their own peril, restoring his faith in humanity. An especially moving performance was by actor Felix Bressart as a delicatessen owner and part of the resistance. His monologue when asked why he is willing to help Heisler (Tracy) escape is both charming and powerful, revealing how each man’s small act can make a big difference. Other impressive performances include Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in their first film performance together as well as a vignette performance by Agnes Moorhead.
The Seventh Cross not only had brilliant performances, it reminds us of lessons to be learned from the history of the past. In the chaos of our changing world today, I found this film inspirational. We can feel as though we are alone in our fears. This film reminds us to have faith in the good of our fellow man and that we can, as individuals, have a voice and can make a difference.
I proudly give this film a must-see at five stars.
The Seventh Cross movie clip: