top of page

The Big Blockade 1942


Director: Charles Frend


Writers: Angus MacPhailFrank OwenCharles Frend

Rôle: German Propaganda Officer


Release Date: 19 January 1942

The Big Blockade 1942 film poster

Synopsis: Wartime propaganda piece reporting on the success of the economic blockade of Germany in the early years of the war. Made with the cooperation of The Ministry of Economic Warfare, The Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force.

The Big Blockade experiments boldly by mixing drama with documentary, real-life political figures with a wide range of actors, to play out episodes in the early-war campaigns by the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Like the other films in the package, only more so, it presents us with an archive of classic British players – from Will Hay and Bernard Miles to Robert Morley and Michael Redgrave.

Comment: Marius plays a Nazi propaganda officer in his third film rôle as a German. He looks very handsome and well tailored but his character is very chilling. He had studied alongside Germans when he was at university there in the late 1920s and talked with German prisoners of war after he joined the British Army in 1940.


Availability: DVD (Network: The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection Volume 2) Release Date: 13 May 2013.

The Big Blockade article in The Austin American (Austin, Texas) 15 February 1942
The Big Blockade article in The Brooklyn Daily News (Brooklyn, New York) 4 February 1942
The True Story of Lili Marlene 1944 poster

The True Story of Lili Marlene 1944

Director: Humphrey Jennings

Writer: Humphrey Jennings

Rôle: Himself as Presenter/Narrator

Release Date: August 1944

Synopsis: How Lili Marlene became the signature tune for the British army in North Africa. It was produced by the Crown Film Unit and was written and directed by Humphrey Jennings, an old school friend of Marius's from The Perse School, Cambridge.

Comment: Marius introduces and narrates the 28 minute documentary film which also features his wife, Lucie Mannheim, who sings a version of 'Lili Marlene' with new lyrics written by Marius.

Reviews: Review by trimmerb1244 on IMDb: "Unless records remain of the discussions leading to the making of this film we can only guess at what its aims were. Comparatively expensively made with many staged scenes it appears heavily indeed entirely propagandistic both crudely and in more subtle ways.

The song emerged when it was broadcast to German troops during WW2 and became an enormous entirely unanticipated hit. British troops fighting abroad heard it on these German broadcasts and most remarkably it became a hit with both sides of the conflict. The song itself is sentimental and wistful and, having as its subject a woman, Lili Marlene, presumably reminded both German and British soldiers of wives and girlfriends left behind at home. These deep emotions evoked by the song presented propaganda opportunities, it also presented dangers.

In the early stages of the war when German morale was high such a sentimental song presumably was judged to be comforting for their troops hence their immense exploitation of it as the film makes clear. As the war turned and huge and bitter defeats replaced easy victories, such sentimental reminders of a homeland and loved ones that many increasingly believed - rightly - that they were never to see again would have been deeply damaging to morale. The film makes this point explicitly and with much detail, also the enormous extent to which the Nazis had at first exploited its popularity only to abruptly banish song and singer when their fortunes began to turn.

The bond the song had formed with British troops presented an opportunity to the Germans and consequent danger to the allied war effort in that there must have been considerable curiosity on the part of British troops as to its the origin as well as to the identity of the singer. The Nazis could have greatly exploited this vacuum by producing a calculated propagandistic version of the song's origin and the identity of the singer also to give it new English words in order to redirect and manipulate this curiosity and the song's allure to British troops.

Instead the film preempts this by doing exactly the same thing but in the reverse direction by giving its own (British) version of the history of the song including the fate of the young singer - we see her interned in a concentration camp. The film concludes with a re-worded rousing defiant version of the song in English, mocking Hitler and referring to those same women in German hearts who had now become "hollow-eyed widows and mothers" and looked at the Fuehrer in deepest bitterness.

The film ends with a morale-raising entirely fictional vision of an immediate post-war East End of London (the most extensively bombed in the country?) street market with house and shop lights ablaze and barrows piled high with oranges and bananas, where the tune is played for the last time (on a barrel-organ - the most evocative East London street sound) finally claiming British ownership of it as a song of hope and peace"

Availability: DVD (Panamint Cinema) Release Date: 8 January 2007.

bottom of page