Margin for Error

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  • Approved
  • 1943
  • 1 hr 11 min
  • 5.8  (300)

Margin for Error is a 1943 film directed by Otto Preminger, based on the Broadway play of the same name by Claire Booth Luce. The film stars Joan Bennett, Milton Berle, and Otto Preminger himself in a supporting role. The story is set in New York City during World War II and follows a police inspector named George Stedman (played by Milton Berle) who investigates a murder case in which a German immigrant is the prime suspect.

The movie begins with Stedman's promotion to police inspector and his assignment to the 18th precinct in New York City. He is assigned to investigate the murder of a man named Albert Baumer, who was killed in his apartment by a blow to the head. The main suspect is Otto Keller (Otto Preminger), a German immigrant who was seen leaving Baumer's apartment building around the time of the murder.

Stedman, who is known for his anti-German sentiments, is convinced that Keller is guilty and starts building a case against him. However, his investigation takes an unexpected turn when he meets Keller's wife, Elsa (Joan Bennett), who is also a German immigrant. Elsa is a proud and intelligent woman who is fiercely loyal to her husband and her German heritage. She insists that her husband is innocent and that Stedman's investigation is based on prejudice and hatred.

As Stedman digs deeper into the case, he realizes that things are not as simple as they seem. He discovers that Baumer was a member of a pro-Nazi organization and that he was killed by someone who wanted to silence him. Stedman also becomes more and more attracted to Elsa, despite his initial hostility towards her. He starts to question his own prejudices and realizes that he might have been wrong about Keller all along.

The movie is a fascinating study of the anti-German sentiment that existed in America during World War II. It portrays a complex and nuanced view of the German immigrant experience, showing how they were often unfairly targeted and demonized by society. The movie also explores themes of loyalty, prejudice, and justice, showing how complex these issues can be in times of war.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is the character of Elsa, who is portrayed with intelligence and dignity. She is not a typical Hollywood stereotype of a German woman, but a complex and multi-dimensional character who challenges Stedman's assumptions about her and her husband. Joan Bennett gives a powerful and nuanced performance in the role, bringing depth and humanity to the character.

Milton Berle is also impressive as Stedman, portraying a character who is initially hostile and bigoted, but gradually learns to overcome his prejudices and see people as individuals. Otto Preminger, who also directed the movie, is excellent as Keller, bringing a quiet intensity and intelligence to the role.

The movie is beautifully shot and features some impressive set pieces, including a dramatic chase scene through the streets of New York City. The script, written by Luce herself, is sharp and witty, with some memorable one-liners and clever plot twists. The music, composed by David Buttolph, is also worth mentioning, as it adds tension and emotion to the story.

Overall, Margin for Error is a fascinating and thought-provoking movie that still feels relevant today. It portrays a complex and nuanced view of the German immigrant experience and explores themes of loyalty, prejudice, and justice in a compelling way. The performances are excellent, the script is sharp, and the direction is impressive. It's definitely worth watching for anyone interested in classic Hollywood movies or World War II history.

Margin for Error
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 11 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.8  (300)