Beware of PityFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search Beware of Pity
Directed by Maurice Elvey
Produced by Maurice Elvey
W. P. Lipscomb
Written by Stefan Zweig (novel)
W. P. Lipscomb
Starring Lilli Palmer
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Cinematography Derick Williams
Editing by Grace Garland
Studio Two Cities Films
Distributed by Eagle-Lion Films
Release date(s) 22 July 1946
Running time 105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Beware of Pity is a 1946 British romantic drama film directed by Maurice Elvey and starring Lilli Palmer, Albert Lieven and Cedric Hardwicke. It is based on the novel of the same name by Stefan Zweig. A paraplegic young baroness mistakes compassion for love. The film's costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton. It was made by Two Cities Films at Islington Studios. The film was not a great popular success outside of the Soviet Union.
5 External links
 PlotThe film opens with a framing device set in post-Second World War Britain. When a young man comes to aged Anton Marek (Albert Lieven) for romantic advice, Marek tells him a story from his own past, which leads to a flashback.
In the days leading up to First World War, Lieutenant Marek is assigned to an Austro-Hungarian cavalry regiment stationed in a small town. There he meets Baroness Edith de Kekesfalva (Lilli Palmer), a young woman who is a paraplegic as the result of a horse riding accident. Noticing how the young man has cheered up his depressed daughter, Baron Emil de Kekesfalva (Ernest Thesiger) asks him to spend time with her. Marek finds her company pleasant enough and agrees.
The baron has consulted many renowned doctors in vain; none hold out any hope for his daughter's recovery. Finally, in desperation, he has turned to hardworking, dedicated Dr. Albert Condor (Cedric Hardwicke), who at least refuses to give up. Condor notices a great improvement in Edith's attitude, which he accurately ascribes to her falling in love with Marek. Marek remains unaware of Edith's feelings for him.
One day, Marek tells the family about a promising treatment in Switzerland, despite Condor's warning to wait until he has had a chance to investigate. Condor later informs him that it cannot help Edith, but by then the damage is done. With the hope of being able to walk again unassisted, Edith reveals her love for Marek. Guilt-ridden, the young man pretends to love her and agrees to marry her after she is cured.
However, when rumors of the engagement leak out, Marek angrily denies them to his questioning, disapproving fellow officers. When he is confronted by his commanding officer, Marek admits the truth. To minimize the scandal, his commander immediately arranges his transfer to another unit far away.
Marek goes to see Condor before he leaves, but the doctor is away. Instead, Condor's blind wife Klara (Gladys Cooper) speaks with him. She gets him to recognize that he may love Edith after all. He tries to telephone Edith, but the lines are barred from civilian use because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that same day. Marek must take the train to report for duty with his new unit, but Klara assures him she will see Edith and clear things up.
When Klara visits Edith, she finds her alone on the rooftop terrace of her family's mountainside mansion. Edith has heard about Marek's public denial of their engagement and no longer trusts anyone. With Klara powerless to stop her, she wheels herself to the edge and flings herself over to her death.
 CastLilli Palmer as Baroness Edith de Kekesfalva
Albert Lieven as Lt. Anton Marek
Cedric Hardwicke as Dr. Albert Condor
Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Klara Condor
Linden Travers as Ilona Domansky, Edith's companion
Ernest Thesiger as Baron Emil de Kekesfalva
Emrys Jones as Lt. Joszi Molnar
Ralph Truman as Maj. Sandor Balinkay
Fritz Wendhausen as Josef, a Kekesfalva family servant (as Frederick Wendhausen)
John Salew as Col. Franz Bubencic
Freda Jackson as Gypsy, a fortune teller who foretells a happy future for Edith
Gerhard Kempinski as Mayor Jan Nivak
 References1.^ Harper p.156
 BibliographyHarper, Sue. The Rise and Fall of the British Costume Film. British Film Institute, 1994.
 External linksBeware of Pity at the Internet Movie Database
Beware of Pity at the TCM Movie Database
Beware of Pity at AllRovi
Rereading: Beware of Pity by Stefan ZweigFamous for his novellas, popular histories and biographies, Stefan Zweig wrote only one novel, a study of nostalgia and disillusionment
The Guardian, Friday 15 July 2011 17.55 EDT Jump to comments (3)
The lost world ... Maurice Elvey (the director) with Linden Travers, Lilli Palmer and Albert Lieven on the set of the film of Beware of Pity, 1946. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive
When Stefan Zweig, forced into a peripatetic life by the rise of Nazism, arrived in New York in 1935, he was persistently asked to make a statement about the treatment of the Jews in Germany. He refused to be drawn out, and said in correspondence that his reason was that anything he said would probably only make their situation worse. Similarly, when staying in London, he found that while he loved English people's way of not getting too het up about things, their civility and general decency, he found the regular denunciations of the Third Reich a little too much: he felt that they lost force by repetition.
Beware of Pity
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell
Buy the bookTell us what you think: Star-rate and review this bookTo which one might have countered: one couldn't say often enough that the Third Reich was evil. And one would have thought that Zweig, himself Jewish and fully aware that his books were being burned in universities all over Germany might have had more to say publicly on the subject.
His novel Beware of Pity, composed over a period of years and completed in 1938 (there are 11 extant – volumes of notes and drafts that attest to Zweig's painstaking work on his only full-length novel) itself very pointedly has almost nothing to say about contemporary times, on the surface at least. It is the story of a young Austrian cavalry officer, Anton Hofmiller, who befriends a local millionaire, Kekesfalva, and his family, but in particular the old man's crippled daughter, Edith, with terrible consequences.
Well, it almost has nothing to say about the times in which it was written. Which means that it has something to say about them; obliquely, and passed across your eyes quickly, like a Hitchcock cameo. But the novel's flight from pressing concerns is in itself significant. Following Hitler's rise to power, the first project Zweig embarked on was a biography of Erasmus, which he described as "a quiet hymn of praise to the anti-fanatical man". In other words, it was in direct but non-violent opposition to the loathsome qualities that were deemed desirable, indeed compulsory, in society at large. But sometimes evasiveness isn't a straightforward matter of wanting to keep out of trouble, or stick up for virtues that are in danger of being trampled.
One of the earliest writers to note what Freud was doing, Zweig took on board early the lesson that directly dealing with terrible things is not necessarily the way the mind works. His stories are full of characters poisoned by things left unsaid, or situations misread. We tell ourselves stories about what is going on; but sometimes these are the wrong stories. In one of his earlier short fictions, "Downfall of the Heart" (whose original title, Untergang eines Herzens, is a proleptic echo of the German title of Beware of Pity – Ungeduld des Herzens, or the heart's impatience), a self-made businessman succumbs to a terrible decline after seeing, or imagining he has seen, his daughter sneaking out of a man's hotel room in the middle of the night. In Beware of Pity we have a hero who makes a habit of getting things wrong. "Since this seems to be the day for making wrong diagnoses . . .", says the admirable Dr Condor at one point in the novel, but it is the "hero" (and I had better start using inverted commas around that word, for reasons our "hero" would most certainly approve of) who keeps making wrong diagnoses. There is the terrible gaffe he makes which sets the whole terrible train of events in motion (it's a small train, admittedly, but big enough to cause havoc); there is his initial impression that Kekesfalva is a genuine venerable Hungarian nobleman, that Condor is a bumpkin and a fool; and, in one splendidly subtle piece of writing, in which an interior state of mind is beautifully translated into memorable yet familiar imagery, he imagines himself to be better put together than Condor, when they walk out in bright moonlight on the night of their first meeting:
And as we walked down the apparently snow-covered gravel drive, suddenly we were not two but four, for our shadows went ahead of us, clear-cut in the bright moonlight. Against my will I had to keep watching those two black companions who persistently marked out our movements ahead of us, like walking silhouettes, and it gave me – our feelings are sometimes so childish – a certain reassurance to see that my shadow was longer, slimmer, I almost said "better-looking", than the short, stout shadow of my companion.
This has a ring of interior psychological veracity and shows just how sharply Zweig could pay attention to his characters' inner workings. And if, as Henry James said, a novelist is someone on whom nothing is lost, then we have in Zweig's "hero" here a man on whom everything is lost, in more than one sense of the phrase.
When we first meet Hofmiller, it is not the eve of the first world war, when the events described in the novel take place, but on the eve of the second: explicitly, in 1938, when the framing narrator – a famous novelist whom we may as well assume to be Zweig himself – is briefly introduced in a café to Hofmiller by a well-meaning "hanger-on" (who could also, possibly, be said to be a mischievously unflattering self-portrait of another aspect of Zweig's personality: he was known for that kind of thing). Hofmiller is a famously decorated soldier, but he treats his decoration – the highest military order Austria can bestow – with disdain bordering on contempt, and only speaks to the framing narrator when they meet accidentally at a dinner party later on.
And it is at this moment that we should realise that the message of the book is not only the ostensible one – that pity is an emotion that can cause great ruin – but also that we must not judge things by appearances. Hofmiller may be entitled to wear the Order of Maria Theresa but he can tell you that, in his case at least, what others might regard as courage is actually the result of a monumental act of cowardice.
Stefan Zweig was extremely famous throughout the world as a writer of novellas and short stories, as well as popular histories and biographies, so it is remarkable that he wrote only one full-length novel. It has led some commentators to suggest that in this instance he overstretched himself, that he became prolix or, more charitably, that Beware of Pity is actually two novellas of unequal length stitched together. The latter suggestion is certainly worth consideration (how Kekesfalva got his loot is certainly a story in itself), but Beware of Pity is the length it is because it has to be (and, as with all Zweig's writing, it zips along almost effortlessly; it doesn't read as though it could do with much trimming). The loop back in time that Zweig is taking us on has to be accounted for; it has to take time. He said himself that the impulse behind the novel was not only nostalgia – itself one of the most powerful of narrative impulses, as anyone who has heard of Proust knows – but pity: pity specifically directed at Lotte, his secretary, with whom he was having an affair and who was to become his second wife (and with whom he would successfully undertake a suicide pact in a hotel room in Petrópolis, Brazil, in 1942).
He wanted this to be the Great Austrian Novel, and so a certain scope was demanded of him. And he had to go back to before 1914 as that was when everything began to go wrong. In his story "The Invisible Collection", first published in 1927, a collector of rare prints who has gone blind is deceived by his family: they have sold his valuable collection bit by bit in order to feed themselves, and him, during the disastrous inflation that followed the first world war, and have replaced the prints with blank paper of the same dimensions and thickness. When he strokes the blank sheets the narrator notes his happiness: "Not for years, not since 1914, had I witnessed an expression of such unmitigated happiness on the face of a German . . ." (Italics mine.)
It is a scene of such potent and telling symbolism that it verges, tremulously, on the corny. But that is not to gainsay its validity and power. The Great War ruined and erased everything, and reduced the past almost to a state as if it had never been. Zweig's autobiography, The World of Yesterday, is a long lament for a vanished world, tantamount to a suicide note. Interestingly, he does not, in Beware of Pity, allude to, or make any real use of, the atmosphere of stifling sexual repression that animates "Eros Matutinus", one of the best chapters of The World of Yesterday, in which Zweig acknowledges there were some very significant aspects of genteel society the world was right to discard. If anything, the return to the values of 1913 is tacitly endorsed, albeit in a complex and ambiguous fashion, when Hofmiller discovers, to his horror, that Edith has sexual desires.
But Beware of Pity ends with a note of almost bitter disillusionment. (Not to mention the reader's relief at having finally climbed out of an emotional tumble-dryer, which is just the effect Zweig wanted his best work to have.) In fact, if it didn't sound so off-putting, "Disillusionment" could be a perfectly plausible title for the novel (to go with Zweig's other one-word titles for some of his novellas: "Amok", "Confusion" or "Angst"). But disillusionment is, though often painful – and Beware of Pity has moments of high melodrama that have the power to make one put one's free hand over one's mouth as one reads – a very necessary process, and the stripping away of illusions was, after all, one of the abiding aims of the Freudian project. And it is a very useful kind of bildungsroman, in which it is not only the chief character who learns something by the end of it, but the reader, too.