A Time to Love and a Time to Die

A Time to Love and a Time to Die is a 1958 Eastmancolor CinemaScope drama war film directed by Douglas Sirk and starring John Gavin.[2] It is based on the book by German author Erich Maria Remarque, set on the Eastern Front and in Nazi Germany.[3] With a nod to Remarque's better-known All Quiet on the Western Front, this film has been referred to as All Quiet on the Eastern Front.[4]

A Time to Love and a Time to Die
Film poster
Directed byDouglas Sirk
Produced byRobert Arthur
Written byOrin Jannings
Erich Maria Remarque
Based onnovel by Erich Maria Remarque
StarringJohn Gavin
Music byMiklós Rózsa
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byTed J. Kent
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 9, 1958 (1958-07-09)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office2.8 million admissions (France)[1]


Ernst Graeber is a German soldier stationed on the Eastern Front during the war's last days. He and fellow soldiers Steinbrenner and Hirschland are ordered to kill Russian civilians, but Hirschland commits suicide instead.

Given his first furlough in two years, Ernst returns home to find his village bombed and parents gone. Elizabeth Kruse, daughter of his mother's doctor, tells him that her father is being held by the Gestapo as well. Constant air raids interrupt any peaceful moments while Ernst and Elizabeth enjoy their love.

An old friend, Binding, a wealthy Nazi, welcomes Ernst to his home and prepares a feast for the newly wed couple, while a sympathetic professor, Pohlmann, offers his help, should they decide to flee the country.

Ernst is ordered back to the front where he finds Steinbrenner about to shoot arrested Russian civilians. To prevent their shooting Ernst himself shoots Steinbrenner and frees them. One of the prisoners untouched by such sentimentality in a total war retrieves Steinbrenner's rifle and then shoots Graeber. He dies while reading a letter from Elizabeth, telling him that she is expecting their child.



Remarque met Sirk in 1954 and the director persuaded the writer to adapt his own novel for the screen. ("I found him an extraordinarily understanding and capable man", said Remarque. "He knew what he wanted to do with my book."[3]) Sirk's own son actor Klaus Detlef Sierck (1925-1944) died in the Ukraine as a soldier of the Panzer-Grenadier-Division Großdeutschland when he was 18 years old.[5]

Universal decided to cast two relative unknowns in the lead. As studio executive Al Daff said:

We could have put two well-known personalities in it and proceeded on the basis of making a star vehicle. Or we could, as we decided to do, cast the story for inevitability and put into the lead roles talented, fresh performers who would not have to overcome the handicap of personality identification and could be accepted as a young Nazi officer and his sweetheart.[6]

At one stage Ann Harding was going to play a role.[7]

Filming took place in West Berlin, which Sirk had fled over 20 years before and the US Army Europe training area at Grafenwöhr. Interiors were shot at CCC Film's Spandau Studios in Berlin.[8] The film's sets were designed by the art directors Alexander Golitzen and Alfred Sweeney. Gavin was accompanied by his wife who he had just married and they used the movie as an opportunity to honeymoon.[9]

Universal sent a screen test of Gavin to critics in advance of the film's release.[10] Hedda Hopper saw a preview and predicted that Gavin will "take the public by storm and so will the picture, which should also put its co-star, Lilo Pulver in the top ten."[11]


The Los Angeles Times said the film wasn't as good as All Quiet on the Western Front but was "vivid, sometimes brutally shocking and, less often, emotionally moving."[12]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Box office

The film was one of the most popular of the year in France.[1]




  1. French box office of 1959 at Box Office Story
  2. Crowther, Bosley. "New York Times: A Time to Love and a Time to Die". NY Times. Retrieved October 19, 2008.
  3. A Town Called Hollywood: Remarque Enjoys Adapting Own Novel Into Screenplay Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] July 21, 1957: E2.
  4. RECALLS WORLD WAR I 'ALL QUIET': Remarque's 'Time to Love Has Few Faults, Rates as Memorable Film A TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD Remarque's 'Time to Love' Vivid, at Times Shocking Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] April 20, 1958: E1.
  5. http://www.cyranos.ch/smsier-e.htm
  6. HOLLYWOOD IDEAS: Newcomers Face Stardom at Universal --'South Pacific' on the Horizon Appraisal "Pacific" Launching Movie Slant By THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 Aug 1957: 89.
  7. MOVIE DIRECTORS SET UP 2 GRANTS: Guild Offers Scholarships for Coast Students--Bells Are Ringing' Rings the Bell Paramount Eyes Musical By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] July 31, 1957: 26.
  8. CAMERAS CAPTURE LOVE AND DEATH IN BERLIN: Ubiquitous Fans Shooting the Works Vote of Confidence By FREDERICK BANKER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] November 3, 1957: 143.
  9. HE NEVER LEFT HOME: Los Angeles Native John Gavin Wanted No Part of Pictures, So Producers Beat a Path to His Door Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] July 20, 1958: f12.
  10. A Sneak Look Via Film Test of New Actor Tinee, Mae. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] January 19, 1958: e9.
  11. Jose Ferrer to Produce Broadway Play in Fall Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] April 16, 1958: a6.
  12. RECALLS WORLD WAR I 'ALL QUIET': Remarque's 'Time to Love Has Few Faults, Rates as Memorable Film A TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD Remarque's 'Time to Love' Vivid, at Times Shocking Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] April 20, 1958: E1.
  13. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  14. "The 31st Academy Awards (1959) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  15. "IMDB.com: Awards for A Time to Love and a Time to Die". imdb.com. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
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