The Case of Sergeant Grischa (film)

The Case of Sergeant Grischa is a 1930 American pre-Code drama film directed by Herbert Brenon, based on the German novel of the same name by Arnold Zweig.[3] John Tribby was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording.[4]

The Case of Sergeant Grischa
Film Poster
Directed byHerbert Brenon
Ray Lissner (assistant)
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Written byElizabeth Meehan
Based onthe novel, The Case of Sergeant Grischa
by Arnold Zweig
StarringChester Morris
Betty Compson
Jean Hersholt
Alec B. Francis
CinematographyJ. Roy Hunt
Edited byMarie Halvey
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • March 23, 1930 (1930-03-23)[1]
Running time
82 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$456,000[2]


Sergeant Grischa Paprotkin of the Imperial Russian Army has been captured by the Imperial German Army during World War I, and is interned in a prisoner-of-war camp. When his chance comes to escape, he takes it, ending up staying with a young Russian refugee, Babka. However, after a time, he longs to return to his home in Russia. Babka, even though she has fallen in love with him, agrees to help him. Since he cannot travel under his real name, being an escaped POW, Babka obtains the credentials of a dead Russian soldier, Bjuscheff.

After leaving Babka's, on his way back to his home in Russia, he stops at a friend of Babka's, who lives in Mervinsk. When a German soldier arrives at the house, Grischa hides in the basement. As he is about to leave, the soldier notices the Russian soldier's cap which Grischa has dropped on his way to the cellar. Grischa is captured, after which it is discovered that his false identity is that of a Russian spy, for which he is sentenced to execution.

While in captivity, Grischa's real identity is uncovered, but the German command refuses to reverse his sentence. Babka and her friends make plans to help him escape once again, at the same time as a powerful general in the German army, von Lychow, hears about his case and decides to intercede on his behalf. Grischa refuses the help of Babka, putting his trust with von Lychow. When von Lychow meets with the German Commander-in-Chief, General Schieffenzahn, they argue over Grischa's case, von Lychow pleading for leniency, while Schieffenzahn wanting the execution to go forward as soon as possible. They end their argument without seeing eye-to-eye, but after von Lychow departs, Schieffenzahn changes his mind and sends an order to cancel the execution. However, a storm has caused the wires to be down, and the message never arrives. Grischa is executed by firing squad.


As per AFI:[1]


The film lost an estimated $170,000.[2] Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times film critic, gave the film a lukewarm review.[5] John E. Tribby received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound for this film.[4]


  1. "The Case of Sergeant Grischa: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  2. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931–1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p57
  3. "The Chester Morris Web: The Case of Sergeant Grischa". Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  4. "The 3rd Academy Awards (1929/30) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  5. Hall, Mordaunt (March 8, 1930). "The Case of Sgt. Grischa". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 5, 2014.
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