The Price of Freedom (1949): Film about the perils of political complacency

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Price of Freedom was a film released in 1949 and sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers.  Starring notable actors Arthur Franz (The Caine Mutiny), Ray Collins (Citizen Kane), Michael Chekhov (Spellbound), and Will Wright (All the King’s Men), the film is an earnest call for greater political awareness and civic participation. Through a fictional story centering on a young journalist, viewers are warned of the devastating consequences that can unfold when a country’s citizens are politically complacent and ignorant. 

Creating the film likely struck a personal chord for Austrian director and co-writer Wilhelm J. Thiele (1890-1975) (credited as William). Thiele had been a successful director in Germany’s Weimar Cinema (1918-1933), heading multiple stage productions and film operettas for major production company Universum-Film AG (UFA). His 1930 musical Die Drei von der Tankstelle (The Three from the Filling Station) was the country’s highest-grossing film of the year. 

Thiele’s life took an abrupt turn in 1933, however, when the Nazi Party seized control of Germany. Thiele, who was of Jewish descent, joined around 1,500 other directors, producers, and actors who quickly fled the country. Luckily, he was able to settle in Hollywood and continue his career.  While he never regained the success in America that he had in Germany, he did work in the U.S. film and television business as both a writer and director for many years prior to his death in 1975. 

Hagley’s collections contain a few other sponsored films directed by Thiele while he was living in the United States. Along with The Price of Freedom, Hagley also owns copies of The DuPont Story and The Skipper’s LadyThe Skipper's Lady is one of the thirty-six episodes he directed of the DuPont sponsored Cavalcade of America TV series. For a complete list of Wilhelm J. Thiele's credits, check out his profile on IMDB.

Ona Coughlan is the Audiovisual Digitization Archivist at the Hagey Library