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Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds title card

Year - 1944
Studio - Warner Bros.
Stars - John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Eleanor Parker, Edmund Gwenn, George Tobias, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, Sara Allgood, Dennis King, Isobel Elsom, Gilbert Emery
Director - Edward A. Blatt
Writing Credits - Daniel Fuchs (screenplay), Sutton Vane (play)
Music - Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Passengers are waiting to board their American-bound ship in a terminal in World War II London. Henry Bergner (Paul Henreid) a Viennese concert pianist, now incapacitated, begs the agent for a way to make the voyage, but has no money nor an exit permit. Despondent, he returns to his flat, seals the windows, and turns on the oven gas jets.

Meanwhile, back at the terminal, a group of passengers enter a limo to take them to the boarding dock. Air raid sirens blare, and a German bomb from the sky makes a direct hit on their vehicle. Ann Bergner (Eleanor Parker), seeking to find her husband, witnesses the devastation. She returns home, sees what Henry has done and elects to join him in suicide.

The next scene reveals Henry and Ann walking along the deck of a fog shrouded ocean liner. They see a group of passengers who Ann remembers seeing entering the bombed car, and they realize that they, and those passengers, are dead.

Between Two Worlds poster

The other passengers haven't yet come to this realization. They include a street-wise card shark, Tom Prior (John Garfield), a gregarious war veteran, Pete Musick (George Tobias), a pompous businessman, Lingley "of Lingley, Ltd." (George Coulouris), an attractive showgirl, Faye Emerson (Maxine Russell), a shy pastor, the Reverend William Duke (Dennis King), a humble charwoman, Mrs. Midget (Sara Allgood), a snobbish society matron, Genevieve Cliveden-Banks (Isobel Elsom), and her suffering husband, Benjamin (Gilbert Emery).

Henry and Ann reveal their knowledge to Scrubby, the ship's porter (Edmunn Gwenn), and they agree that it is too early to communicate the truth to the others. However, they are overheard by Tom Prior, who takes the news in his usual brash, cavalier manner.

The passengers mingle and bicker, and soon, Tom announces the facts of their condition to them. At first they deny, but ultimately come to accept their state. Scrubby confirms it to them and tells them that "the Examiner" will soon board to pass judgment on their destinations.

The Examiner (Sidney Greenstreet) arrives and immediately takes the Reverend William Duke under his wing as an apprentice, to observe the interviews. Each of the passengers appear before him as he pronounces their eternal fate. They are given destinations that reflect the behavior we've observed (e.g. the "superior" social climber, Mrs. Cliveden-Banks, will live in a castle, but without her husband and completely by herself.)

But Tom Prior receives no decision because, as a suicide, he must ride the ship forever like Scrubby, who also took his own life. The Examiner orders Ann to leave with him, but Ann insists on staying with her husband, on the grounds that she also made a conscious decision to commit suicide.

Ann and Tom remain with Scrubby, when Tom hears the sound of breaking glass. He wanders off and disappears, and Scrubby tells Ann that he has returned to the living. Tom comes to consciousness back in his London flat, sees that the window has been broken open and is able to revive his wife as well.

Show Spoilers

Between Two Worlds is a remake of 1930's Outward Bound, updated to a WWII theme, but otherwise, with essentially the same characters and story. The revelation that the passengers are dead comes earlier in Between Two Worlds, and is telegraphed by the eerie theme in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's musical score. The name of the original play and film version, "Outward Bound" is is seen as the title of a departures sign in the ship terminal at the beginning of the film.

In a sense, the remake seems more dated than the 1930 version, with much of the dialogue in the wisecracking style so prevalent in 1940s comedies. Paul Henreid, playing a former fighter for the French resistance, and now without exit papers, practically reprises his role from Casablanca.