Berlin - Feature Motion Picture Concept
Based on Actual Events and People
This the story of a group of combat cameramen tasked to produce a propaganda film and a 19 year old woman who’s uncle was Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsh Commander-in-chief of the German Army and her father who was involved in Operation Valkyrie, the failed plot to over-through Hitler.
3rd Combat Camera Unit. During World War II the Navy produced a propaganda file called the Fighting Lady, a color film shown in theaters depicting carrier operations showing how the navy was winning the war in the pacific. The purpose, so the navy could get the lion share on post war money from congress. U.S. Air Corps General Hap Arnold saw this and asked his friend Jack Warner if he could help out by putting together a Hollywood team of cameramen and writers to go to Europe, bring in some combat cameramen and make there version of how the Army Air Corps was winning the war.
Warner first enlisted Owen Crump a staff writer that was working on army training files for the studio, Crump recalls, Jack called him into his office, explained what was going on, said, congratulations you just volunteered, your now a colonel, assemble your team.
So off they went, it was 1944, they made there base in France. Crumps band of filmmakers turned out to be quite a group of characters. Half Hollywood half experienced combat cameramen. The Hollywood crew was not much for soldering, what little training they got was at a old studio in Culver City CA, filed with other Hollywood types like Ronald Reagan and Van Heflin.
They were divided up into teams. Each had a general shooting outline, whatever real action they could get and whatever recreations they could setup. Crump get a call that the captured “Fat So” Hermann Goring. Crump appropriated a plane and went off to interview him, he thought it would be great stuff. After Crump interviewed him for a while, he decided to have some fun with Fat So,
He told Goring to walk straight out into a field and keep on walking, meanwhile he had the camera focuses on Goring’s butt, so the shot is nothing but Fat So’s ass as he walks off in the distance.
Berlin July 1 1944,
19 year old Helga Zell, her mother and her father are running through there Berlin suburb home, air-raid sirens blaring, the thunder of bombs getting closer, they do not have a bomb shelter. Helga is screaming, why don’t we go next door to uncle’s house, he has a shelter, her uncle is Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsh Commander-in-chief of the German Army, her father screams back, NO I will have nothing to do with the Nazi’s. Helga is confused, she does not understand, soon she will.
Berlin July 2 1944, A small room, all the curtains closed, a group of military and civilian men are talking, talking about the final plans for Operation Valkyrie, the plane to over through Hitler’s government and end the war. At this meeting, Baron von Zell, Helga’s father, he is the key communication link between what will be the new government and the British. When Operation Valkyrie is initiated he is to contact the British forces and see if they can help in the over through.
Next day, a horse stable just outside Berlin, Helga is enjoying a nice ride on her horse; she is deeply upset at all the destruction she sees, the British bomb at night, the Americans by day. So far the bombs this day have not yet arrived. She rides back to the stable, puts the horse back in its stall and hopes to see him again, she never knows if he survives the raids. She is off to the theater for rehearsals, Helga is a inspiring to be a actress but only if there is a theater left.
Southern Germany, as the U.S. army pushes toward Berlin so to is the 3rd combat unit and our band of filmmakers. The Russians are pushing the Germans back into Germany and any smart German does not want to be captured by them. Lt. Vern Lindsay is with a group of advance platoons roaming around the countryside, they come across a endless line of refugees trying to get away from the on-coming Russians, as they sit by a watch, they notice German soldiers, more and more of them mixed in. Finally a vehicle comes into view, it’s a German officer with a white flag, the officer approaches the group with Lt. Lindsay, the German is with the 3rd Panzer division, he says he General wishes to surrender, however according to army regulations, only a captain or above can accept a surrender. Lt. Lindsay is the highest ranking officer there, and he is not even really an officer, they just made him that for the film.
He tries to explain but the German does not understand. Lindsay will have to send for a captain but its getting late and the Germans are fearful that the Russians will catch-up. Lt. Lindsay agrees to spend the night with the Panzer division in the event the Russians get there.
By morning, no captain, they can hear the Russians coming, the German general can’t wait any longer, he insists on surrendering to Lindsay, so not knowing anything about this Lindsay goes through with it and screws up the surrender, the general is furious and insulted, however its better than the Russians,
Berlin, the first attempt at Operation Valkyrie does not happen, Himmler was not present at the meeting where the bomb to kill Hitler was to go off and it was vital Himmler was to be killed.
Baron von Zell walks into his home, Helga notices he is upset, she tries to find out what is wrong, he refuses to talk to her about what he is involved with, the Baron knows if this fails it would be certain death for him and hi family.
The air raid sirens start again, its nighttime, the British are dropping incendiary bombs, instead of Helga’s mother taking cover she rushes to the roof of there home, Helga chases after her, what are you doing Helga screams, her mother screams back, I’m not going to let them burn down our house, she climes out on the roof and uses buckets of water to put out flames from the bombing, Helga collapses in tears, she does not know how she will survive this nightmare.
The race to Berlin is on, the boys come across Buchenwald concentration camp as its being liberated, Art Mainzer can’t believe what he is filming, then Dachau concentration camp. Chuck Nerple comes across an American POW camp in Mooseburg, as he is filming the POWs still behind the barbed wire he sees his best friend from back home.
July 20 1944, Operation Valkyrie is underway, Col von Stouffenberg sets off the bomb at wolf’s layer a concrete bunker far away from Berlin in a heavily wooded area, the conspirators back in Berlin have put Valkyrie in to action, however the bomb does not kill Hitler and the operation fails. Hitler vows to execute all involved.
Hitler’s troops are rounding up everybody, Baron von Zell makes his way home, dodging SS and Gestapo along the way. Helga upstairs in her room hears her mother hysterical out of control, rushes down the steps, the door is kicked in, SS troopers storm in, they grab the Baron, take him outside, pin him up against a tree, a young Lt. SS man pulls out a pistol ready to execute him, Helga is being held back by her mother crying hysterically, then a Gestapo man stops the execution, STOP, we can’t do this hear, take him away.
The Germans had a problem with this conspirator, with the Baron being the brother-in-law of Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsh and living right next door they did not want this to get out as it would embarrass the Germans and imply the field Marshal could be connected. So they quietly, without a trial, sent him off to a distant concentration camp and that was that.
Helga was devastated, after two Gestapo men came by her house, they made it clear not to discuss what happened with anyone or they would suffer the same fate as the Baron.
After the failure of Operation Valkyrie Helga was forced to join the army and fight or be executed, she out smarted the German bureaucracy.
And when she reported for duty she convinced the officer in charge to let her join the cavalry training corps. The Germans were still heavily dependent on horses so now she is not fighting but working with horses, it kept her alive.
The Americans were getting closer and closer to Berlin and so were the Russians, the military stables Helga was assigned to was destroyed, she had to get out of berlin. She tried to get her mother to go with her but she refused to go, would not leave her home, she was convinced the Baron would return.
Helga set out on her own, she went to the stable where her horse was hoping he would still be there, as she rode her bicycle up the bombed out road and out of the smoke filled rubble her white horse was there waiting for her.
She started out on horse back determined to find her father, she had a general idea where the concentration camp was, she headed south east, right towards the Russians.
The U.S. Army is almost to Berlin however General Eisenhower agrees to let the Russians have it first, but this agreement does not apply to the combat cameramen, they are allowed to continue into the city with a small group of solders.
Col. Crump and his team are heading northeast towards Berlin, right towards the Russians.
Helga is racing through the countryside on her horse, suddenly she rounds a bend and comes face to face with a group of drunk Russian solders. They start to fire there guns at her then when they realize she is a woman they fire into the air. Helga’s horse starts to buck, she is thrown to the ground, as she tries to run into the woods one of the Russians tackles her to the ground. They drag her away to a small clearing where they were camped. She is dragged into a tent. Helga heard many stories of how the Russians treated German women, raped them and killed them. She was not going to die this way.
Inside the tent, a officer came in and ordered the guard that was holding Helga down out. As this officer started to pull his pants down, Helga spun around knocking over a small lantern, it started a fire, she sees a small crack of daylight at the bottom of the side of the tent and started to crawl out, the Russians were yelling and running around trying to put out the fire. She darts into the woods but a few solders spotted her and started in pursuit. She it desperately trying to escape, running, stumbling, she can hear the Russians getting closer, right behind her, suddenly she breaks out on to a dirt road, a vehicle screeches to a halt almost hitting her, she falls in front, the Russians suddenly stop, Helga gets up and sees the vehicle was a American jeep, Crump jumps out and goes to help her, with out anyone saying anything he quickly figured out what was going on, he helps her into the jeep, he grabs two bottles of whisky, slowly walks over to the two Russians without saying anything he hands the whisky to them, they slowly back off.
Not knowing exactly what to do at this point, Crump decides to go back a ways and camp out for the night, contact headquarters and let them figure it out.
As night falls, Crump and his band of film makers are sitting around the fire listing to Helga’s story, they can’t believe what they are hearing, Chuck Nerple chimes in, we should be making a film about you, not this nightmare war. Helga is insisting she be allowed to go on her way to find her father but the Russians now have her horse. Crump says we will just get you another horse, they are all over the countryside, no she says, it has to be hers. Crump has an idea, he has her dress up as a soldier, they sneak over to where the Russians are camped, they come across a drunk Russian that is supposed to be on guard, he stops Crump and Helga, what are you doing, where do you think you are going, Crump, just out for a walk as Helga is trying to hide behind him, ok says the Russian as he falls into a ditch drunk.
Crump and Helga hear horses in a field, they make there way through the trees, as they break through they see an entire field full of them, the Russians were collecting them as they went, Crump says, we’ll never find him in this, suddenly out of the mass a white horse appears as if he could sense Helga was near and came right to them. Helga gave him a hug, Crump, ok lets get out of hear before we get caught, again.
The next day the Russians moved on. Reluctantly Crump lets Helga go on her way, she rides off heading east as Crump and his men head north to Berlin.
Helga is now completely in the Russians territory, completely on her own.
Crump and his team enter Berlin, they are part of a small American outfit allowed in to film. They make there way to the Reich Chancellery, the Russians were busy running all over Berlin drunk and pilfering anything they could find. Crump and his team find them selves wandering around the bombed out building, they even make it into Hitler’s office, grabbing a few souvenirs along the way. The devastation in Berlin was nothing like any of the filmmakers have ever seen.
Helga rides into a small town, it’s the middle of the day but the town is silent, she gets off her horse in the town square, nothing but war damage and white flags everywhere. Where is everyone she wonders. Then it dawned on her, The Russians must have taken everybody away, she hears a loud rumble, it’s a tank coming around the corner, she is scarred to the point she just freezes, as it rounds the corner to her surprise its American. The tank comes to a halt, a young soldier jumps out, she is happy to see them, she explains she is trying to find her father, the soldier tells her that they had just liberated a camp down the road and there were a large group of refugees there.
Helga now racing on her horse towards the camp, as she arrives she jumps off and desperately is running around all the prisoners calling out her fathers name. Suddenly a voice calls out, she runs over to the man but it’s not her father. There was a elderly man sitting on a bench, barely able to sit up, he said he knew her father in the prison, just as the Russians were coming the German guards fled, all the prisoners were free, they had so littlie energy they could not even walk out the gate, a day later the Russians came, somehow they knew your fathers name and his relationship to Field Marshall von Brauchitsh, they pulled him aside, arrested him and executed him right on the spot and let the rest of us go.
Helga was devastated, she got back on her horse and headed for home, Berlin.
Crump and his team were filming the lines of brick brigades, lines of people handing one brick at a time down the line to help clear the streets. He looks over his shoulder and can’t believe it, he sees Helga on her horse slowly riding along, he races towards her, she sees him coming and jumps off and runs to him. She tells Crump of the fate of her father, he helps her off the street, he says we need to get you and your horse somewhere safe, Berliners will kill the horse for food.
Over the next few weeks the two become very close to one another, seeing each other daily. At a meeting with all the other filmmakers he announces that Helga and him were going to get married.
At a small church in France Col. Crump and Helga tie the knot, every cameraman in the group was there, turns out it was the most filmed wedding of the war.