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The Night of the Generals

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Title: The Night of the Generals  
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Subject: Charles Gray (actor), Omar Sharif, Donald Pleasence, Christopher Plummer, Horizon Pictures films
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The Night of the Generals

The Night of the Generals
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Screenplay by Joseph Kessel
Paul Dehn
Based on

The Night of the Generals
1962 novel 
by Hans Hellmut Kirst

and an incident written 
by James Hadley Chase
Starring Peter O'Toole
Omar Sharif
Tom Courtenay
Donald Pleasence
Joanna Pettet
Philippe Noiret
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Horizon Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 29 January 1967 (1967-01-29) (UK)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $2,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Night of the Generals is a 1967 Franco-British Second World War crime mystery film directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Sam Spiegel. It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Donald Pleasence, Joanna Pettet and Philippe Noiret. The screenplay by Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn was loosely based on the beginning of the novel of the same name by German author Hans Hellmut Kirst. The writing credits also include the line "based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase". Gore Vidal is said to have contributed to the screenplay, but wasn't credited.

The musical score was composed by Maurice Jarre. Much of the film was shot in Warsaw, which was exceptionally rare for a major Western film at the height of the Cold War.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The murder of a prostitute in German-occupied Warsaw in 1942 causes Abwehr Major Grau (Omar Sharif) to start an investigation, as she was also a German agent. His evidence soon points to the killer being one of three German general officers: General von Seydlitz-Gabler (Charles Gray); General Kahlenberg (Donald Pleasence), his chief of staff; and General Tanz (Peter O'Toole). Grau's investigation, however, is cut short by his summary transfer to Paris at the instigation of these officers.

The case in Warsaw remains closed until all three officers meet in Paris in July 1944. Paris is then a hotbed of intrigue, with senior Wehrmacht officers plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Kahlenberg is deeply involved in the plot, while von Seydlitz-Gabler is aware of its existence but is sitting on the fence, awaiting the outcome. Tanz is unaware of the plot and remains totally loyal to the Führer.

On the night of 19 July 1944, Tanz orders his driver, Kurt Hartmann (Tom Courtenay), to procure a prostitute; Tanz butchers her so as to implicate Hartmann, but offers Hartmann the chance to desert, which he accepts. When Grau, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel, learns of the murder, committed in the same manner as the first, he resumes his investigation and concludes that Tanz is the killer. However, his timing is unfortunate, because the very next day, the assassination attempt against Hitler takes place. So when Grau accuses Tanz face to face, the general kills Grau and labels him as one of the plot conspirators to cover his tracks.

Many years after the war, the murder of a prostitute in Hamburg in 1965 draws the attention of Interpol Inspector Morand (Philippe Noiret), who owes a debt of gratitude to Grau for not revealing his connection to the French Resistance during the war. Almost certain there is a connection to Grau's 1942 case, Morand reopens the cold case and the film begins to shift between the Europe of the 1960s and the Europe of the 1940s.

Years later, Morand begins to tie up the loose ends: he finds no criminal activity from Kahlenberg or Seydlitz-Gabler, but learns of one man who knew which man is the real killer. Morand confronts Tanz at a reunion dinner for Tanz's former panzer division. When Morand produces Hartmann as his witness, Tanz goes into a vacant room and shoots himself.



  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.

External links

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