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Ventura County Star, April 22, 2001
Journalist saves Jews in Varian's War by John Crook, DV Data Features Syndicate

By all appearances, American journalist Varian Fry was the last person you would expect to be a hero. That's one reason he managed to help more than 2,000 Jewish artists and intellectuals escape from France during World War II.

Oscar winner William Hurt portrays Fry in Varian's War, a fascinating Showtime movie that tries to redress history's oversight by honoring Fry's staggering achievement. Julia Ormond, Lynn Redgrave and Alan Arkin co-star in the movie, which premieres tonight (Sunday).

The son of a wealthy New York family, Fry happened to be traveling through Germany as a journalist in the 1930s and personally witnessed Kristallnacht, when Nazis smashed the windows of Jewish establishments. Returning to the United States, a shocked and angry Fry confronted a wall of smug complacency from his countrymen, who were determined to remain neutral in "the European war." Painfully aware of the Holocaust that was to come, Fry mounted a personal campaign to travel to France and rescue Jews, including the great artist Marc Chagall, who were one step away from being deported to concentration camps.

It's important to note that Fry was no Scarlet Pimpernel, a dashing desperado posing as a milquetoast. He truly was a self-effacing intellectual who steeled himself to overcome almost impossible odds simply to do the right thing.

"Rarely have I come across ... an individual who struck me as truly modest," Hurt said. "He was such a self-effacing personality that he got lost."

In a performance that sneaks up on you in its complexity, Hurt captures both Fry's essential human sweetness and his gritty determination to do the right thing. Ormond is an absolutely perfect foil as Miriam Davenport, Fry's tart confidant. A committed supporting cast helps pay long-overdue tribute to a reluctant hero.

2001, Ventura County Star


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