Three Men in the Snow (1974 film)

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Three Men in the Snow
Three Men in the Snow (1974 film).jpg
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Produced by Luggi Waldleitner
Written by Erich Kästner (novel)
Manfred Purzer
Starring Klaus Schwarzkopf
Roberto Blanco
Thomas Fritsch
Music by Peter Thomas
Cinematography Charly Steinberger
Edited by Ingeborg Taschner
Distributed by Constantin Film
Release date
13 March 1974
Running time
92 minutes
CountryWest Germany
Language German

Three Men in the Snow (German: Drei Männer im Schnee) is a 1974 West German comedy film directed by Alfred Vohrer and starring Klaus Schwarzkopf, Roberto Blanco and Thomas Fritsch. [1] It is an adaptation of the novel of the same title by Erich Kästner.



The wealthy and eccentric Tobler, a Geheimrat and owner of various businesses, enters and wins a competition started by one of his businesses. Using the pseudonym, Schlüter, he wins the second prize: a ten-day stay at the luxurious Grand Hotel in Bruckbeuren in the Alps.

The first prize is won by Dr. Fritz Hagedorn, an unemployed copywriter, who lives with his widowed mother and scrapes by on occasional work.

Before claiming the prize, Tobler transforms himself into Schlüter and assumes the persona of a poor man. His intention is to carry out a sociological study. Tobler buys old, worn-out, tattered clothes, and manages to pass himself off as destitute. However, as a Geheimrat, he is both practical and pragmatic, and seeks to assure that he still retains access to his everyday luxuries. Thus, he orders his butler, Johann Kesselhut, to take accommodations at same hotel acting as a wealthy man and forbidden to recognize his master.

Tobler's daughter Hilde does not like the idea, the arrangements, and these plans. She shares her unease with their longtime housekeeper, frau Kunkel, and they decide that Hilde should warn the management of the hotel of her father's plan. But, as a comedy as this is, when Hilde phones the hotel's management, the faulty telephone lines scramble the message. The hotel's management therefore considers the unemployed and destitute copywriter Dr. Hagedorn, the first prize winner, as the wealthy man living in disguise and decide to treat him lavishly. Schlüter, who looks and acts poor, must sleep in a small attic room, without heating, harassed by the staff and used for occasional work. Kesselhut tries to help as much as he can, and ultimately after a few days, decides to inform Hilde. Hagedorn, Schlüter, and Kesselhut nevertheless bond with each other, and Hagedorn and Schlüter become friendly: a young man unaccustomed to luxury shares what he has with the poor, destitute old man.

When Hilde learns how her father is treated, she immediately travels to the hotel in Bruckbeuren with frau Kunkel acting as her aunt. At the Grand Hotel, she is shocked to experience how her father is mistreated. And, she falls in love with Hagedorn, not knowing that he also has a “secret”: poverty. The romance between Hilde and Hagedorn blossoms rapidly to the point that they are planning to marry. Yet, after a few additional days Tobler becomes so disgusted with the daily harassment by the hotel that he cannot take it anymore and rapidly returns to Berlin with his daughter, his butler, and the housekeeper. The sudden departure, with no prior notice or information, leaves Hagedorn confused and saddened.

The lovelorn and depressed Hagedorn returns to Berlin to search for Hilde. Not knowing her true name, he looks for the Schlüter’s. That search is obviously unsuccessful. And, one day to Hagedorn's surprise, he and his mother are invited by to them unknown Tobler for supper.

When they arrive, the whole drama unfolds: the friendship forged between Tobler, Hagedorn, and Kasselhut strengthens. Hilde identifies herself as Tobler's daughter. Tobler then learns that he already owns the grand hotel - he purchased it and sacked management promptly.


The story is about male bonding and the comedy of errors cutting across socio-economic lines in the aftermath of the Great Depression, and the rise of the Nazism, in Germany. This book is clearly very apolitical. Kästner was not a favorite of the Nazi cultural elite. His few novels and works he authored at that time, reflect an increasing distance from the day-to-day changes in the public discourse. Throughout the predictable story, Kästner infuses warm humor and creates unusually realistic characters.


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  1. Bock & Bergfelder p.237