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Northwest Passage (1940)
"'Northwest Passage' (Book I -- Rogers' Rangers)" (original title)

Passed  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  23 February 1940 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,326 users  
Reviews: 42 user | 13 critic

Langdon Towne and Hunk Marriner join Major Rogers' Rangers as they wipe out an Indian village. They set out for Fort Wentworth, but when they arrive they find no soldiers and none of the supplies they expected.

Directors:

, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »

Writers:

(screenplay), (screenplay), 13 more credits »
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Title: Northwest Passage (1940)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Elizabeth Browne
...
'Cap' Huff
Louis Hector ...
Reverend Browne
Robert Barrat ...
Humphrey Towne
Lumsden Hare ...
Lord Amherst
Donald MacBride ...
Sergeant McNott
...
Jennie Coit
Douglas Walton ...
Lieutenant Avery
Addison Richards ...
Lieutenant Crofton
Hugh Sothern ...
Jesse Beacham
...
Webster
Montagu Love ...
Wiseman Clagett
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Storyline

Based on the Kenneth Roberts novel of the same name, this film tells the story of two friends who join Rogers' Rangers, as the legendary elite force engages the enemy during the French and Indian War. The film focuses on their famous raid at Fort St. Francis and their marches before and after the battle. Written by Dale Roloff

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Half Men - Half Demons . . . Warriors Such As The World Has Never Known . . . They Lived With Death and Danger For The Women Who Hungered For Their Love ! See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

23 February 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Northwest Passage  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,677,762 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to historical accounts, 204 Roger's Rangers left for St. Francis and 100 survived to return home. See more »

Goofs

One of the dead Indians in the Saint Francis clearly moves his head to avoid someone running past him. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Title Card: This is a story of our early America... of the century of conflict with the French and Indians... when necessity made simple men, unknown to history, into giants in daring and endurance. It begins in Portsmouth New Hampshire, in 1759...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Northward, Ho! (1940) See more »

Soundtracks

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes
(1780?) (uncredited)
Music by R. Melish
Lyrics by Ben Jonson (in poem To Celia) (1616)
Sung a cappella by Spencer Tracy, Robert Young and Walter Brennan
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Rugged Film About Some Rugged Men
25 September 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Kenneth Roberts was a distinguished novelist who wrote many fine fictional works about colonial and revolutionary America. Probably his biggest seller was Northwest Passage a fictionalization of the exploits of Roger's Rangers during the French and Indian War.

His books sold well at the time and we have to remember that in viewing Northwest Passage we are seeing a fictional story rather than the real story of Roger's Rangers. At that we are only seeing part of that book, nothing at all about a search for a land route across North America.

The historical significance of the Rangers is that Robert Rogers had an idea that one should be living and thinking like the American Indian in order to fight him. His ideas about specialized units who could meet the enemy on his own terms in colonial America have been followed right down to the Green Berets in Vietnam. His is a distinguished contribution in military history.

To do that and lead such a group you have to be one charismatic leader. And in Spencer Tracy, Rogers has the best kind of interpreter.

This was Tracy's first color feature for MGM and Louis B. Mayer spared no expense for this film. No back lot backwoods here, the company went on location to the Payette River in Idaho for the outdoor scenes depicting colonial era New York State. No stunt doubles here either, that's Tracy, Walter Brennan, Robert Young and the rest of the company waist deep in those rapids forming that human chain. Some of the stars nearly drowned making this film.

One aspect of this film is rarely discussed and that was the politics surrounding the Indians. Please note that while Tracy is burning the Abinagi village, he has some friendly Mohawks with him. When the British and French went to war in this theater of the Seven Years War, the various Indian tribes chose up sides, trying to figure which group of whites would give them the better deal. The Mohawks are part of the Iroquois Confederation and they aligned themselves with Great Britain. Various other tribes allied with with French. Both were supplied with the white man's weapons of war and both fought on each side. And neither got a really great deal in the end.

Northwest Passage is definitely not for the politically correct of the day. Tracy is leading a savage reprisal against the Abinagi, he burns the town, kills all the males of fighting age, steals their meager food supplies to feed his men who are hungry themselves. Tracy makes it clear this is reprisal for raids against the British colonists. Prominently displayed for the camera just before the shooting start is that large exhibit of settler's scalps in the village.

Of course the real story is the retreat back, fleeing a much larger force of French in the area. The men are starving as they reach the rendezvous point which is an abandoned fort. Tracy races ahead of the men who've been promised a feast when they get there and as he makes it there he realizes the supplies haven't come. He starts to break down, but as he hears his men behind him, he regains control of himself and starts issuing the orders necessary for their survival. It's all done in a few minutes without dialog and its own of Spencer Tracy's greatest film moments.

Northwest Passage will not find too much favor with a lot of today's audience. But taken for what it is worth, it is a story about brave men and their struggle for survival in the colonial wilderness.


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