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.
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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
During the attack on St. Francis, some of the bayonets on the Ranger's rifles can be seen wobbling, indicating they are made of rubber. See more »
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...
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Frequently ripped-off historical plot seen here first.
Two months before his death in 1957, Kenneth Roberts received a special Pulitzer Prize for his historical novels. Of them, Northwest Passage was his most famous. It consisted of two distinct parts, and was the second best selling American book of 1937 (after first having been serialized in the Saturday Evening Post).
MGM's 1940 movie is based on the first, and in my opinion, better part of the book. It recounts Major Robert Rogers' 1759 raid on St. Francis, an Abenaki village, during the French and Indian War. As Rogers, Spencer Tracy gives a powerhouse performance, King Vidor delivers the directorial goods, and the storyline, itself, is very exciting. Indeed, I remember Northwest Passage fondly from my childhood, and consider it a classic. However, because of today's values, it probably appeals more to conservatives than liberals.
In 1945, Warner Brothers' Objective, Burma! (starring Errol Flynn) used the same plot without attribution--a Japanese transmission station replacing the Indian village. (Directed by Raoul Walsh, it too is very well done.) Then, in 1951's Distant Drums (starring Gary Cooper), director Walsh again used the same plot without attribution. This time the movie (which is not so well done) occurs during The Seminole Indian Wars (18351842), and the initial objective is an old Spanish fort, lying deep within the Everglades.
In conclusion, I'm not shocked that Hollywood recycled Roberts' plot without attribution. (You only have to remember Dorothy Parker's quip "The only 'ism' Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.") I am, however, somewhat shocked that Roberts did not sue. (His reputation was that of an acerbic curmudgeon.) But, then again, maybe he just didn't know.
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