IMDb > 49th Parallel (1941)
49th Parallel
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49th Parallel (1941) More at IMDbPro »

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49th Parallel -- At once a compelling piece of anti-isolationist propaganda and a quick-witted wartime thriller, 49th Parallel is a classic early work from the inimitable Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. When a Nazi U-boat crew is stranded in Canada during the thick of World War II, the men evade capture by hiding out in a series of rural communities before trying to cross into the United States.


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Emeric Pressburger (original story and screenplay)
Rodney Ackland (scenario) ...
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Release Date:
15 April 1942 (USA) See more »
THE MIGHTEST MANHUNT THAT EVER SWEPT THE SCREEN! (original poster-all caps) See more »
A WW2 U-boat crew is stranded in northern Canada. To avoid internment, they must make their way to the border and get into the still-neutral USA. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Won Oscar. Another 2 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Subtle and intelligent analysis of liberal democracy See more (57 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)
Richard George ... Kommandant Bernsdorff
Eric Portman ... Lieutenant Hirth
Raymond Lovell ... Lieutenant Kuhnecke
Niall MacGinnis ... Vogel
Peter Moore ... Kranz
John Chandos ... Lohrmann
Basil Appleby ... Jahner

Laurence Olivier ... Johnnie - the Trapper

Finlay Currie ... The Factor
Ley On ... Nick - the Eskimo
Anton Walbrook ... Peter

Glynis Johns ... Anna
Charles Victor ... Andreas
Frederick Piper ... David

Leslie Howard ... Philip Armstrong Scott
Tawera Moana ... George - the Indian
Eric Clavering ... Art
Charles Rolfe ... Bob

Raymond Massey ... Andy Brock
Theodore Salt ... A United States Customs Officer
O.W. Fonger ... A United States Customs Officer
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Robert Beatty ... RCMP Mountie in Alberta (voice) (uncredited)

Elisabeth Bergner ... Anna (uncredited)
Eric Berry ... Nazi Radio Announcer (uncredited)
Gron Davies ... Officer on Submarine (uncredited)
Leslie Falardeau ... Aviator on Seaplane (uncredited)
Lionel Grose ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
Jack Hynes ... Aviator on Seaplane (uncredited)
Stuart Latham ... Second Nazi Radio Announcer (uncredited)
Norman Luxton ... Man in fringed jacket on balcony at Banff Indian Day (uncredited)
Vincent Massey ... Prologue Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Percy Parsons ... Hi-Jacked Canadian Motorist (uncredited)
Gerry Wilmot ... Canadian Radio Announcer (uncredited)

Directed by
Michael Powell 
Writing credits
Emeric Pressburger (original story and screenplay)

Rodney Ackland (scenario) and
Emeric Pressburger (scenario)

Produced by
Michael Powell .... producer
George H. Brown .... associate producer (uncredited)
Roland Gillett .... associate producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Ralph Vaughan Williams 
Cinematography by
Freddie Young (director of photography) (as Frederick Young)
Film Editing by
David Lean 
Art Direction by
David Rawnsley 
Makeup Department
George Blackler .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Production Management
Harold Boxall .... in charge of production
George H. Brown .... associate in charge of production (as George Brown)
Roland Gillett .... associate in charge of production
John Sutro .... production manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Arthur Seabourne .... associate director (as A. Seabourne)
Art Department
Frederick Pusey .... associate art director
Sydney Streeter .... associate art director (as Sydney S. Streeter)
Peter Cushing .... props (uncredited)
Sound Department
Walter Darling .... sound recorder
C.C. Stevens .... sound recorder
A.W. Watkins .... sound supervisor
Dex Harrison .... sound engineer (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Osmond Borradaile .... photography: special backgrounds (as Osmond Borrowdaile)
Henty Henty-Creer .... cameraman
Skeets Kelly .... cameraman
Jim Body .... clapper boy (uncredited)
Fred Daniels .... still photographer: portraits (uncredited)
Leslie Falardeau .... camera grip (uncredited)
Jack Hynes .... still photographer (uncredited)
David Mason .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Oscar Paulin .... camera grip (uncredited)
Editorial Department
Hugh Stewart .... associate editor
Music Department
Muir Mathieson .... musical director
Phyllis Sellick .... musician: piano, Philip Armstrong Scott segment, on radio (uncredited)
Other crew
Nugent M. Clougher .... advisor: Canada
Abraham Bloomfield .... interpreter: Eskimo (uncredited)
Betty Curtis .... continuity (uncredited)
Betty Curtis .... production secretary (uncredited)
Captain Halfyard .... master of "The Continent" (uncredited)
Bill Paton .... assistant: Mr Powell (uncredited)
Bill Paton .... double: Leslie Howard, Lake O'Hara (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"The 49th Parallel" - International (English title) (informal title)
"The Forty-Ninth Parallel" - International (English title) (informal title)
"The Invaders" - USA (informal title)
See more »
123 min | USA:104 min | USA:122 min (TV version: M-G-M print)
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Argentina:13 | Australia:PG | Canada:PG (Ontario) | Finland:K-16 | Norway:12 (re-rating) (1962) | Norway:16 (1946) | Sweden:15 | UK:U | USA:Not Rated | USA:TV-14 (TV rating)

Did You Know?

According to the book "The Golden Gong--Fifty Years of the Rank Organisation, Its Films and Its Stars" by Quentin Falk, the Rank Organisation stepped into save the " . . . wartime propaganda film '49th Parallel' when Ministry of Information money ran short of completion."See more »
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): The woman heard over the Factor's radio (the wife of the man he plays chess with via radio) speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent ("sub*moige*"), when in fact she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.See more »
[first lines]
Prologue:I see a long, straight line athwart a continent. No chain of forts, or deep flowing river, or mountain range, but a line drawn by men upon a map, nearly a century ago, accepted with a handshake, and kept ever since. A boundary which divides two nations, yet marks their friendly meeting ground. The 49th parallel: the only undefended frontier in the world.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in War Stories (2006) (TV)See more »
Prelude: The New CommonwealthSee more »


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62 out of 97 people found the following review useful.
Subtle and intelligent analysis of liberal democracy, 2 July 2001
Author: ( from Grimsby, England

Although 49th Parallel was conceived as a wartime propaganda film, and is predictably heavy-handed in places, it is more often surprisingly subtle and ambivalent. Michael Powell's creativity, individuality and directorial skill lift the film above the standard flag-waving banality which might be expected from the genre.

Although the general point of the film, particularly aimed at the Americans, is that the Nazis are evil and should be opposed, Nazis are in fact the central characters, and it could be argued that Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman) is the hero. Although he is clearly not a nice person and displays many of the cliched trappings of the stereotypical evil Nazi, he is portrayed sympathetically in some ways. It is possible to sympathise with him and his men because they are lost and alone in a foreign country which they cannot comprehend and where no-one can comprehend them. The war is shown not as a simple battle between absolute good and absolute evil, but as a clash of cultures. Hirth belongs to a German tradition of loyalty, obedience and service to the state which is much older than Hitler. He genuinely cannot understand the concepts of democracy, liberalism and individualism, and is completely bewildered by the lifestyle of the Hutterite community, asking not only "who is your leader?" but "what's the salute?". He is an idealist who believes that he and the rest of the Nazis know what is best for everyone. In Powell's view, the war is not just about democracy against dictatorship, but also liberalism against authoritarianism, individualism against conformity and, above all, pragmatism against idealism.

The way the conflict is illustrated through the German sailors' encounters with diverse Canadians is subtle, intelligent and highly effective. The Canadians are not portrayed as heroes. They have very human failings. They are mostly complacent, ignorant, and hypocritical. They try to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the war isn't happening until they are forced to make a decision by their unexpected encounters with Hirth and his men. Johnny, the French-Canadian fur trapper (Laurence Olivier, horribly miscast), comes across as arrogant and obnoxious, and seemingly has little interest in the war. Scott (Leslie Howard) is appallingly smug, hypocritical and self-absorbed, avoiding involvement in the war by retreating to the Rocky Mountains. Although he is fashionably disdainful of the Nazi leaders, he is unmoved by what they have done in Europe. He is only shaken out of his complacency when the Germans vandalise his books and paintings! Significantly, Hirth crows that " we kicked him out of the Reich years ago" as he burns Thomas Mann's latest book. Scott must have been aware of the sufferings of Thomas Mann and others in Nazi Germany, but felt no need to do anything about it.

The overall result is that although the individual Canadians are not heroic, they eventually make up their minds and join the fight against Nazism (as Powell hoped the Americans would). They each have their own reasons for this, reasons which are often selfish, ambiguous and prosaic. In this, they are the antithesis of the disciplined and idealistic Hirth. It is made clear that those who oppose the Nazis are not merely fighting out of blind loyalty to their countries, but nor are they fighting for any abstract ideal. Democracy is not portrayed as an ideal, but as a pragmatic solution: the worst system apart from all the others. The liberal democratic society of the western world is shown up as a mess, but it is a reasonably happy mess. It is superior to the nightmare of Nazi Germany precisely because it is pragmatic, flexible and individualistic. People are free to live their lives as they choose without an authoritarian government telling them what is best for them. For these reasons, 49th Parallel has an enduring resonance.

Vogel's defection to the Hutterites emphasises the humanity of the Germans and the fact that they were not all enthusiastic Nazis. But ironically, in leaving the Nazis, Vogel loses his sense of duty and becomes as hypocritical and self-obsessed as the Canadians. Although Vogel is not sympathetic to the Nazi cause and shows remorse for his involvement with it, he is not proposing to fight against it. He merely wants to hide from reality with the Hutterites and carry on baking bread, regardless of the outside world. His wish to go back to "how things used to be" is essentially the wish of an adult overwhelmed by reality to return to childhood. In this sense, as well as in the more literal military and legal senses, he is a deserter.

Overall, this is an exceptional film, despite some wooden acting and poor continuity, which gives the impression of drastic and ill-advised cuts. For example, in one scene the Germans are stealing a car, and in the next scene they are on a train, with no clue given as to what happened in between. It is not properly explained how the remaining two escaped from the crowd in Banff, and it seems far too easy for Hirth to get on to a plane and fly to Ontario. The scenery is magnificent (and magnificently shot) and the action is genuinely exciting, although the ending is completely absurd. 49th Parallel works as art and entertainment as well as propaganda, in contrast to Nazi films of the same era. The propaganda element is subtle and intelligent, making wider points which are still relevant today. The ultimate testament to the superiority of western liberal democracy is the fact that this film was made in the way it was and allowed to be shown. In an authoritarian dictatorship, Powell would most likely have been shot for treason for making a "propaganda" film so ambivalent and unflattering to the cause it was meant to promote. Narrow minded Nazis (like Hirth) would have been unable to grasp the deeper truths and humanist values at its heart.

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If in western Canada why go back to Niagara Falls? SashaDabinski
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Courageous Movie! keechelus
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