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Northwest Passage (1940)

'Northwest Passage' (Book I -- Rogers' Rangers) (original title)
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) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Major Rogers
... Langdon Towne
... 'Hunk' Marriner
... Elizabeth Browne
... 'Cap' Huff
Louis Hector ... Reverend Browne
... Humphrey Towne
... Lord Amherst
... Sergeant McNott
... Jennie Coit
... Lieutenant Avery
... Lieutenant Crofton
... Jesse Beacham
... Webster
... 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:

The Big Picture that was made in our own Pacific Northwest 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:

 »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,677,762 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,169,000, 31 December 1940

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,150,000, 31 December 1940
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The most demanding scene for the actors involved the filming of the "human chain" employed by the Rangers to cross a treacherous river. The actors themselves had to do the shots without the benefit of stunt doubles. The sequence was begun at Payette Lake in Idaho but had to be completed in the studio tank because the lake was far too dangerous. For Spencer Tracy, who once complained that the physical labors required of actors "wouldn't tax an embryo," it was his most difficult shoot to that point, surpassing even the taxing ocean scenes of his Oscar-winning Captains Courageous (1937). See more »

Goofs

The drawings of Towne are not in the correct style of the eighteenth century. They look exactly like the work of such magazine illustrators of the 1940s as James Montgomery Flagg. 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...
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Connections

Spin-off Northwest Passage (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

Over the Hills and Far Away
(uncredited)
Traditional
Heard as a theme at the start, and sung by the Rangers as they march off at the end.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Frequently ripped-off historical plot seen here first.
9 June 2011 | by See all my reviews

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 (1835–1842), 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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