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49th Parallel (1941)

A World War II U-boat crew are stranded in northern Canada. To avoid internment, they must make their way to the border and get into the still-neutral U.S.

Director:

Michael Powell

Writers:

Emeric Pressburger (original story and screenplay), Rodney Ackland (scenario) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Leslie Howard ... Philip Armstrong Scott
Raymond Massey ... Andy Brock
Laurence Olivier ... Johnnie - The Trapper
Anton Walbrook ... Peter
Eric Portman ... Lieutenant Ernst Hirth
Glynis Johns ... Anna
Niall MacGinnis ... Vogel
Finlay Currie ... The Factor
Raymond Lovell Raymond Lovell ... Lieutenant Kuhnecke
John Chandos John Chandos ... Lohrmann
Basil Appleby Basil Appleby ... Jahner
Eric Clavering Eric Clavering ... Art
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Andreas
Ley On Ley On ... Nick - the Eskimo
Richard George Richard George ... Kommandant Bernsdorff
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Storyline

In the early years of World War II, a German U-boat (U-37) sinks Allied shipping in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then tries to evade Canadian Military Forces seeking to destroy it by sailing up to Hudson Bay. The U-boat's fanatical Nazi Captain sends some members of his crew to look for food and other supplies at a Hudson Bay Company outpost. No sooner than the shore party (lead by Lieutenant Hirth) reaches the shore, the U-boat is spotted and sunk by the Canadian Armed Forces, leaving the six members of the shore party stranded in Canada. The Nazi Lieutenant then starts to plan his crew's return to the Fatherland. He needs to reach the neutral U.S., or be captured. Along the way, they meet a variety of characters, each with their own views on the war and nationalism. In this movie, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger show their ideas of why the U.S. should join the Allied fight against the Nazis. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

and introducing MISS GLYNIS JOHNS (original poster) See more »

Genres:

Drama | War | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French | German

Release Date:

15 April 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

49th Parallel See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£132,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Ortus Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On a trip home to Wales, Niall MacGinnis was stopped and searched by police. He was arrested as a German spy when the police found a photo in his wallet of MacGinnis dressed in a German sailor's uniform, standing next to what appeared to be a U-boat. In fact, it was a publicity photo from MacGinnis' role in this movie. MacGinnis spent several days in jail before documents were sent from London verifying that he had been in the movie. See more »

Goofs

When Johnnie first looks at the calendar, not once, but twice, it shows January 1940, but when it's shown in closeup, it's become July 1940, which is the correct time frame for this sequence. Most likely, the January 1940 calendar scenes, in which Laurence Olivier appears along with the calendar, were shot earlier, before the scene was rewritten to take place in July 1940, but by that time Olivier was no longer available for retakes. See more »

Quotes

[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 »

Crazy Credits

(opening dedication) This film is dedicated to the actors who believed in our story and came from all parts of the world to play in it. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original film shows Hirth standing in a crowd in the rain while a woman is reading the latest bulletins to the blind soldier; meanwhile the other two sell their binoculars for money to eat, after which Hirth tells them of his plan to walk to Vancouver to catch a Japanese freighter home, based on his visit to a travel bureau. But in the American film, the entire scene after the news bulletin part is cut out, which leads to an enormous amount of confusion. Until then the Germans had been making south for the US border; suddenly, with no explanation, they're shown hiking along the road headed west, only a few miles north of the border. (The overlaid maps confirm this.) This made no sense whatsoever, and until we finally saw the complete film it was the major lapse in the film's progression. See more »

Connections

Referenced in BBC Proms: Prom 2: Music from Great British Films (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Alouette
(uncredited)
Traditional French folksong
Sung to accompaniment of accordion by Laurence Olivier
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"The only undefended frontier in the world"
6 February 2009 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

You'd be tempted to think that there's no way '49th Parallel (1941)' could have turned out anything less than excellent. Not only do Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger perform their famous double-act, but there's also the equally-enviable partnership of David Lean (here working as editor) and cinematographer Freddie Young. But we must remember that in the realm of WWII propaganda there lie dangerous waters, and only the most talented filmmakers (so far, I count Hitchcock, Wilder, Renoir, Curtiz and Reed) can navigate their war-themed picture towards any degree of lasting respectability. We can certainly add Michael Powell to that list of famous names. '49th Parallel' is different from most of its contemporaries because it presents the film solely from the German point-of-view. The portrayal is not favourable, of course, and at least their commander reeks of pure evil, but the German characters are nonetheless humanised to no small extent. These aren't cold, immoral monsters, but ordinary people, swept up in euphoric Nazi ideology and pining for the simpler life they can barely remember.

When a German submarine is destroyed in Hudson Bay, Canada, the surviving Nazi soldiers – led by the fiercely patriotic Kommandant Bernsdorff (Richard George) – must navigate their way across the country into the then-neutral United States of America. The native citizens they meet along the way are largely jovial and laid-back, many hardly aware of the war raging across the Atlantic, and the Germans haughtily deem them foes unworthy of the Fuhrer's might. But these Canadians, as placid as they first seem, can surely recognise fascism when they see it, and each of the soldiers is picked off one by one, like the characters from a war-themed version of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None." Among the unwitting local patriots is French-Canadian trapper Laurence Olivier – a caricature but an entertaining one – anthropologist/author Leslie Howard, and grinning deserter Raymond Massey, each of whom shows the Nazis that they're dealing with an enemy whose sheer spirit overshadows all of Hitler's armies combined.

The film was apparently intended as a tribute to Canada's involvement in the war, and perhaps – as was Hitchcock's 'Foreign Correspondent (1940)' – a call-to-arms for the then-isolationist United States, who would hold back until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Many of the film's characters remark upon the sheer remoteness of the war relative to their own lives, unaware that it is actually standing before them; this idea was almost certainly aimed at American audiences. After the brilliantly suspenseful first act at Hudson Bay, I initially felt that the film was going off track by continuing to follow the Germans after their aerial departure from the remote village. However, as time wore on, I began to appreciate what the film was aiming for. Though the snow-swept slopes around Hudson Bay may seem leagues away from the Canadian/American border, Kommandant Bernsdorff and his ever-dwindling band gradually progress their way south, until, not only does he reach the border, but he physically crosses into the United States. The War had never been closer.


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