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49th Parallel (1941)

Not Rated | | Drama, War, Thriller | 15 April 1942 (USA)
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 USA.

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Writers:

(original story and screenplay), (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:
... Philip Armstrong Scott
... Andy Brock
... Johnnie - The Trapper
... Peter
... Lieutenant Ernst Hirth
... Anna
... Vogel
... The Factor
Raymond Lovell ... Lieutenant Kuhnecke
John Chandos ... Lohrmann
Basil Appleby ... Jahner
Eric Clavering ... Art
Charles Victor ... Andreas
Ley On ... Nick - the Eskimo
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 crews' return to the Fatherland. He needs to reach the neutral United States or be captured. Along the way they meet a variety of characters each with their own views on the war and nationalism. In this film Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger show their ideas of why the United States should join the Allied fight against the Nazis. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE MIGHTEST MANHUNT THAT EVER SWEPT THE SCREEN! (original poster-all caps) See more »

Genres:

Drama | War | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

15 April 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

49th Parallel  »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie represents one of the few World War II submarine movies to have won the one single Academy Award. Most of them have won their single Oscar in a technical category, special effects or sound editing. These movies include Crash Dive (1943); The Enemy Below (1957); Torpedo Run (1958) and U-571 (2000). The non-WW II sub-movie, The Hunt for Red October (1990) also won just the one Oscar, as did this film, but for Best Original Story. 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.
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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 »

Connections

Featured in The Great Canadian Supercut (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Alouette
(uncredited)
Traditional French folksong
Sung to accompaniment of accordion by Laurence Olivier
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User Reviews

 
"The only undefended frontier in the world"
6 February 2009 | by See 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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