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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 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

During the chess game, the coordinates given are backwards. White's move h2-g3, would be on the right-hand side of the board from White's perspective, while Black's pawn move from b7-b5 would be on Black's right side. In the movie, both moves are made from the respective player's left-hand side. 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

Along with the credits for the actors at the beginning of the film, there is a 'starring' credit for 'The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams'. See more »

Alternate Versions

In the American edition, just as the German raises his arm to strike the motorist with the flat tire, and he begins to suspect that something's about to happen, the picture fades to black, but the scene does not stop: the sounds of the motorist being stuck, of him crying out, collapsing as his dropped soda bottle breaks on the ground, all are heard -- but it all goes on "underneath" a black screen. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Return to the Edge of the World (1978) 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 best of all propaganda films.
1 July 1999 | by SpleenSee all my reviews

Unless you believe George Orwell's claim that all art is propaganda; which, with all due respect to one of the twentieth century's finest minds, is poppycock. The propaganda film is a special kind of film, usually unbearable garbage. This one is an exception.

A German U-boat is sunk just off the coast of Canada and the surviving crew must make it through hostile enemy country to the neutral United States. After a short while their plight becomes known and the whole world is watching to see which nation, Canada or Germany, can manage to win the metaphorical battle.

The most interesting thing - considering the movie as propaganda - is that Powell's intended audience was the United States: he wanted to get that country involved in the war, or at least get the people of that country to support the war. Realise this and you realise how remarkably subtle the film is. Not once is Powell's goal explicitly stated or even alluded to; and even the underlying message (the USA *is* involved in the war, whether it wants to admit it or not) requires some thought to work out. Yet it's an integral part of the story. More explicit is the democracy vs. dictatorship theme, which is hammered home a number of different ways, not all of them obvious. (This theme is handled a bit too obviously now and then, I'll admit.)

Another interesting fact is that the hero of the story is either democracy, or Canada, or the Western Allies, or some such - no one person plays the role. The central characters are the Germans. In fact they're all quite likable (except for the doctrinaire Nazi, of course). Powell bends over backwards to inhibit anti-German sentiment. Despite all this we are not once on the Germans' side. We want them to be captured so long as they continue to serve an evil regime.

It's also a beautifully shot travelogue of Canada. And Ralph Vaughan Williams's score is lovely. He was seventy or so when he wrote it; he'd never written for the cinema before; he had his own ideas about what film music should be like.


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