49th Parallel (October 8, 1941)

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Laurence Olivier in 49th Paralell
 

Released on October 8, 1941: A handful of Nazi U-boat seaman stranded in Hudson's Bay try to make their way to the U.S. border because the U.S. is still neutral vis-a-vis WWII, and will protect them.

Directed by Michael Powell

The Actors: Leslie Howard (Philip Armstrong Scott), Laurence Olivier (Johnnie, the trapper), Raymond Massey (Andy Brock), Anton Walbrook (Peter), Eric Portman (Lieutenant Hirth), Richard George (Kommandant Bernsdorf), Raymond Lovell (Lieutenant Kuhnecke), Niall MacGinnis (Bogel), Peter Moore (Kranz), John Candos (Lohrmann), Basil Appleby (Jahner), Finlay Currie (the Factor), Ley On (Nick, the Eskimo), Glynis Johns (Anna), Charles Victor (Andreas), Frederick Piper (David), Tawera Moana (George the Indian), Eric Clavering (Art), Charles Rolfe (Bob), Theodore Salt (U.S. Customs Officer), O.W. Fonger (U.S. Customs Officer), Robert Beatty (voice of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Mountie in Alberta), Elisabeth Bergner (Anna), Eric Berry (Nazi radio announcer), Gron Davies (Officer of submarine), Leslie Falardeau (aviator on seaplane), Lionel Grose (unknown), Jack Hynes (aviator on seaplane), Stuart Latham (second Nazi radio announcer), Norman Luxton (man in fringed jacket on the balcony at Banff Indian Day), Vincent Massey (prologue narrator), Percy Parsons (hi-jacked Canadian motorist), Gerry Wilmot (Canadian radio announcer).

 

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The United States has been blessed over its lifetime in many ways, but one of the greatest blessings has been its remarkable American neighbor north of the 49th Parallel . . . Canada. I don't believe that this globe has ever seen such a close and long lasting bond between two independent countries. Sure, we squabble about things - lots of things, but like two brothers that fight each other daily - just let anyone else try to harm either brother. Those two brothers will stand united against all comers, and there will be hell to pay for the one that tries to break them up. The first day of July is Dominion Day, or Canadian Independence Day, and this movie is about great Canadians as they grapple with Nazi seamen trying to escape the Canandian armed forces who are trying to capture them.

This star-studded epic adventure tells the story of the beginnings of war and was aimed directly at the U.S. market in an effort to raise American consciousness to the evils of the war raging in Europe. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and by the time of this movie France also had been attacked. England was thick into the war to help Europe escape Hitler's advances, and Canada had joined with England in the fight against the Nazis. But in October of 1941 the U.S. was still debating the merits of joining the war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was still two months away, and the national will to fight was not strong enough to allow our leaders to join the war effort in Europe. Still struggling to leave the Great Depression behind, the U.S. didn't feel strong, and didn't feel much like diverting resources that it needed for its own folks to participate in a war half a world away. Ironically, when the U.S. finally did ramp up for war, that effort was the biggest thing that lifted the country out of depression.

Our epic story begins with a German U-boat sinking a Canadian ship in the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Canadians are hot after the u-boat, and to evade them the Germans head for Hudson's Bay to hide out for a bit. Once there, the U-boat surfaces and sends an advance party of men to overcome the trading post and raise the Nazi flag. When the submarine sees the Nazi flag flying, they will know that it is safe for the submarine to surface and take over the trading post to hide out from the Canadian armed forces. Unfortunately for them, the Canadians are pretty sharp, and they succeed in sinking the submarine in the middle of the bay, leaving the handful of advance men alone in Hudson's Bay, with no way to get back to Germany. Ahh, but there is a solution - they must make the long trek down to the 49th parallel - the border between Canada and the United States. Since the U.S. has not committed to the war in Europe, they will be safe there, and will be able to book passage on a ship heading back to Germany. On their way to the border, we not only get an awesome view of life in the Canadian wilderness in 1941, but the author also delves into the personalities and the beliefs of both the Nazi seamen and the Canadian citizens about freedom, fighting, war and peace. While there is little debate about the evil intentions of the Nazi regime, everything else about war, killing and struggles for peace are thoroughly discussed and laid out in the open. If you enjoy a movie that will prompt you to think a little deeper than just the thirty second sound bites of life, this movie will do the trick. Good people from different backgrounds will disagree on many of the finer points, but like young brothers, despite their differences, they will stand united against the Nazi threat.

This movie is a whopping two hours long, but you will quickly get into the story and forget about the passing of time. Just be certain that you pop an extra-large bowl of white kernel popcorn and drizzle it with plenty of fresh, warm melted butter to keep you company during this great adventure.