Forty-Ninth Parallel

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49thParallel.jpg
Howard & Portman in 49th Parallel.

Forty-Ninth Parallel (1941) is the third collaboration by the British writer-director team of Powell & Pressburger. It was released in the USA as The Invaders.

"Goebbels considered himself an expert on propaganda, but I thought I'd show him a thing or two." - Emeric Pressburger, screenwriter
Contents

Story

The film is set early in WWII, and follows the surviving Nazi crew of a German U-boat sunk in a Canadian bay. They attempt to travel across Canada to the then-neutral United States - the title comes from the 49th parallel north which marks part of the border between the two countries. Led by the Lieutenants Hirth (Eric Portman) and Kuhnecke (Raymond Lovell), the small band of sailors have various encounters, including a French-Canadian trapper (Laurence Olivier), a German Hutterite community (led by Anton Walbrook), an English academic (Leslie Howard) and an AWOL Canadian soldier (Raymond Massey).

By modern standards the depiction of Canada seems stereotypical: brave Mounties, decorated Indians and overwrought French-Canadians. However, Pressburger deliberately used the diversity of Canada to contrast with the fanatical world view of the Nazis. For a British WWII propaganda film it is highly unusual: the leading characters are Nazis, and it criticises them in spiritual terms rather than straightforward demonisation. Powell and Pressburger would return to similar themes in the more controversial The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and A Canterbury Tale.

Production

The British Ministry of Information approached Michael Powell to make a propaganda film for them, suggesting he could make "a film about mine-sweeping". Instead, Powell wanted to make a film set in Canada, based on the idea that Canadian influence could bring a neutral America into the war. After persuading the British and Canadian governments, Powell started location filming in 1940.

Notable crew members include Ralph Vaughan Williams, contributing his first film score, and David Lean as editor.

Awards

The film won Pressburger an Academy Award for Best Story and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay (including Rodney Acklend for additional dialogue).

The British Film Institute ranked the film the 63rd most popular film with British audiences, based on cinema attendance of 9.3 million in the UK.

External links

Template:Powell and Pressburger

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