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The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Contemporary Article
49th Parallel (1941)
Picture Show, March 8th, 1941

British Studio News
Edith Mepean
(sp? unsure because it's a printed signature)

Michael Powell is, I suppose, one of the most-discussed film directors in this country at the moment. (By the way - before I forget - there is a rumour that he is making a very topical and secret film which will have world release. The plot hangs on a wonderful letter written by one of our magnificent young war heroes who gave his life for England.) But I want to write about "49th Parallel" at the moment.

   Michael Powell went off to Canada to make this film.

   He started in the Rockies with Eric Portman, Richard George, Raymond Lovell, John Chandos, Niall MacGinnis, Peter Moore and Basil Appleby. They took the role of Nazis. Two actresses also braved the Atlantic in war-time. They appear in the film as air hostesses on the trans-Canadian flight. They were properly trained in their jobs by Trans-Canada Airways. They were Carla Lehmann, who recently played in "Once a Crook" and now has a leading part in "Cottage to Let", and lovely Tamara Desni. Then there was also Finlay Currie, who plays the Hudson Bay factor. "It was a long and tough trip at a difficult time," Michael Powell told me. "The conduct of everyone from first to last was extremely praiseworthy. The Hudson Bay trip in a freighter, with temporary quarters in the hold, was particularly exacting to minds and bodies."

   Now I want you to know what Michael Powell told me about Elisabeth Bergner, whom you may know is no longer in the cast of this film. It was at her request that she should play in the prarie sequence. She did not leave this country expressly to make this film. She and her husband, Dr. Czinner, were already leaving to discuss certain projects in America. But on arrival in Canada to do exteriors disagreements arose and they became more serious after Bergner reached Hollywood. And so, in these circumstances, Michael Powell went on to relate, "We decided to recast for the part. We rewrote it for Glynis Johns, and we feel that the picture has gained in youthful English charm and excellence whatever it may have lost in star value."

   In "49th Parallel" Anton Walbrook plays the leader of the foreign settlers in the prarie sequences with Glynis Johns. Leslie Howard plays the English-speaking Canadian Philip Armstrong Smith [sic] - the part was written for him. Laurence Olivier is to play Johnnie, the French-Canadian. He is ideal for the part of a young volatile trapper who meets a tragic end. Raymond Massey has completed his part of the Southern Ontario farmer turned soldier. It is a wonderful part; the first time he has ever played one of his own people on the screen. He loved doing it and it is the performance of his life.

   Music plays an important part in this film, and there is romance and patriotism which should make it a really worth-while picture.

1. Carla Lehmann & "lovely Tamara Desni" didn't make it into the final cut. The whole section with the Trans-Canada Airways flight was dropped.
2. Leslie Howard played Philip Armstrong Scott

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