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Northwest Passage Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

Kenneth Roberts' fact-based novel Northwest Passage would seem too raw and explicit a book to be considered for an MGM film adaptation-much less one in Technicolor. Amazingly, MGM retained many of the grim episodes from the Roberts' novel, though - thanks to the Hays Code - most are discussed rather than shown. The film is set in 1759, when the headstrong and gifted young artist Langdon Towne (Robert Young) is expelled from Harvard much to the chagrin of his parents and his fiancee, Elizabeth Browne (Ruth Hussey). Towne and his tough-as-nails sidekick, Hunk Marriner (Walter Brennan) get soused one night in a pub and - while intoxicated - viciously insult Elizabeth's father, Rev. Browne (Louis Hector). The two men are nearly arraigned for the incident, but escape just in time and ultimately wind up at the camp of famed Indian hunter Major Robert Rogers (Spencer Tracy). Rogers then invites Towne to join his troupe as a cartographer, and suggests that Marriner tag along. Together, the hundreds of Indian fighters under Rogers's aegis team up and chart their way through the wilderness, headed straight for St. Francis, the base of the French-supported Abenaki tribe, notorious for bloodily wiping out British-controlled colonies, after which they will forge the titular 'northwest passage' to the Pacific. Along the route, the boys counter such obstacles as traitorous Native American guides and exploding gunpowder. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer originally slated this production for Tracy, Wallace Beery, Robert Taylor and Franchot Tone, but only Tracy signed on; the studio reeled in Brennan and Young as last-minute additions, to support Tracy's lead. Northwest Passage marked Vidor's first Technicolor film. William V. Skall and Sidney Wagner received Oscar nominations for their outstanding cinematographic work on the film. Nineteen years after its premiere, Northwest Passage later became an NBC TV series between 1959-60, starring Keith Larsen in the Tracy role, Buddy "Jed Clampett" Ebsen in the Brennan role, and Don Burnett in the Young role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:February 23, 1940

Awards

Awarded by
Nominee
Category
Year
Status
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Sidney Wagner Best Color Cinematography 1940 Nominee

Cast

Spencer Tracy
as Maj. Robert Rogers
Robert Young
as Langdon Towne
Walter Brennan
as Hunk Marriner
Ruth Hussey
as Elizabeth Browne
Nat Pendleton
as Capt. Huff
Lumsden Hare
as Lord Amherst
Isabel Jewell
as Jennie Coit
Douglas Walton
as Lt. Avery
Addison Richards
as Lt. Crofton
Hugh Sothern
as Jesse Beacham
Regis Toomey
as Webster
Montagu Love
as Wiseman Clagett
Lester Matthews
as Sam Livermore
Arthur Aylesworth
as Flint Innkeeper
Rand Brooks
as Eben Towne
Don Castle
as Richard Towne
George Eldredge
as McMullen
Verna Felton
as Mrs. Towne
Edward Gargan
as Capt. Butterfield
Gibson Gowland
as MacPherson
Denis Green
as Capt. Williams
Frank S. Hagney
as Capt. Grant
Tom London
Donald MacBride
as Sgt. McNott
Helen MacKellar
as Sarah Hadden
Addie McPhail
as Jane Browne
John Merton
as Lt. Dunbar
Ferdinand Munier
as Stoodley
Ted Oliver
as Farrington
Eddie Parker
as Ranger
Ray Teal
as Bradley McNeil
Hank Worden
as Ranger
Frederic Worlock
as Sir William Johnson
Edward Gargan
as Capt. Butterfield
Donald MacBride
as Sgt. McNott
Rand Brooks
as Eben Towne
Arthur Aylesworth
as Flint Innkeeper
Verna Felton
as Mrs. Towne
Eddie Parker
as Ranger
Ferdinand Munier
as Stoodley
George Eldredge
as McMullen
John Merton
as Lt. Dunbar
Frank S. Hagney
as Capt. Grant
Helen MacKellar
as Sarah Hadden
Hank Worden
as Ranger
Ray Teal
as Bradley McNeil
Ted Oliver
as Farrington
Denis Green
as Capt. Williams
Gibson Gowland
as MacPherson
Don Castle
as Richard Towne
Addie McPhail
as Jane Browne

Crew

King Vidor
Director
Jack Conway
Director
Hunt Stromberg
Producer
Kenneth Roberts
Book Author
Laurence Stallings
Screenwriter
Talbot Jennings
Screenwriter
Sidney Wagner
Cinematographer
Herbert Stothart
Composer (Music Score)
Cedric Gibbons
Art Director
Edwin B. Willis
Set Designer
Jack Dawn
Makeup
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