Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Zorba The Greek (dir by Michael Cacoyannis)


The 1964 film, Zorba the Greek, tells the story of two very different friends.

Basil (Alan Bates) is a writer.  (“Poetry, essays,” he diffidently says when asked what he writes.)  Basil is British-Greek but, having been raised in the UK, he allows his British side to dominate.  In this film, that means that Basil is very polite and very reserved.  He’s not the type to attempt to flirt with someone who he doesn’t know.  He has never spontaneously broken into dance.  When he is offered a drink, he asks for tea and is shocked to receive rum instead.  If the film was taking place a few decades later, one gets the feeling that Basil would describe Love, Actually as being an okay movie “for people who like that sort of thing.”

And then there’s Zorba (Anthony Quinn).  Unlike the wealthy and well-educated Basil, Zorba is a peasant and he’s proud of it.  He works hard but he plays hard too and there’s nothing that Zorba loves more than the sound of good music.  Zorba not only drinks rum but makes sure that everyone else gets their fill as well.  Zorba dances whenever he feels like it.  Zorba is larger than life, an unfailingly enthusiastic man who is determined to enjoy whatever time he has left in his life.

When Zorba and Basil first meet, Basil is heading to Crete where he’ll be trying to reopoen a mine that was left to him by his father.  As for Zorba, he’s looking for work and, as he explains it, he has tons of experience working as a miner.  Though Basil is, at first, reluctant to hire someone who he’s just met, Zorba talks him into it.  As quickly becomes apparent, the exuberant Zorba can talk people into almost anything.

You can probably guess where all of this is going.  Zorba teaches Basil how to embrace life, which in this film means embracing the Greek side of his heritage.  It takes a while, of course.  Basil is an extremely reluctant protegé and a good deal of the film’s humor comes from just how uncomfortable Basil occasionally gets with his newfound friend.  That said, you don’t have to be a psychic to guess that eventually, the two of them will share a dance on the beach.  It may be predictable but that’s not to say that Zorba the Greek isn’t a good film.  It’s a very good and entertaining movie, featuring a justifiably famous soundtrack and also one of Anthony Quinn’s best and most exuberant performances.

In fact, Quinn is so perfectly cast as Zorba that he occasionally tends to overshadow Alan Bates, who is equally good but in a different way.  In fact, I would say that Bates probably had the more difficult role.  Whereas Zorba (and Quinn) spends the entire movie instigating, Basil (and Bates) spends the entire movie reacting.  It’s difficult to make passivity watchable but Bates manages to do it.

Of course, Zorba isn’t just a comedy about an unlikely friendship.  About halfway through the film, there’s a moment of shocking brutality involving a young widow played by Irene Pappas.  It took me totally by surprise and it left me a bit shaken.  (It also reminded me a bit of another European film featuring Irene Pappas, Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling.)  It’s a scene that serves as a reminder that 1) not every peasant is Zorba the Greek and 2) friendship and love cannot end darkness but it can make it all a little more bearable.

Zorba the Greek was nominated for Best Picture but it lost to My Fair Lady.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Lost Horizon (dir by Frank Capra)


Long before there was Lost, there was Lost Horizon!

Much like the famous television show, the 1937 film Lost Horizon begins with a group of strangers on an airplane.  They’re people from all walks of life, all with their separate hopes and dreams.  When the plane crashes, they find themselves stranded in an uncharted land and, much like the Lost castaways, they are shocked to discover that they are not alone.  Instead, they’ve found a semi-legendary place that is ruled over by a man who has lived for centuries.  Much as in Lost, some want to return to civilization while others want to remain in their new home.  Both Lost and Lost Horizon even feature a terminally ill woman who starts to recover her health after becoming stranded.

Of course, in Lost, everyone was just flying from Australia to America.  In Lost Horizon, everyone is trying to escape the Chinese revolution.  Among the passengers on the plane: diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), his irresponsible brother, George (John Howard), a con artist named Henry (Thomas Mitchell), a paleontologist (Edward Everett Horton), and the very ill Gloria (Isabel Jewell).

While Lost featured a plane crash on a tropical island, Lost Horizon features a plane crash in the Himalayas.  In Lost, the sinister Others sent spies to infiltrate the survivors.  In Lost Horizon, the mysterious Chang (H.B. Warner) appears and leads the survivors to a place called Shangri-La.

Shangi-La is a lush and idyllic valley that has somehow flourished in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.  The happy inhabitants inform the survivors that they never get sick and they never fight.  They’re led by the High Lama (Sam Jaffe), a philosopher who explains that he is several hundred years old.  The valley is full of magic and the Lama tells the survivors that Shangri-La is their new home.

Now, I’ve seen enough horror movies that I spent most of Lost Horizon waiting for the Lama to suddenly reveal that he was a vampire or an alien or something.  Whenever anyone in a movie seems to be too good to be true, that usually means that he’s going to end up killing someone about an hour into the story.  But that didn’t happen in Lost Horizon.  Instead, the Lama is just as wise and benevolent as he claims to be and Shangri-La is as much of a paradise as everyone assumes.  I guess we’re just naturally more cynical in 2018 than people were in 1937.

Of course, the Lama isn’t immortal.  Not even the magic of Shangri-La can prevent the inevitably of death.  The Lama is looking for a successor.  Could one of the survivors be that successor?  Perhaps.  For instance, Robert absolutely loves Shangri-La.  Of course, his brother George is determined to return to the real world.  He has fallen in love with one of the inhabitants of Shagri-La and plans to take her with him, despite the Lama’s warning about trying to leave…

Frank Capra was a huge fan of James Hilton’s book, Lost Horizon, and he spent three years trying to bring it to the big screen.  Based on Capra’s previous box office successes, Colombia’s Harry Cohn gave Capra a budget of $1.25 million to bring his vision of Shangri-La to life.  That may not sound like much today but, at the time, that made Lost Horizon the most expensive movie ever made.  The production was a notoriously difficult one.  (The original actor cast as the elderly Lama was so excited to learn he had been selected that he dropped dead of a heart attack.)  As a result of both its ornate sets and Capra’s perfectionism, the film soon went overbudget.  When Capra finally delivered a first cut, it was over 6 hours long.  Capra eventually managed to edit it down to 210 minutes, just to then have Harry Cohn order another hour taken out of the film.  When Lost Horizon was finally released, it had a running time of 132 minutes.

Seen today, Lost Horizon is definitely an uneven work.  With all the cutting and editing that went on, it’s hard to guess what Capra’s original vision may have been but, in the final version, much more time is devoted to the characters discussing the philosophy of Shangri-La than to the characters themselves.  (It’s always good to see Thomas Mitchell but he really doesn’t get much to do.)  Since you never really feel like you know what any of these characters were like outside of Shangi-La, it’s hard to see how being in Shagri-La has changed them.  You just have to take their word for it.  That said, it’s a visually stunning film.  Capra may have gone over budget creating the look of Shangri-La but it was money well-spent.  If I ever find myself in a magic village, I hope it looks half as nice as the one in Lost Horizon.

Despite all of the drama that went on behind the scenes and a rather anemic box office reception, Lost Horizon was nominated for best picture.  However, it lost to The Life of Emile Zola.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Shane (dir by George Stevens)


“Hey, Shane!  Come back, Shane!”

There’s a few ways in which you can view the 1953 film, Shane.

The more popular view is that it’s a Western about a man named Shane (Alan Ladd) who rides into town and gets a job working for the Starretts, Joe (Van Heflin) and Marian (Jean Arthur).  Joe is a farmer who is determined to hold onto his land, despite the efforts of cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) to force him off of it.  While we don’t learn much about Shane’s background, it becomes apparent that he’s a man who can fight.  That comes in handy when Ryker brings in a sinister gunfighter named Wilson (Jack Palance).

Another view is that Shane is the story of a man who just wants to settle down but, instead, finds himself continually hounded by an annoying little kid, to the extent that he finally gets involved in a gun battle just so he’ll have an excuse to leave town and get away from the little brat.  Little Joey Starrett (Brandon deWilde) idolizes Shane from the minute that he comes riding up.  When he hears that Shane refused to get into a fight at the local saloon, Joey demands to know whether it was true.  He tells his mom that he loves Shane almost as much as he loves his father.  When Shane does get into a brawl with all of Ryker’s men, Joey stands in the corner and eats candy.  And then, when Shane tries to leave town, Joey runs behind him shouting, “Come back, Shane!  Come back!”

Myself, I think of it as being the story of Frank Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.).  Frank is the farmer that’s been nicknamed “Stonewall,” due to his status as a former Confederate and his quick temper.  Stonewall may be smaller than the other farmers but he’s usually the quickest to take offense.  Still, it’s impossible not to like him, largely because he’s played by Elisha Cook, Jr.  When Wilson feels the need to put the farmers in their place, he does so by picking a fight with Torrey.  Standing on a porch in the rain, looking down on the smaller man, Wilson starts to insult both him and the South.  When Torrey finally starts to reach for his gun, Wilson shoots him dead.  While Torrey lies in the mud, Wilson smirks.  It’s a shocking scene, all the more so for being shown in a long shot.  (By forcing those of us in the audience to keep our distance from the shooting, the film makes us feel as powerless as the farmers.)  If you didn’t already hate Wilson and Ryker, you certainly will after this scene.

Shane is a deceptively simple film, one in which many of the details are left open for interpretation.  We never learn anything about Shane’s background.  He’s a man who shows up, tries to make a life for himself, and then leaves.  He’s a marksman and an obviously experienced brawler but, unlike Ryker’s men, he never specifically looks for violence.  In fact, he often seems to avoid it.  Why?  The film doesn’t tell us but there are hints that Shane is haunted by his past.  Shane seems to want a chance to have a life like the Starretts but, once he’s forced to again draw his gun, he knows that possibility no longer exists.

Is Shane in love with Marian Starrett?  It certainly seems so but, again, the film never specifically tells us.  Instead, it all depends on how one interprets the often terse dialogue and the occasional glances that Marian and Shane exchance.  When Shane and Joe get into a fist fight to determine who will face Ryker and Wilson, is Shane really trying to protect Joe or is it that he knows Marian will be heart-broken if her husband is killed?

One thing’s for sure.  Little Joey sure does love Shane.  “Come back, Shane!”  Little Joey follows Shane everywhere, with a wide-eyed look on his face.  To be honest, it didn’t take too long for me to get sick of Little Joey.  Whenever director George Stevens needed a reaction shot, he would cut to Joey looking dumb-founded.  Brandon deWilde was 11 years when he appeared in Shane and he was nominated for an Oscar but he’s actually pretty annoying in the role.  Elisha Cook, Jr. was far more impressive and deserving of a nomination.

I know that many people consider Shane to be a classic.  I thought it was good, as long as the action was focused on the adults.  Alan Ladd plays Shane like a man who is afraid to get too comfortable in any situation and the film works best when it compares his reticence to Wilson’s cocky confidence.  Whenever Joey took center stage, I found myself wanting to cover my ears.

Shane was nominated for Best Picture but lost to From Here To Eternity.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Razor’s Edge (dir by Edmund Goulding)


Oh, 1919!  What a year.  The Great War had ended, leaving much of Europe devastated.  American soldiers were coming home and, scarred by the horrors they had experienced, becoming members of a lost generation.  The Spanish Flu was infecting millions, on the way to eventually wiping out 3% of the world’s population.  It was a grim time so it’s no surprise that many chose to close their eyes and pretend like everything was fine.  Only a few people were willing to look at the world and say, “There has to be something more.”

The 1946 film The Razor’s Edge tells the story of one such man.  Before the war, Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power, Jr.) was like most of his friends back in Chicago.  He was carefree.  He was wealthy.  He was engaged to marry the beautiful but self-centered Isabel (Gene Tierney).  But then he went off to fight in World War I and the experience changed him.  On the final day of the war, another soldier sacrificed his life to save Larry and Larry is now haunted by that man’s death.  No longer sure about his place in the world, Larry announces that he’s rejecting his former life.

Of course, that’s an easy thing to do when you’re rich.  Larry is lucky enough to have an inheritance that he can live off for a few years.  All of his former friends think that Larry’s just struggling to adjust to being back home and they expect that he’ll get over it soon enough.  Isabel’s uncle, Elliott (Clifton Webb), thinks that Larry’s acting like a total fool.  For Larry’s part, he no longer cares what any of them think.  He’s going to travel the world, seeking enlightenment.

While Larry’s searching, life goes on without him.  Isabel ends up marrying one of Larry’s friends, Gray Maturin (John Payne).  Larry’s best friend from childhood, Sophie (Anne Baxter), suffers a personal tragedy of her own and, when Larry next meets her, she’s living as a drunk on the streets of Paris.  Larry keeps searching for the meaning of it all.  He works in a coal mine.  He discusses philosophy with a defrocked priest.  Eventually, he ends up in the Himalayas, where he studies under a Holy Man (Cecil Humphreys).

It’s an intriguing idea and still a relevant one.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really work because Larry tends to come across as being a little bit full of himself.  I could imagine someone like Henry Fonda working wonders with the role but Tyrone Power seems totally miscast as Larry.  When you look at Power, you find it hard to believe that he’s ever had a bad day, much less a need to spend months hiding in the Himalayas.  He comes across as the last person you would necessarily want to take spiritual advice from.  The fact that Webb, Tierney, Payne, and Baxter are all perfectly cast only serves to enforce just how miscast Power is.  It’s a well-intentioned film with nice production values but it’s never quite compelling.

The Razor’s Edge was based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham.  Interestingly, the film features Maugham as a character, played by Herbert Marshall.  Even more interesting is the fact that the film was apparently remade in 1984, with Bill Murray cast as Larry Darrell.  I’ve never seen the remake so I have no idea if Murray is an improvement on Power.

(Also, since I’ve been pretty critical of Power in this review, let me recommend Witness For The Prosecution, in which Power is much better cast.)

The Razor’s Edge was nominated for Best Picture but lost to another film about returning vets, The Best Years of Our Lives.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Five Easy Pieces (dir by Bob Rafelson)


First released in 1970, Five Easy Pieces tells the story of a lost man named Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson).

When we first meet Bobby, he’s working at a California oil field.  He likes to go bowling.  He has a girlfriend named Rayette (Karen Black), who is a country music-obsessed waitress.  His best friend is Elton (Billy “Green” Bush), a friendly redneck with a memorable laugh.  Bobby may have a girlfriend and Elton may be married but that doesn’t stop either one of them from going out at night, getting drunk, and trying to pick up women.

Bobby seems to be just another blue-collar guy with a grudge against the bosses but it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s something different about him.  Bobby may be friends with Elton but it’s obvious that the two of them come from very different background.  No matter how much he tries to hide it, Bobby is smarter than everyone else around him.  When he and Elton get stuck in a traffic jam, Bobby spots a piano sitting on the back of a pickup truck.  Getting out of his car, Bobby yells at everyone who is honking and then climbs up to the piano.  He sits down, he puts his fingers to the keys and he starts to play.  Knowing Bobby, you’re expecting him to just bang the keys and make noise.  Instead, he plays beautiful music.

Later, Bobby steps into a recording studio.  Paritia (Lois Smith), a neurotic woman, is playing the piano.  The recording engineers joke about her lack of talent.  Bobby glares at them, annoyed.  It quickly becomes apparent why Bobby is so protective.  Paritia is Bobby’s sister.

Bobby, it turns out, comes from a wealthy family of musicians.  Everyone in the family has dealt with the pressure to succeed differently.  Paritia continues to play, despite not having much talent.  Bobby’s older brother, the buffoonish Carl (Ralph Waite), plays violin and has staid home with their father (William Challee).  Bobby, on the other hand, ran away from home.  He’s spent his entire life trying to escape from both his talent and his family.  However, when Paritia explains that their father has suffered from two strokes and might not live much longer, Bobby reluctantly decides to return home and try to make some sort of peace with his father.

It’s not as easy a journey as Bobby would have liked.  For one thing, Rayette demands to go with him.  On the drive up to Washington, they pick up two hitchhikers (Helena Kallionetes and Toni Basil), one of whom is obsessed with filth.  In the film’s most famous scene, an attempt to get a simple lunch order modified leads to Bobby losing control.

See, that’s the thing with Bobby.  In many ways, he’s a jerk.  He treats Rayette terribly.  While his family is hardly perfect, the film doesn’t hide from the fact that Bobby isn’t always the easiest person to deal with.  And yet, you can’t help but sympathize with Bobby.  If he seems permanently annoyed with the world … well, that’s because the world’s annoying.  And, to Bobby’s credit, he’s a bit more self-aware than the typical rebel without a cause.  When one of the hitchhikers praises his temper tantrum at the diner, Bobby points out that, after all of that, he still didn’t get the order that he wanted.

In Washington, Bobby tells Rayette to stay at a motel and then goes to see his family.  Bobby seems as out-of-place among his wealthy family as he did hanging out in the oil fields with Elton.  He ends up cheating on Rayette with Carl’s fiancee, a pianist named Catherine van Oost (Susan Anspach).

And then Rayette shows up for dinner…

Five Easy Pieces is a sometimes funny and often poignant character study of a man who seems to be destined to always feel lost in the world.  Bobby spends the whole movie trying to find a place where he can find happiness and every time, reality interferes with his plans.  Nicholson gives a brilliant performance, playing Bobby as a talented guy who doesn’t really like himself that much.  Bobby’s search for happiness leads to a rather haunting ending, one that suggests that some people are just meant to spend their entire life wandering.

Five Easy Pieces was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Patton.

8 Sure Shot Best Picture Nominees That Were Not


Let’s be honest.

Predicting the Oscar nominees is not an exact science.  The fact of the matter is that a lot of it is guesswork, especially in the early months of the year.

“Oh, Scorsese has a movie coming out?  Well, Martin Scorsese’s movies are always nominated!”

“Last year’s best seller is being adapted into a movie?  The Academy loves best sellers!”

“David Fincher’s directing High School Musical 4?  I LOVE DAVID FINCHER!  Best Picture for sure!”

That’s why, every year, there are films that seem like they’re guaranteed to reap Oscar glory.  These are the films that, in July, are listed on all of the awards sites as probable best picture nominees.  And every year, several of those sure shots turn out to actually be long shots.

Since Arleigh founded Through the Shattered Lens back in 2009, there’s been many guaranteed Best Picture contenders that, when the nominations were announced, were nowhere to be found.  Here are just 8 examples:

1. J. Edgar (dir by Clint Eastwood)

Remember how Leonardo DiCaprio was going finally win his first Oscar for playing J. Edgar Hoover in the 2011 Oscar biopic?  There was also some speculation that Armie Hammer would pick a supporting nod and, of course, the film was going to be a best picture nominee.  Then the movie came out, fell flat, and received not a single Oscar nomination.

2. The Dark Knight Rises (dir by Christopher Nolan)

I was not as big of a fan of this movie as some people who write for this site.  In fact, I thought it was kind of a mess.  Still, back in 2012, a lot of people assumed the Academy would make up for not nominating The Dark Knight by nominating the sequel.  (In a particular noxious example of fanboy culture, Christy Lemire was attacked online when she gave The Dark Knight Rises its first negative review.)  For all of the hyper and controversy, The Dark Knight Rises was totally ignored when the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.

3. The Monuments Men (dir by George Clooney)

As strange as it may seem today, this now-forgotten World War II film was originally considered to be a surefire Oscar contender.  Throughout most of 2013, the majority of the experts on Gold Derby listed The Monuments Men as their number one prediction for Best Picture.  The logic was that it was based on an interesting true story, it featured Bill Murray in a serious role, and it was directed by George Clooney.  Then, suddenly, the release date was pushed back to 2014.  That was the first sign of trouble.  Then the movie came out and it turned out to be a complete mess, one that underused Murray and which reminded us that, regardless of his skill as an actor, George Clooney is a remarkably dull director.

4. Lee Daniel’s The Butler (dir by Lee Daniels)

From 2013, this is a good example of a film that tried so hard to be an Oscar contender that it basically knocked itself right out of contention.  Between the blind and dated worship of JFK and John Cusack’s performance as Richard Nixon, this film almost seemed like a parody of a bad Oscar contender.

5. Interstellar (dir by Christopher Nolan)

Personally, I liked 2014’s Interstellar more than I liked The Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, this turned out to be just another Christopher Nolan film that didn’t get much of a reaction from the Academy.  (Despite the nominations given to both Dunkirk and Inception, it’s hard not to feel that the Academy will always resent Nolan for being both successful and ambitious.)

6. Joy (dir by David O. Russell)

Many of us thought it would be one of the films to be nominated for best picture of 2015.  That was until we actually saw the damn thing.  David O. Russell’s worst movie still managed to net Jennifer Lawrence a nomination but not much else.

7. Silence (dir by Martin Scrosese)

Martin Scrosese’s 2016 passion product was expected to be a major contender and, on many sites, it was listed as a probable winner all the way through December.  However, when the nominations were announced, Silence only received one nomination, for cinematography.

8. Logan (dir by James Mangold)

At the start of 2017, a lot of critics stated that Logan might be the first comic book movie ever nominated for Best Picture.  For a month or two, I certainly thought it would be.  Ultimately, though, it only picked up a nomination for adapted screenplay.

Which 2018 sure short will turn into a long shot?  We’ll find out next year!

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: 49th Parallel (dir by Michael Powell)


Hello and welcome to the TSL’s continuing coverage of Oscar Sunday!  Today, along with some other Oscar-related things, I’m going to post reviews of some of the films that have been nominated for best picture over the years!  Let’s start things off with the 1941 Best Picture nominee, 49th Parallel!

Before anything, I should clear up some confusion about this film.  This is a British film about Nazis trying to reach the border between Canada and the U.S.  When it was first released in the UK, it was named after the coordinates of the border.  However, in the actual film, the Nazis never actually go to the 49th Parallel.  Instead, the film concludes at Niagara Falls.  However, it was probably reasonable assume that British audiences would not necessarily know or care whether Niagara Falls was actually located on the 49th Parallel.  Considering that they were currently at war with Germany, they had more important things to concern themselves with.

However, it was apparently felt that American audiences would notice that Niagara Falls wasn’t actually located on the 49th Parallel.  (Personally, I think the British may have been giving us too much credit.)  So, when the film was released in the United States, the title was changed to The Invaders.  When the film was subsequently nominated for Best Picture, it was nominated under the name The Invaders.  I’ve actually come across some online sources that claim that The Invaders and 49th Parallel are two separate films.  No, they’re the same film, it’s just that the film in question has two different titles.  Out of respect to the people who actually made the movie, I’ve decided to use the original title in this review.

When watching 49th Parallel (it’s available on YouTube), it helps to know something about history.  Today, there’s a tendency to overlook the fact that World War II had already been raging for nearly two years before the United States got involved.  Though the U.S. was an ally to Britain, it remained officially neutral until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Up until that moment, many prominent Americans were isolationists and took the attitude that the war was Europe’s problem.  (On the other hand, Canada, as a Dominion of the British Empire, followed Britain into the war in 1939.)  Though the 49th Parallel may have been a British film that was largely set in Canada, it was also meant to frighten Americans and hopefully bring them over to the British side.

(When interviewed about the film, screenwriter Emeric Pressbruger said, “”Goebbels considered himself an expert on propaganda, but I thought I’d show him a thing or two.”)

Directed by Michael Powell, 49th Parallel opens with a German U-boat creeping into the waters around Canada.  The Nazis are hoping to disrupt shipping operations but it turns out that they’re no match for the Royal Canadian Navy.  (GO CANADA!)  When the U-boat sinks into the Hudson Bay, only six Nazis manage to survive.  Led by the arrogant Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman), the Nazis attempt to make their way to the border and to the safety of America.

Of course, it doesn’t turn out to be an easy journey.  Not only are the Germans in an unfamiliar country but they also keep running into Canadians.  Without fail, nearly every Canadian they meet is polite but willing to fight and die for his country.  The Canadians themselves are played by actors who, in the 40s, would have been familiar faces.  Laurence Olivier plays a fur trapper, getting top-billing for his cameo appearance.  Raymond Massey, who was best known for playing Abraham Lincoln, shows up as a Canadian solider.  Leslie Howard is the writer who discovers that Nazis have no respect for art.  Anton Walbrook is a German-Canadian farmer who rejects the attempts of Lt. Hirth to bring him over to the Nazi side.  The Canadians are so sympathetic that one of the Nazis is even moved to reject the Third Reich and is promptly executed by his compatriots, showing the audience the foolishness of hoping that the “good Germans” would ever be able to overthrow the bad ones.

It’s pure propaganda but it’s anti-Nazi propaganda so that’s not really a problem.  Powell keeps the story moving at a steady pace and all of the actors get impassioned performances.  You can tell this movie was more than just a job for them.  Instead, it was their way of fighting for their country and hopefully inspiring others to join in the battle against Hitler.  The film is both a love letter to Canada and a plea to the United States to renounce neutrality.  (Interestingly enough, by the time 49th Parallel made it to U.S. screens, America had finally declared war on the Axis Powers.)

49th Parallel was nominated for best picture but it lost to another World War II propaganda film, Mrs. Miniver.