Edge of Darkness (1943 film)

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This article is about the 1943 World War II film. For other uses, see Edge of Darkness (disambiguation).
Edge of Darkness
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Henry Blanke
Screenplay by Robert Rossen
Based on the novel Edge of Darkness 
by William Woods
Starring Errol Flynn
Ann Sheridan
Walter Huston
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Sid Hickox
Edited by David Weisbart
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • 1943 (1943) (premiere-New York City)
  • April 24, 1943 (1943-04-24) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office 2.8 million

Edge of Darkness is a 1943 World War II film directed by Lewis Milestone that features Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan and Walter Huston.[1] The feature is based on a script written by Robert Rossen which was adapted from the novel Edge of Darkness (1942) by William Woods.[2]


In the Norwegian fishing village of Trollness, residents resist the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. In October 1942, the Norwegian flag is flying high over the Nazi outpost but almost everyone in town is dead. The German troops sent to investigate discover the German commander, Captain Koenig, dead in his office. The film the proceeds to tell the events that led to this disaster.

The local doctor, Martin Stensgard (Walter Huston) and his wife (Ruth Gordon) want to hold on to the pretence of gracious living and ignore the occupiers. The doctor would also prefer to stay neutral, but is torn. Kaspar Togersen (Charles Dingle), his brother-in-law, the wealthy owner of the local fish cannery, collaborates with the Nazis. The doctor's daughter, Karen (Ann Sheridan), is involved with the resistance and is in a romantic relationship with its leader Gunnar Brogge (Errol Flynn). Johann (John Beal), the doctor's son, has just returned to town having been sent down from the university but is soon influenced by his Nazi-sympathizer uncle. Karen makes it known to the townsfolk that her brother is a traitor.

The key group of resistance members, headed by Gunnar and Karen, anxiously await the secret arrival of arms from an English submarine. They hide the delivery of weapons in a cellar and call upon the townsfolk to delay violence until the opportune moment. Karen, on her way to a resistance meeting, is grabbed by a German soldier and disappears, while Gunnar frantically searches the town for her. She eventually appears at the meeting, clothes torn and face bruised, indicative that she has been raped. Gunnar loses his perspective after seeing what the German's have done to the woman he loves and begins to go crazy, ordering that the fighting begin. Karen tells him that it is still not yet the time and as he calms down, the radio (which has only been broadcasting static for a week) finally picks up Churchill's broadcast from England, giving them all hope.

Karen's father leaves the meeting and comes across the German soldier who raped his daughter. He bludgeons him to death in anger and Captain Koenig orders the rebels to be sentenced to death. On the morning of their execution they are forced to dig their own graves in the town square. They hear singing and discover the townsfolk have armed themselves with guns, grenades and other weaponry. The local Reverend opens fire from the church tower and the townsfolk follow suit. They successfully capture the port, and load the women and children onto fishing boats bound for England. Up at the local hotel, which has been used since the occupation as German headquarters, the remaining soldiers prepare for the oncoming attack. Gunnar, Karen, her father, and the other resistance leaders and members make their way through the forest to the hotel. Karen's brother cries to them from the hotel that they are walking into a machine gun crossfire trap set by the commander. He is shot dead for his efforts by the Germans. After a bloody battle, the rebels eventually capture the hotel and Captain Koenig commits suicide after writing a letter to his brother.

The film then reverts back to the action of the opening scene, where the newly arrived German troops find the dead bodies of both Germans and Norwegians littered about the town, forest and hotel. They declare that there is no one left alive. Karen and Gunnar, up in the hills, see a German soldier taking down the Norwegian flag and replacing it with a Nazi one. Karen shoots him dead and the Nazi flag falls on his dead body. Gunnar, Karen, her father and the surviving resistance members and townsfolk take shelter in the hills as the narrator reminds us to look to Norway for understanding of the war and the hope and strength of the people.



The film was based on the debut novel of William Woods. Warner Bros bought the film rights in January 1942 for $30,000.[3] The novel was published on April 9, the second anniversary of the German invasion of Norway.[4]

Henry Blanke was assigned to produce, Robert Rossen to write the script and Lewis Milestone to direct. Milestone later told the press:

It is twelve years now since I made All Quiet on the Western Front. That film embodied the retrospective disillusionment toward another war. In Edge of Darkness we are making a picture that has done away with disillusionment. We know the enemy we are fighting and we are facing the stern realities of the present war. The moral in Edge of Darkness is that 'united we stand, divided we fall'. That is the keystone for victory in all the democracies.[5]

"I can't think of a story about which I could be more enthusiastic," said Blanke about Edge of Darkness.[6]

Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart were announced as stars.[7] Eventually Bogart dropped out and was replaced by Errol Flynn.[8][9]

The cast included Helmut Dantine who had just signed a long term contract with Warners following his appearance in Casablanca.[10] There were a large number of actors cast who were best known for their stage work, including Judith Anderson and Ruth Gordon. Shooting was to begin in August 1942 but was postponed for two weeks so Errol Flynn could recuperate from bad health.[11] He was meant to do this on his yacht but Hedda Hopper reported he slipped down to Mexico City with a friend for some hunting, and that he "hasn't wanted to do it [the film] from the first", in part because his role was relatively small. Bruce Cabot was listed as a possible replacement if Errol didn't return.[12] Warners pressured Flynn and he eventually returned for filming.[13] (It was later reported that Flynn had signed a new contract with Warners for four films a year, one of which he was to also act as producer.[14])

Most of the film was shot in Warner Bros studios at Burbank with some exteriors in the town of Monterey.[15] Warners rented two of the biggest piers in Monterey and a fleet of Monterey sailing boats; they lined the streets with Norwegian and Nazi flags and signs and cast several locals as extras.[5] The unit returned from Monterey on September 16 to resume studio shooting.[16]

Erskine Caldwell reportedly operated as a technical adviser on the film because he had some experience of Norway.[17]

During filming, Warners added six grave markers with the names of Nazi saboteurs recently executed in the US, for extra realism.[18] Filming ended in November.

Edge of Darkness was one of a number being made in Hollywood set in occupied Europe, others being The Commandos Strike at Dawn and The Moon is Down.[19]

Franz Waxman did the score. He used two main pieces, the Lutheran chorale "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and the national hymn of Norway. According to one review, "the rest is frankly color orchestration and the necessary filling in. The result is a magnificent build up to an overwhelming emotional climax."[20]


The film was one of the five most requested movies by the US Army in April 1943 - the others being My Friend Flicka, Hit Parade of 1943, Flight for Freedom and Hello, Frisco, Hello.[21] It was also given special screenings to the Sons of Norway organization.[22]

Edge of Darkness was banned in Buenos Aires because of its anti-Nazi stance.[23]

Flynn was to follow the movie with To the Last Man (which became Northern Pursuit) and Captain Horatio Hornblower (which was postponed and then made with Gregory Peck).[24]



  1. ^ Variety film review; March 24, 1943.
  2. ^ Edge of Darkness (1943) (Movie Mirrors)
  3. ^ "Of local origin." The New York Times, January 24, 1942, p. 13.
  4. ^ "Books: Authors", The New York Times, March 28, 1942, p. 15.
  5. ^ a b Goodman, Ezra. "Hollywood: Norway to Monterey." The New York Times, September 27, 1942, p. X3.
  6. ^ "A producer candidly defines his function: Henry Blanke looks upon the producer as a coordinator who can also think." The New York Times, April 4, 1943, p. X4.
  7. ^ "Screen news here and in Hollywood: Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart ... by telephone to The New York Times." The New York Times, May 7, 1942, p. 23.
  8. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama: 'Edge of Darkness' to team Sheridan, Flynn." Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1942, p. 8.
  9. ^ Fred Astaire Will Appear in 'Look Out Below' -- Role for Edward Ellis: TWO FILMS ARRIVE TODAY 'Syncopation' Due at Palace -- 'My Favorite Spy' Will Open at Loew's State By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 May 1942: p. 13
  10. ^ "Screen news here and in Hollywood: Vera Zorina to appear in 'The Hour Before Dawn,' a story by Somerset Maugham." The New York Times, August 5, 1942, p. 16.
  11. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama: Hepburn stage play commands high price." Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1942, p. 22.
  12. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "Out of the 'Darkness!'." The Washington Post, August 21, 1942, p. 15.
  13. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "Woods Hide the Trees!" The Washington Post, August 29, 1942, p. B10.
  14. ^ "Of local origin." The New York Times, September 30, 1942, p. 29.
  15. ^ Thomas et al. 1969, p. 129.
  16. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama: Cesar Romero to play 'Coney Island' threat." Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1942, p. 13.
  17. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "Looking at Hollywood." Chicago Daily Tribune, September 10, 1942, p. 24.
  18. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. "Film news and comment: Vichy stays ban on American pictures." The New York Times, November 8, 1942, p. X4.
  19. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "'Cemented' great and near-great." The Washington Post, August 18, 1942, p. 14.
  20. ^ Jones, Isabel Morse. "Music and Musicians: Music for Fox film sets, acquires individuality; New cinema scores being promoted on basis of psychological analysis." Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1943, p. C6.
  21. ^ "If It's 'Escape' you want, it's just around corner." The Washington Post, May 12, 1943, p. 16.
  22. ^ "Norway's patriots will see 'Darkness'." The Washington Post, July 10, 1943, p. B8.
  23. ^ "Anti-Nazi film barred." The New York Times, September 26, 1943, p. 39.
  24. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama: 'Christopher Bean' to costar Woolley, Gish." Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1942, p. A8.


  • Thomas, Tony, Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarty. The Films of Errol Flynn. New York: Citadel Press, 1969. ISBN 978-0-80650-237-3.
  • Woods, William Howard. Edge of Darkness: A Novel of Occupied Norway. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company. 1942.

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