Northern Pursuit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Northern Pursuit
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Produced by Jack Chertok
Written by Leslie T. White (story)
Frank Gruber
Alvah Bessie
William Faulkner (uncredited)
Starring Errol Flynn
Julie Bishop
Helmut Dantine
Cinematography Sid Hickox
Edited by Jack Killifer
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
November 13, 1943 (1943-11-13)
1949 (France)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.5 million (US rentals)[1]

Northern Pursuit is a 1943 World War II film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who tries to uncover a Nazi plot against the Allied war effort. The film was set in Canada during the early years of the war.


After a German U-boat drops off Nazi saboteurs, RCMP Corporal Wagner (Flynn) captures the leader, Colonel Hugo von Keller (Helmut Dantine), the only survivor after an avalanche wipes out the rest of the group. When left alone with the Canadian Mountie, von Keller discovers that Wagner speaks German and is of German ancestry, and tries to persuade his captor to help him. After being taken into custody, von Keller leads a jailbreak from a prisoner of war camp, enlisting other German soldiers in his escape. Wagner, seemingly under suspicion by the RCMP of being a Nazi sympathizer, asks to be discharged from the force and is contacted by Ernst Willis (Gene Lockhart), a real enemy agent, who hires him as a wilderness guide.

Wagner and his new confederate set out for the north by train, while a pursuing Mountie who makes contact with Wagner is killed by the agent. Wagner is taken to von Keller and convinces him that he is loyal to Germany and can guide him and his companions through the Canadian wilderness to a mysterious destination. His fiancee Laura McBain (Julie Bishop) is held as a hostage to ensure his loyalty but Wagner, acting as a double agent, manages to send a message to headquarters to alert them of the Nazi saboteurs' plans.

Fellow Mountie Jim Austin (John Ridgely) follows their trail, but is spotted and killed, along with Willis and an Indian porter, before the group reaches a mine shaft where bomber components have been secreted before the war. The bomber is assembled and takes off for its mission: to bomb the main arterial waterway between the United States and Canada to disrupt transatlantic shipping of war materials. Wagner manages to escape, climb aboard the aircraft to shoot the crew, and parachute to safety before the bomber crashes. After recovering from a wound he received during the skirmish on board the aircraft, he and Laura marry.



Northern Pursuit was intended to be a propaganda film following the general storyline of other contemporary films including 49th Parallel (1942) and Flynn's earlier Desperate Journey (1942).[2]

Northern Pursuit was originally known as To the Last Man and was based on a magazine story. A.I. Bezzerides wrote the first screenplay under the supervision of Jesse L. Lasky, with Errol Flynn always meant to star.[3][4] Alexis Smith was originally named as Flynn's co-star.[5]

Later William Faulkner and Thomas Job were reported as working on the script. Raoul Walsh was taken from the film Night Shift (replaced by Vincent Sherman) to work on the movie.[6] Helmut Dantine was also taken off Night Shift to star in the film.[7] Julie Bishop, who had just impressed in Action in the North Atlantic, was eventually cast in the female lead.[8]

Eventually Jack Chertok took over producing.[9]

Warner Bros was aware that their star had recently been embroiled in a real-life scandal, with his acquittal in a rape trial only serving to increase the box-office "draw" of the 1943 feature. Flynn is cast as the faithful lover and invariably brought down the house in 1943, after assuring his fiancee, Laura that she's the only woman he's ever loved, he turns away and quips, "What am I saying?"[2]

During the production of Northern Pursuit, Flynn took ill in May 1943, collapsing on the set and being hospitalized for a week. The studio released information indicating he had a "upper respiratory ailment," but he was battling tuberculosis.[2]

The aircraft in Northern Pursuit is the ubiquitous Lockheed Hudson bomber, a type that appeared frequently in Warner Bros films as the Lockheed Aircraft production plant was located near the studio and photography was often arranged when the bomber delivery schedule allowed. A combination of model and live-action footage was used in the aircraft sequences.[10] Interiors and exteriors shot at the Burbank studios alternated with location shooting at Sun Valley, Idaho to replicate the Canadian north. Stock footage of Winnipeg also was used in the court martial sequence. No location photography took place in Canada.[11]


Although similar to other Flynn "swashbucklers", the public and critical reaction was mixed. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times considered it "old business" for the star, and the production "came huffing and puffing" to the Strand Theatre in New York for its premiere.[12] The film sold 215,345 admissions at the French box office.[13]



  1. ^ "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  2. ^ a b c Thomas et al. 1969, p. 133.
  3. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama: 'Christopher Bean' to costar Woolley, Gish." Los Angeles Times September 19, 1942, p. A8.
  4. ^ "Screen Notes." The Christian Science Monitor, September 25, 1942, p. 10.
  5. ^ "News of the Screen." The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1942, p. 11.
  6. ^ "Screen news here and in Hollywood: Flynn set for 'To the Last Man'." The New York Times, February 24, 1943, p. 25.
  7. ^ "By telephone to The New York Times." The new York Times, March 9, 1943, p. 18.
  8. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Drama and film: Julie Bishop becomes stellar personality in 'To the Last Man' with Errol Flynn." Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1943, p. A10.
  9. ^ Daugherty, Frank. "Special to The Christian Science Monitor: Short-subject expert turns to features: Hollywood letter." The Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1943, p. 4.
  10. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 44.
  11. ^ "Location shooting." IMDb. Retrieved: June 5, 2011.
  12. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Northern Pursuit (1943):'Northern Pursuit' Starring Errol Flynn, at the Strand." The New York Times, November 26, 1943.
  13. ^ "Box office results of Raoul Walsh films in France." Box Office Story. Retrieved: January 26, 2015.


  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.
  • Thomas, Tony, Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarty. The Films of Errol Flynn. New York: Citadel Press, 1969. ISBN 978-0-80650-237-3.

External links[edit]