Emperor of the North (1973)

PG | 118 or 120 mins | Drama | May 1973

Full page view
HISTORY

The film's working title was Emperor of the North Pole , which also was the title under which it was reviewed in trade publications and some newspapers. According to a Jun 1973 DV news item, the title was changed because the producers feared it would give the impression that the action took place at the North Pole, rather than denoting the infallibility of the film's protagonist. The film opens with the following written prologue: "1933, the height of the Great Depression. Hoboes roamed the land; riding the rails in a desperate search for jobs. Spurned by society, unwanted and homeless, they became a breed apart. Nomads who scorned the law and enforced their own. Dedicated to their destruction was the Railroad Man who stood between them and their only source of survival--The Trains." Onscreen closing credits feature the following written acknowledgment: "We would like to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the state of Oregon and the Oregon Pacific and Eastern Railroad for their cooperation during the filming of Emperor of the North ."
       According to production notes contained in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, the governor of Oregon allowed the production company to film at two of Oregon's historic train trestles: the Buxton Trestle and the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad Trestle. According to studio production notes, location filming was done in Buxton and Cottage Grove, OR. According to a Jun 1966 Var news item, at that time, screenwriter Christopher Knopf, a railroad enthusiast, was initially hired by Arena Productions to write a screenplay. Inter-Hemisphere Productions, Ltd., the company that ... More Less

The film's working title was Emperor of the North Pole , which also was the title under which it was reviewed in trade publications and some newspapers. According to a Jun 1973 DV news item, the title was changed because the producers feared it would give the impression that the action took place at the North Pole, rather than denoting the infallibility of the film's protagonist. The film opens with the following written prologue: "1933, the height of the Great Depression. Hoboes roamed the land; riding the rails in a desperate search for jobs. Spurned by society, unwanted and homeless, they became a breed apart. Nomads who scorned the law and enforced their own. Dedicated to their destruction was the Railroad Man who stood between them and their only source of survival--The Trains." Onscreen closing credits feature the following written acknowledgment: "We would like to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the state of Oregon and the Oregon Pacific and Eastern Railroad for their cooperation during the filming of Emperor of the North ."
       According to production notes contained in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, the governor of Oregon allowed the production company to film at two of Oregon's historic train trestles: the Buxton Trestle and the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad Trestle. According to studio production notes, location filming was done in Buxton and Cottage Grove, OR. According to a Jun 1966 Var news item, at that time, screenwriter Christopher Knopf, a railroad enthusiast, was initially hired by Arena Productions to write a screenplay. Inter-Hemisphere Productions, Ltd., the company that eventually produced Knopf's screenplay, was owned by Kenneth Hyman, the film's executive producer. An Apr 1973 HR news item added that Bill Medley originally was signed to sing the title song, which was sung by Marty Robbins in the released film.
       Emperor of the North marked Keith Carradine's first starring role in a feature length film. The actual voice of then new President Franklin Roosevelt delivering a fireside chat over the radio was heard in one of the film's scenes. A modern source adds Lance Henriksen to the cast. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Jun 1973
p. 4596.
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1972.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1973.
---
Falling for Stars Newsletter
Mar-Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1972
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 1973
p. 3, 17.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
29 Jun 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1973.
---
New York Times
25 May 1973
p. 23.
Newsweek
11 Jun 1973.
---
Rollling Stone
21 Dec 1972
pp.32--38.
Time
11 Jun 1973.
---
Variety
6 Jul 1966.
---
Variety
23 May 1973
p. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Kenneth Hyman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Generator
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Lead man
Prop asst
Painter
Greensman
COSTUMES
Ward asst
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd re-rec
Sd eff
Sd eff
Sd eff
Dubs dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Titles & opticals
Spec eff
Visual eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Scr supv
Unit prod mgr
Casting
Unit pub
Auditor
Transportation capt
First aid
Prod secy
Craft service
STAND INS
Keith Carradine double
Lee Marvin double
Ernest Borgnine double
SOURCES
SONGS
"A Man and a Train," music by Frank DeVol, lyrics by Hal David, sung by Marty Robbins.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Emperor of the North Pole
Release Date:
May 1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 May 1973
Production Date:
11 July--mid October 1972
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
8 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43207
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
118 or 120
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1933 during the height of the Depression, hoboes ride the rails in Oregon as their means of survival, while Shack, the brutal conductor of the #19 train, vigilantly patrols his train, proud of the fact that he has vanquished any hobo who dared hitch a ride on the 19. Equally famed in hobo lore is A No. 1, the best train hopping tramp in the Northwest. As the #19 passes by his camp, A No. 1 hops the train and climbs through a hatch into the car below before Shack or his stooge Cracker can detect him. Inspired by A no. 1’s audacity, Cigaret, a young tramp hoping to make a name for himself, follows suit and jumps into the hatch, but is spotted by Shack, who then bolts the hatch shut, trapping both men inside. As Cigaret tries to act tough, A No. 1 wryly observes that they are locked in a cattle car, and when the animals are loaded at the next stop, they will be crushed to death. While Cigaret ponders their fate, A No. 1 sets the hay lining the car on fire, laughing as he fans the flames. When the slats of the car are weakened by the flames, A No. 1 hurls himself through the smoking wood, but when Cigaret tries to follow him, he is caught and imprisoned in the rail yard to await punishment. Angry that he has been outwitted by a tramp, Shack chastises the rail workers for their lax security. When Cigaret tries to burnish his reputation by boasting that he bested Shack, the rail workers, tired of Shack’s abuse, decide ... +


In 1933 during the height of the Depression, hoboes ride the rails in Oregon as their means of survival, while Shack, the brutal conductor of the #19 train, vigilantly patrols his train, proud of the fact that he has vanquished any hobo who dared hitch a ride on the 19. Equally famed in hobo lore is A No. 1, the best train hopping tramp in the Northwest. As the #19 passes by his camp, A No. 1 hops the train and climbs through a hatch into the car below before Shack or his stooge Cracker can detect him. Inspired by A no. 1’s audacity, Cigaret, a young tramp hoping to make a name for himself, follows suit and jumps into the hatch, but is spotted by Shack, who then bolts the hatch shut, trapping both men inside. As Cigaret tries to act tough, A No. 1 wryly observes that they are locked in a cattle car, and when the animals are loaded at the next stop, they will be crushed to death. While Cigaret ponders their fate, A No. 1 sets the hay lining the car on fire, laughing as he fans the flames. When the slats of the car are weakened by the flames, A No. 1 hurls himself through the smoking wood, but when Cigaret tries to follow him, he is caught and imprisoned in the rail yard to await punishment. Angry that he has been outwitted by a tramp, Shack chastises the rail workers for their lax security. When Cigaret tries to burnish his reputation by boasting that he bested Shack, the rail workers, tired of Shack’s abuse, decide to take advantage of Cracker by betting him that Cigaret will be the next new “king of the road.” Meanwhile, A No. 1. makes his way to a hobo camp, where he is cheered as “The Emperor of the North Pole” for his twenty minute ride on the #19 train. However, upon learning of Cigarette's boast that he beat Shack, A No. 1 declares that he will ride the #19 all the way to Portland, inscribing his challenge on a nearby water tower. At the rail yard, as the workers eagerly empty their pockets to bet on Cigaret, Shack enters, slams his fist down on the pile of money and sneers that Cigaret is nothing but a tenderfoot. Intimidated, Cigaret blurts out that he was not the only hobo in the car, and the “yardies” realize that A No. 1 was the real victor. At the mention of A No. 1’s name, Shack becomes enraged, prompting the yardies to begin betting on A No. 1. During the commotion, Cigaret slips out of the rail yard. A fog encompasses the yard the next morning as the #19 prepares to make its run, while at a switching station nearby, the hoboes pick the lock on the switch, then turn it the other way, diverting the #19 onto the wrong track. Determined to prevent A No. 1 from hopping his train, Shack orders full steam ahead, and when the speeding train is thrown onto the wrong set of tracks, it crashes into some parked boxcars. As Shack orders the engine to be put in reverse, A No. 1 runs alongside the train, and when Shack lashes at him with a heavy chain, A No. 1 uncouples the engine from the other cars and jumps off. Because the mail train is due to come down the track in three minutes, Shack and his crew recouple the engine to the rest of the train, then furiously shovel coal into the furnace, hoping to gain enough speed to reach the junction and switch onto the other set of tracks before the mail train arrives. In the frenzy, A No. 1 hops back onto the #19 and hides in a shipment of pipes. Cigaret is also hiding in the pipes, and as they clear the mail train, his hat blows off. Cracker spots it alongside the tracks and notifies Shack, who orders the train to stop so that they can search for unwanted riders. The train comes to rest over a railroad trestle, allowing A No. 1 and Cigaret to scramble down the trestle and onto land. After a thorough search of the train turns up nothing, Shack bullies Cracker into denying that he ever saw the hat. When Cigaret finds A No. 1 lounging along the hillside, A No. 1 orders him to stop following him, then scrambles back up the hill and jumps back onto the train, hiding in the undercarriage of a car. Undeterred, Cigaret joins him, and when Shack spots them, he strings a rope through a heavy metal rail pin and tosses it underneath the car. Tugging the pin up and down, Shack manages to strike Cigaret and cruelly laughs as Cigaret moans in pain. Pulling on the rope, A No. 1 ties it onto the carriage, disarming Shack. Although A No. 1 successfully jumps off the train, Cigaret hangs on in fear as Shack, pulling out a ball peen hammer from his waistband, hurls it at Cigaret, hitting him in the head and sending him flying off the car. Upon awakening, Cigaret tracks A No. 1 and finds him in the middle of a pile of dented, discarded grease cans. Shouldering a number of the cans, A No. 1 starts off on his own, after which Cigaret, angry at his dismissal, picks up several more and follows him. Cigaret finds A No. 1 sitting alongside the tracks. At the sound of a train whistle in the distance, A No. 1 smears grease on the tracks, helped by Cigaret. When the passenger train reaches the greased tracks it is unable to gain traction and has to slow down, allowing the hoboes to hop onto it. After the train pulls into the Salem station, at which the #19 has also stopped, the hoboes jump off. Soon after, as Cracker brags that A No. 1 can never best Shack, a yardman runs in with the news that a new message has appeared on the water tower, announcing that A No. 1 will ride the #19 all the way to Portland that day. Once the train pulls out, A No. 1 and Cigaret jump onto the undercarriage and Shack again tries his railroad tie trick, this time slapping A No. 1 with the tie. When A No. 1 calls to Cigaret to grab the rope, Cigaret ignores him, and in desperation A No. 1 kicks the undercarriage brake, causing the train to slam to a stop, jarring Shack, killing Cracker and throwing burning hot coals onto the stoker’s back. Cigaret, his leg injured, hobbles off and sees A No. 1, who has also jumped off the train nursing a large gash in his calf. Certain that he has bested A No. 1. because he stayed on the train, Cigaret crows that he is now Emperor of the North Pole. Meanwhile, Shack, heedless of Cracker’s death and the stoker’s pain, orders the engineer to start the train rolling. When Cigaret climbs onto the roof, Shack takes after him with his hammer and is about to take a swing at him when A No. 1 calls out to Shack and jumps him, sending them both tumbling into a flatbed car. After hurling his hammer at A No. 1 and missing, Shack grabs a heavy metal chain and begins to lash out at him. Spotting an axe attached to the side of the car, A No. 1 grabs the weapon, and as Cigaret watches from a safe perch, knocks Shack over the side of the train. Once A No. 1 hauls Shack back into the car, Shack attacks and A No. 1 slashes him on the shoulder with the axe, then uses the axe handle to shove him off the train. Jumping down from his perch, Cigaret remarks that he and A No. 1 would make a great team. Disgusted by Cigaret’s callowness, A No. 1 throws him off the train and yells that he will never be the Emperor of the North Pole because he does not have the heart for it. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.