Alaska Highway (1943)

66 mins | Drama | 1943

Director:

Frank McDonald

Cinematographer:

Fred Jackman Jr.

Editor:

William Ziegler

Production Designer:

F. Paul Sylos

Production Company:

Pine-Thomas Productions
Full page view
HISTORY

The film opens with the following written acknowledgment: "The producers are especially grateful to the Province of Alberta, Canada, for authentic scenes filmed on the Alcan Highway." The following written dedication also appears on the film: "For the U.S. Engineer Corps--the officers and men, who slashed the Alcan Highway through in time to protect our Alaskan outposts--this picture is a token of respect and admiration. It had to be done--and they did it!" The Alaska Highway, originally called the Alcan Highway, was constructed between Mar and Nov 1942 by the U.S. Army as a military and public road. A PM magazine review lambasted the filmmakers for ignoring the fact that of the seven regiments that worked on the Alaska Highway, three were comprised of black soldiers. Noting that when the southbound and northbound bulldozers met at the completion of the highway, one of the bulldozers was manned by a black soldier, Corporal R. Sims, Jr., the reviewer commented: "Now wouldn't you think that a major American film studio, after the pledge of Hollywood to treat the Negro with fairness and honesty in films, would seize upon an opportunity like this to show the world the American Negro sharing equally with his white fellow-soldier in this epochal moment in breaking down the barriers of the world? Wouldn't you think that the passion for historical accuracy that Hollywood likes to plume itself for would dictate that this scene be faithfully recorded for posterity in any film which presumes to usurp the title Alaska Highway ?...Not in this lily-white Paramount version of Pan-American history." Other reviews note that the filmmakers obtained footage of the actual construction of ... More Less

The film opens with the following written acknowledgment: "The producers are especially grateful to the Province of Alberta, Canada, for authentic scenes filmed on the Alcan Highway." The following written dedication also appears on the film: "For the U.S. Engineer Corps--the officers and men, who slashed the Alcan Highway through in time to protect our Alaskan outposts--this picture is a token of respect and admiration. It had to be done--and they did it!" The Alaska Highway, originally called the Alcan Highway, was constructed between Mar and Nov 1942 by the U.S. Army as a military and public road. A PM magazine review lambasted the filmmakers for ignoring the fact that of the seven regiments that worked on the Alaska Highway, three were comprised of black soldiers. Noting that when the southbound and northbound bulldozers met at the completion of the highway, one of the bulldozers was manned by a black soldier, Corporal R. Sims, Jr., the reviewer commented: "Now wouldn't you think that a major American film studio, after the pledge of Hollywood to treat the Negro with fairness and honesty in films, would seize upon an opportunity like this to show the world the American Negro sharing equally with his white fellow-soldier in this epochal moment in breaking down the barriers of the world? Wouldn't you think that the passion for historical accuracy that Hollywood likes to plume itself for would dictate that this scene be faithfully recorded for posterity in any film which presumes to usurp the title Alaska Highway ?...Not in this lily-white Paramount version of Pan-American history." Other reviews note that the filmmakers obtained footage of the actual construction of the highway for use in the film. A pre-production news item in HR reported that a camera crew filmed highway construction in Azusa, CA, for possible use in the film. Reviews variously list John Wegman's character name as "Swithers" and "Swithens." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Jun 1943.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1943.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jun 43
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Jun 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 43
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
26 Jun 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Mar 43
p. 1192.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Jun 43
p. 1387.
Variety
23 Jun 43
p. 24.
Variety
27 Oct 43
p. 10.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
Brooklyn, NY opening: week of 21 October 1943
Production Date:
4 January--late January 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 October 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12573
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
66
Length(in feet):
6,071
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

In February, 1942, builder Blair Caswell recommends his friend Pop Ormsby's road building company for a contract with the United States government to help build the new Alaska highway. The project has been given top priority since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, because the U.S. wants to set up defense outposts in Alaska. In accordance with the terms of the contract, Ormsby workers enlist in the U.S. Army Engineering Corps. Pop's son Woody, however, prefers to enlist for combat duty, while Woody's brother Steve, who has been following in his father's footsteps, stays on to work with Pop. Before the company heads for Alaska, Woody falls in love with Ann Caswell, Blair's daughter, unaware that his brother has been dating her. Ann genuinely falls in love with Woody, but is disappointed that he does not see the merit of the Engineering Corps. When Ormsby and company finally arrive in Dawson Creek, Canada, where they are to begin excavation for the highway, Woody and his pal, Frosty Gimble, are waiting to join them. The crew begins the hard labor of clearing forests and dynamiting rock to make way for the highway. When Steve nearly falls from a cliff, he is forced to drop his bag of dynamite for his own safety, and Woody saves his life. Later, Woody confesses to Ann that he returned only because he is in love with her, and she reciprocates his affection. Steve becomes embittered when he sees the pair together and requests a transfer, but Pop talks the brothers into suppressing their feud. The arduous work continues, but Blair puts pressure on Pop because the ... +


In February, 1942, builder Blair Caswell recommends his friend Pop Ormsby's road building company for a contract with the United States government to help build the new Alaska highway. The project has been given top priority since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, because the U.S. wants to set up defense outposts in Alaska. In accordance with the terms of the contract, Ormsby workers enlist in the U.S. Army Engineering Corps. Pop's son Woody, however, prefers to enlist for combat duty, while Woody's brother Steve, who has been following in his father's footsteps, stays on to work with Pop. Before the company heads for Alaska, Woody falls in love with Ann Caswell, Blair's daughter, unaware that his brother has been dating her. Ann genuinely falls in love with Woody, but is disappointed that he does not see the merit of the Engineering Corps. When Ormsby and company finally arrive in Dawson Creek, Canada, where they are to begin excavation for the highway, Woody and his pal, Frosty Gimble, are waiting to join them. The crew begins the hard labor of clearing forests and dynamiting rock to make way for the highway. When Steve nearly falls from a cliff, he is forced to drop his bag of dynamite for his own safety, and Woody saves his life. Later, Woody confesses to Ann that he returned only because he is in love with her, and she reciprocates his affection. Steve becomes embittered when he sees the pair together and requests a transfer, but Pop talks the brothers into suppressing their feud. The arduous work continues, but Blair puts pressure on Pop because the teams working their way south from Alaska are moving faster than the Ormsby teams. Pop then reprimands Woody because he is clearcutting too slowly, and Woody confronts Steve, betting one month's salary that he can clear more territory with a bulldozer than Steve can. Steve and Woody's reckless competition results in the injury of their comrade, Hank Lincoln. Pop now angrily approves Steve's request for a transfer, and Blair tells Ann that she must do what she can to resolve the situation, or they may lose Steve forever. As a result, Ann sends for Woody, who goes to her cabin thinking she is seeking a romantic rendezvous. After stoking the fire in the fireplace, Woody is shocked when Ann informs him that she is calling off their romance. When he opens the door to leave, Woody finds a raging forest fire outside the cabin, caused by embers from Ann's chimney. Woody leads Ann to safety, but Frosty is severely burned when a gas can he is moving explodes, and he dies the next day. Because of the fire, Steve's request for a transfer was never delivered, and Woody now decides to transfer. However, as he is leaving, a landslide occurs where the crew is working, and Woody and Pop rush to the scene. Steve is buried in a landslide while trying to rescue his co-worker, Roughhouse, and Pop and Woody rush to rescue both men, just before a huge tree crashes down. With all the men safe, Ann rushes to Woody's side, and Steve good-naturedly resigns himself to the fact that they are in love. The Engineer Corps doubles their efforts, and after six months of work, the northbound team meets the southbound team. The Alcan Highway is officially opened on 20 Nov 1942 as army convoys drive northward. +

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.