Passage to Marseille (1944)

110 mins | Drama | 11 March 1944

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designer:

Carl Jules Weyl

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written statement: "This is the story of a Free French Air Squadron. It is also the story of France. For a nation exists not alone in terms of maps and boundaries, but in the hearts of men. To millions of Frenchmen, France has never surrendered. And today, she lives immortal and defiant, in the spirit of the Free French Air Force, as it carries her war to the skies over the Rhineland." Marshal Philippe Pétain signed an armistice on 25 Jun 1940. He headed the collaborationist Vichy government until 1944. The film is structured in a Chinese box-like series of flashbacks that was criticized by contemporary reviewers as a confusing device. Although the film was not a sequel to Warner Bros.' popular 1943 film Casablanca , it reunited many of the cast members of that film in a similar story about a seemingly cynical idealist. According to information in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, technical advisor Sylvain Robert was the vice-president of the Fighting French movement in Southern California and Jean Gabin was considered for the role of "Matrac." A 26 Jul 1943 HR news item notes that some scenes were shot on location in Victorville, CA. A 17 Sep 1943 HR news item reports that a full-scale Merchant Marine vessel modeled after the French ship the Ville de Nancy was built by Warner Bros. for the film. The ship took three months to ... More Less

The film begins with the following written statement: "This is the story of a Free French Air Squadron. It is also the story of France. For a nation exists not alone in terms of maps and boundaries, but in the hearts of men. To millions of Frenchmen, France has never surrendered. And today, she lives immortal and defiant, in the spirit of the Free French Air Force, as it carries her war to the skies over the Rhineland." Marshal Philippe Pétain signed an armistice on 25 Jun 1940. He headed the collaborationist Vichy government until 1944. The film is structured in a Chinese box-like series of flashbacks that was criticized by contemporary reviewers as a confusing device. Although the film was not a sequel to Warner Bros.' popular 1943 film Casablanca , it reunited many of the cast members of that film in a similar story about a seemingly cynical idealist. According to information in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, technical advisor Sylvain Robert was the vice-president of the Fighting French movement in Southern California and Jean Gabin was considered for the role of "Matrac." A 26 Jul 1943 HR news item notes that some scenes were shot on location in Victorville, CA. A 17 Sep 1943 HR news item reports that a full-scale Merchant Marine vessel modeled after the French ship the Ville de Nancy was built by Warner Bros. for the film. The ship took three months to build. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Feb 1944.
---
Daily Variety
16 Feb 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Feb 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 43
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 44
p. 17.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Feb 44
p. 1761.
New York Times
17 Feb 44
p. 12.
Variety
16 Feb 44
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Hans Conreid
Oscar Loraine
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Hal B. Wallis Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff dir
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Men Without Country by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (Boston, 1942).
SONGS
"Someday I'll Meet You Again," music by Max Steiner, lyrics by Ned Washington.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Message to Marseille
Release Date:
11 March 1944
Production Date:
late July--early November 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 March 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12525
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
110
Length(in feet):
9,853
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Somewhere in England, war correspondent Manning arrives at the home base of a Free French air squadron led by Captain Freycinet and is particularly impressed by Jean Matrac, a gunner. Later, he asks Freycinet for Matrac's story: At the outbreak of the war, Freycinet receives orders to return to France from Southeast Asia. Also on board the ship, the Ville de Nancy , is Major Duval, a follower of Marshal Philippe Pétain, and some of his men. They soon receive word that the Germans have broken through the Maginot Line. Shortly after passing through the Panama Canal, the crew spots a suspicious boat containing five nearly dead men. The men--Matrac, Petit, Renault, Marius and Garou--claim to be Venezuelan miners trying to return to France, but Duval suspects that they have actually escaped from the penal colony at Devil's Island. Captain Patain Malo refuses to lock up the men as Duval demands and they are allowed to work for their passage. After Freycinet warns the men of Duval's suspicions, Renault admits that they are fugitives from Devil's Island and explains how they escaped: Petit was imprisoned for killing a policeman while defending his farm; Garou murdered his sweetheart during a lover's quarrel; Marius is a safecracker; and Renault is a deserter from the Army. On Devil's Island, the horrible conditions drive them to plan an escape with the help of Grandpère, an older convict who served his term but is not allowed to leave the island. As their leader, the men choose Matrac, who was sentenced to Devil's Island for his political activities in France: In 1938, Matrac is a journalist and fervent ... +


Somewhere in England, war correspondent Manning arrives at the home base of a Free French air squadron led by Captain Freycinet and is particularly impressed by Jean Matrac, a gunner. Later, he asks Freycinet for Matrac's story: At the outbreak of the war, Freycinet receives orders to return to France from Southeast Asia. Also on board the ship, the Ville de Nancy , is Major Duval, a follower of Marshal Philippe Pétain, and some of his men. They soon receive word that the Germans have broken through the Maginot Line. Shortly after passing through the Panama Canal, the crew spots a suspicious boat containing five nearly dead men. The men--Matrac, Petit, Renault, Marius and Garou--claim to be Venezuelan miners trying to return to France, but Duval suspects that they have actually escaped from the penal colony at Devil's Island. Captain Patain Malo refuses to lock up the men as Duval demands and they are allowed to work for their passage. After Freycinet warns the men of Duval's suspicions, Renault admits that they are fugitives from Devil's Island and explains how they escaped: Petit was imprisoned for killing a policeman while defending his farm; Garou murdered his sweetheart during a lover's quarrel; Marius is a safecracker; and Renault is a deserter from the Army. On Devil's Island, the horrible conditions drive them to plan an escape with the help of Grandpère, an older convict who served his term but is not allowed to leave the island. As their leader, the men choose Matrac, who was sentenced to Devil's Island for his political activities in France: In 1938, Matrac is a journalist and fervent anti-Nazi. His newspaper is destroyed after he denounces Édouard Daladier for signing the Munich Pact with Adolf Hitler. Matrac and Paula, his girl friend, escape to the countryside where they are married, but soon discover that Matrac is accused of murdering a pressmen who was killed during the attack on the newspaper. Matrac is convicted of murder and sent to Devil's Island. As the men prepare to leave, Grandpère, a patriotic Frenchman, insists that each one swear to fight for France should they succeed in their escape attempt. When Freycinet hears their story, he agrees to help them. After Pétain signs an armistice with Germany, Malo fears that his cargo--valuable nickel ore--will fall into German hands if he docks in Marseille, so he changes course for England. When Duval discovers the change in plans, he and the Pétain loyalists try to take over the ship, but are thwarted by the other sailors and the convicts. One of Duval's men manages to radio their position to the Germans, however, and several men are killed in an aerial attack before Matrac shoots down the German plane. On his arrival in England, Matrac learns that he has a son whom he has never seen. Whenever possible on a mission, he flies his plane over Paula's house in France and he drops a letter to her. Tonight, however, Matrac's plane is badly damaged and he dies holding a letter to his son, which Freycinet later reads at his graveside. +

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

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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.