Commandos Strike at Dawn (1943)

96 or 100 mins | Drama | 7 January 1943

Director:

John Farrow

Writer:

Irwin Shaw

Producer:

Lester Cowan

Cinematographer:

William C. Mellor

Editor:

Anne Bauchens

Production Designer:

Gordon Wiles

Production Company:

Lester Cowan Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Commandos Come at Dawn . The picture opens with the following dedication and prologue: "dedicated to the officers and men of the armed forces of Canada, Great Britain and Fighting Norway who participated in the filming of the picture. For long past the kingdom of Norway had been a domain of peace. Content with their pattern of honesty and industry they were a people who feared naught and envied nobody. So it was in the summer of 1939..."
       Preproduction news items in HR note that at one time Columbia negotiated with Jean Hersholt to appear in the film. Although a news item places Edmund Gwenn in the cast, he does not appear in the released film. According to unidentified contemporary sources in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library, the Canadian government was instrumental in the production of the film. The picture, which was shot predominantly on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, featured actual commando trainees from the Canadian Scottish, Sault Ste. Marie, Rocky Mountain Rangers and Royal Rifles divisions of the Canadian Army. A quartet of underground warfare experts from Canada's Norwegian Flying School served as technical directors on the film, according to another unidentified contemporary source. Director John Farrow had been a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy until a war injury forced his retirement early in the war. A news item in PM adds that the Canadian government loaned planes, pilots and warships to the production. Commandos Strike at Dawn marked the film debut of actor George Macready.
       After the film was completed, it ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Commandos Come at Dawn . The picture opens with the following dedication and prologue: "dedicated to the officers and men of the armed forces of Canada, Great Britain and Fighting Norway who participated in the filming of the picture. For long past the kingdom of Norway had been a domain of peace. Content with their pattern of honesty and industry they were a people who feared naught and envied nobody. So it was in the summer of 1939..."
       Preproduction news items in HR note that at one time Columbia negotiated with Jean Hersholt to appear in the film. Although a news item places Edmund Gwenn in the cast, he does not appear in the released film. According to unidentified contemporary sources in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library, the Canadian government was instrumental in the production of the film. The picture, which was shot predominantly on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, featured actual commando trainees from the Canadian Scottish, Sault Ste. Marie, Rocky Mountain Rangers and Royal Rifles divisions of the Canadian Army. A quartet of underground warfare experts from Canada's Norwegian Flying School served as technical directors on the film, according to another unidentified contemporary source. Director John Farrow had been a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy until a war injury forced his retirement early in the war. A news item in PM adds that the Canadian government loaned planes, pilots and warships to the production. Commandos Strike at Dawn marked the film debut of actor George Macready.
       After the film was completed, it was selected by the U.S. government to be rushed to theaters in North Africa. Twenty home front organizations and 2,000 defense workers from Lockheed Aircraft attended the Los Angeles premiere, according to a HR news item. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score, and also marked Lillian Gish's first screen appearance since the 1933 Paramount picture His Double Life (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1924). According to a HR news item, Gish's performance in Commandos Strike at Dawn won her a contract from producer Lester Cowan. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jan 43
p. 25.
Box Office
26-Dec-42
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 42
pp. 3, 9
Film Daily
18 Dec 42
p. 11.
Film Daily
13 Jun 43
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 42
p. 2, 4
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 42
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 42
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 43
p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald
19-Dec-42
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Oct 42
p. 962.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Dec 42
p. 1078.
New York Herald Tribune
17 Jan 1943.
---
PM (Journal)
4 Oct 1942.
---
Variety
16 Dec 42
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst to dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Commandos" by C. S. Forester in Hearst's International-Comspolitan (Jun 1942).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Commandos Come at Dawn
Release Date:
7 January 1943
Premiere Information:
Pittsburgh premiere: 30 December 1942
Production Date:
20 July--25 September 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
7 January 1943
Copyright Number:
LP11778
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
96 or 100
Length(in feet):
8,978
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1939, the residents of a peaceful Norwegian fishing village gather to celebrate the wedding of Anna and Gunner Korstad. That evening, as widower Eric Toresen dances with Judith Bowen, the daughter of a British admiral, Bergesen, the town pessimist, worries about the encroaching German forces. After they finish their dance, Eric introduces Judith, who is scheduled to sail for England the next day with her father and brother Robert, to his young daughter Solveig. Soon after Eric bids a melancholy farewell to Judith, Hitler begins his march across Europe and into Norway. After seizing power from the Norwegian government, the Germans proclaim that resistance will be met with death and impose rigid curfews and restrictions on the residents of the fishing village. When Bergesen questions their actions, the Germans arrest him and take him away for questioning. After hoisting the Nazi flag over the village, the Germans proceed to burn objectionable books, confiscate the villagers' supplies and indoctrinate their children. When Solveig returns home from school one day and recites the lesson of German superiority taught her by a Nazi officer, Eric protests to her teacher. In reply, the teacher wistfully speaks of joining the Norwegian resistance movement in England. Soon after, Bergesen, now a broken old man after his experience with the Nazis, returns home. Outraged by the Nazis' barbarism, Eric admonishes the villagers to unite and form an underground resistance movement. Anna, fearing for her life and that of her husband Gunner, pleads to let others fight their battles for them. Gunner joins the resistance, however, and one day is arrested and executed for his activities. In retaliation, ... +


In 1939, the residents of a peaceful Norwegian fishing village gather to celebrate the wedding of Anna and Gunner Korstad. That evening, as widower Eric Toresen dances with Judith Bowen, the daughter of a British admiral, Bergesen, the town pessimist, worries about the encroaching German forces. After they finish their dance, Eric introduces Judith, who is scheduled to sail for England the next day with her father and brother Robert, to his young daughter Solveig. Soon after Eric bids a melancholy farewell to Judith, Hitler begins his march across Europe and into Norway. After seizing power from the Norwegian government, the Germans proclaim that resistance will be met with death and impose rigid curfews and restrictions on the residents of the fishing village. When Bergesen questions their actions, the Germans arrest him and take him away for questioning. After hoisting the Nazi flag over the village, the Germans proceed to burn objectionable books, confiscate the villagers' supplies and indoctrinate their children. When Solveig returns home from school one day and recites the lesson of German superiority taught her by a Nazi officer, Eric protests to her teacher. In reply, the teacher wistfully speaks of joining the Norwegian resistance movement in England. Soon after, Bergesen, now a broken old man after his experience with the Nazis, returns home. Outraged by the Nazis' barbarism, Eric admonishes the villagers to unite and form an underground resistance movement. Anna, fearing for her life and that of her husband Gunner, pleads to let others fight their battles for them. Gunner joins the resistance, however, and one day is arrested and executed for his activities. In retaliation, Eric stabs the German officer who ordered his execution, then seeks safety for his daughter and takes her to Mrs. Olav's cabin in the hills above the village. Exhausted, Eric falls asleep there and is awakened the next morning by the sound of German trucks. Eric and Solveig hide in a well, and after searching the house, the Germans inform Mrs. Olav that they have taken five villagers hostage, her grandson among them, and will execute them unless Eric surrenders within two days. Entrusting Solveig to Mrs. Olav's care, Eric takes cover in the woods, where he overhears some German soldiers discussing the construction of a secret German airstrip there. Realizing that he must notify the British about the airstrip, Eric asks Johan Garmo to transport him to England in his fishing boat. When Garmo tells Eric about the killing of the hostages, Eric decides to surrender, but Garmo convinces him that he must remain free because his mission is crucial. Agreeing to convey Eric and several others to England, Garmo asks innkeeper Karl Arnesen to join them. After accepting Garmo's offer, Karl informs the Germans of their plans and is given a silent dog whistle with which to summon the German troops once he boards the boat. As the men gather in the woods to meet Garmo that night, Karl's wife Hilma warns Eric of her husband's treachery. Upon casting off from shore, Eric seizes Karl's whistle and pushes him overboard to certain death. Days later, the little boat lands in England and Eric travels to London to tell Admiral Bowen about the airstrip. After agreeing to lead a troop of British commandos to the strip, Eric meets Judith again. When Eric is ordered to immediately fly with Robert, now a soldier, to Scotland, Judith follows him there. On the eve of his mission, Eric proposes to Judith, and after she accepts, he ships out with the commandos. Under Eric's navigation, the British ship sails across the North Sea, up the fjords and to a river leading to the airstrip. As the commandos disembark, Robert dispatches two men to find Solveig. After a prolonged battle with the Germans, the commandos destroy the airstrip and return victoriously to their ship. When the men sent to find Solveig report that she and Mrs. Olav are being held prisoner at the inn, Robert and Eric lead the troops to free her. In the ensuing combat, Eric and Robert are both killed by German bullets, but the commandos overpower the Germans and free their prisoners. As Solveig and the other villagers sail to safety in England, they vow to return home to Norway one day. +

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.