Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942): Farrow’s War Film, Starring

John Farrow directed Commandos Strike at Dawn, a war film written by Irwin Shaw from the short story, “The Commandos by C.S. Forester,” published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in June 1942.

Shot in Canada, the film starred Paul Muni, Anna Lee, Lillian Gish (in her screen comeback), Cedric Hardwicke and Robert Coote.

Paul Muni plays Erik Toresen, a peaceful widower and father who’s stirred to action and violence after the Nazis occupy his quiet Norwegian fishing village.

When the Germans begin their brutal abuse, Erik forms a Resistance group. He kills the Maxi head occupying his village, and escapes to Britain.

While there, he guides British Commandos to a raid on secret airstrip that the Germans are building on the Norwegian coast.

Like other agit-prop features, this film contains many patriotic-ideological speeches, such as when Eric proclaims: “For many years, we believed that we live in a civilized society, but we live in a jungle. We must learn from the German how to be animals, how to use a knife.”

The tale is narrated by Lester Cowan.

Paul Muni as Eric Toresen
Anna Lee as Judith Bowen
Lillian Gish as Mrs Bergesen
Cedric Hardwicke as Admiral Bowen
Ray Collins as Johan Bergesen
Robert Coote as Robert Bowen
Rosemary DeCamp as Hilma Arnesen
Alexander Knox as German Captain
Elisabeth Fraser as Anna Korstad
Richard Derr as Gunnar Korstad
Erville Alderson as Johan Garme
Barbara Everest as Mrs. Olav
Rod Cameron as Pastor
Louis Jean Heydt as Karl Arnesen
George Macready as Schoolteacher


Produced by Sam Wood and Buddy G. DeSylva
Written by C.S. Forester (story) and Irwin Shaw
Music b Louis Gruenberg and John Leipold Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Edited by Anne Bauchens
Produced and distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date: December 30, 1942
Running time: 100 minutes


I am grateful to TCM for showing the film as part of tribute to Paul Muni, October 28, 2019.