North Star, The: Lillian Hellman Tale of War for Goldwyn

RKO Radio
 

Producer Samuel Goldwyn supported wholeheartedly this picture whose goal was to elicit the sympathy of the American public for the Russians, who were then U.S. allies.  However, when the political climate changed after WWII and the Soviet were turned into the enemy, the film became an embarrassment to some of its makers and they had to “explain” their action to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC).

 

The film was meant to be a moving story of the suffering and sacrifices of Soviet peasants at the hands of the Nazi German invaders.  The pre-war existence was portrayed idealistically and nostalgically, but the war sequences were treated in more starkly realistic terms.  There’s one particularly grim scene in which a Nazi doctor drains Russian children of blood for transfusion into wounded German soldiers.  “North Star” is at its most political with its account of the guerrilla warfare executed by Russian farmers against the occupying Nazi force.

 

Scribe Lillian Hellman, better known as a playwright (“The Children’s Hour,” “The Little Foxes”), claimed to have conducted systematic research for her tale, aiming to present the villagers as individuals rather than stock characters of the usual Hollywood kind. 

 

As is well known, Lilian Hellman was blacklisted for decades due to her political sympathies and her work.

 

Oscar Alert

 

Oscar Nominations: 6

 

Screenplay (Original): Lillian Hellman

Cinematography (b/w): James Wong Howe

Interior Decoration (b/w): Perry Ferguson; Howard Bristol

Sound Recording: Thomas Moulton

Scoring (Dramatic/Comedy): Aaron Copland

Special Effects: Clarence Slifer and R.O. Binger, photographic; Thomas T. Moulton, sound  

 

Oscar Awards: None

 

Oscar Context:

 

The Screenplay Oscar went to Norman Krasna for “Princess O’Rourke,” the Cinematography to Arthur Miller for “The Song of Bernadette,” which also won for Art Direction and Alfred Newman’s Score.

 

The Sound Oscar was won by Stephen Dunn for “This Land Is Mine,” and the Special Effects to “Crash Dive.”

 

This was the last year in which ten films were nominated for Best Picture.  In 1944, the top category was standardized to include five nominees (as in most categories). The Oscar-winner “Casablanca” competed for the top award with “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “The Human Comedy,” “In Which We Serve,” “Madame Curie,” “The More the Merrier,” “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “The Song of Bernadette,” and “Watch on the Rhine.”

 

The most nominated films were “The Song of Bernadette” (10), followed by “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (9).  Though at the top of his form, Bogart lost the Oscar to Paul Lukas for “Watch on the Rhine,” which won the Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle.  Bogart’s co-star, Ingrid Bergman was nominated for Best Actress in Paramount’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” rather than for this picture.

 

Cast:

 

Anne Baxter

Dana Andrews

Walter Huston

Walter Brennan

Ann Harding

Jane Withers

Farley Granger

Erich Von Stroheim

Dean Jagger

Eric Robert

Carl Benton Reid

Ann Carter

Esther Dale

Ruth Nelson

Paul Guilfoyle

Martin Kosleck

Tonio Selwart

Robert Lowery

 

Credits

Produced by Samuel Goldwyn.

Directed by Lewis Milestone.

Screenplay by William Hellman, based on her Original story.

 

Release date: November 4, 1943