AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The North Star
Alternate Title: Armoured Attack
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
Release Date:   Nov 1943
Production Date:   mid-Feb--late Jul 1943
Duration (in mins):   106
Duration (in feet):   9,521
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Anne Baxter (Marina)  
    Dana Andrews (Kolya)  
    Walter Brennan (Karp)  
    Ann Harding (Sophia)  
    Jane Withers (Clavdia)  
    Farley Granger (Damian)  
    Erich von Stroheim (Dr. von Harden)  
    Dean Jagger (Rodion)  
    Eric Roberts (Grisha)  
    Carl Benton Reid (Boris)  
    Ann Carter (Olga)  
    Esther Dale (Anna)  
    Ruth Nelson (Nadya)  
    Paul Guilfoyle (Iakin)  
    Martin Kosleck (Dr. Richter)  
    Tonio Selwart (German captain)  
    Peter Pohlenz (German lieutenant)  
    Robert Lowery (Russian gunner)  
    Gene O'Donnell (Russian pilot)  
    Frank Wilcox (Petrov)  
    Loudie Claar (Woman on hospital cot)  
    Lynn Winthrop (Guerilla girl)  
    Charles Bates (Patya)  
    George Lynn (German pilot)  
    Minna Phillips (Old lady in wagon)  
    Edmund Cobb (Farmer)  
    Martin Faust (Farmer)  
    Jack Perrin (Farmer)  
    Bill Nestell (Farmer)  
    Al Ferguson (Farmer)  
    Henry Hall (Farmer)  
    John Judd (Farmer)  
    Florence Auer (Farmer)  
    Bill Walker (Young man in wagon)  
    Jerry Mickelsen (Farmer's son)  
    Clarence Straight (Young man in wagon)  
    Grace Cunard (Farmer's wife)  
    Bill Borzage (Accordian player in wagon)  
    Emma Dunn (Old lady)  
    Sarah Padden (Old lady)  
    Teddy Infuhr (Little stinker)  
    Grace Lenard (Woman on bridge)  
    Joyce Tucker (Little girl in hospital)  
    John Bagni (Guard at desk)  
    John Beverly (Orderly)  
    Ferdinand Schumann-Heink (Doctor's assistant)  
    Patricia Parks (Sonya)  
    Frederick Brunn (German motorcycle officer)  
    Ray Teal (German motorcycle officer)  
    Crane Whitley (German soldier)  
    Harry Strang (Guerrilla)  
    Lane Chandler (Guerrilla)  
    Serge Protzenko (Accordian player)  
    Ilia Khmara (Accordian player)  
    Constant Franke (Boris' aide)  
    Tommy Hall (Specialty dancer)  
    Ronn Marvin (Specialty dancer)  
    George Kole (Specialty dancer)  
    Jack Vlaskin (Specialty dancer)  
    William Sabbot (Specialty dancer)  
    Clair Freeman (Specialty dancer)  
    Eric Braunsteiner (Specialty dancer)  
    Tamara Laub (Specialty dancer)  
    Marie Vlaskin (Specialty dancer)  
    Inna Gest (Specialty dancer)  

Summary: In June 1941, in the small Russian farming village of North Star, pig farmer Karp briefly visits the home of Dr. Kurin, his cousin Anna and her children Clavdia and Grisha. Later, Karp chats with teenager Damian, who is enthusiastic about the next day's planned walking trip into the city of Kiev with Clavdia, Grisha, Damian's girl friend Marina and his older brother Kolya, an air pilot on leave. At Marina's home, her little sister Olga and parents, Rodion and Sophia, discuss that evening's plans for the village feast. Meanwhile, at Damian's home, his parents, Boris and Nadya, and Kolya are disturbed to hear news over the radio of German troop movements within Poland and the recent bombing of London. That evening the entire village takes part in unloading the supply train and celebrates the season in song and dance. The next morning the young people set out in high spirits on their hike to Kiev and soon meet up with Karp, who offers them a ride on his cart. They join a long line of carts headed for the city, but soon Karp and Kolya hear a distinctive sound, and when Kolya realizes it is the buzz of aircraft, he stops the caravan and tries to get everyone into the ditch as bombs rain down on them. After the planes pass over, the hikers discover several people have been killed and their own cart destroyed. In North Star, the villagers are going about their daily routine when the dive bombers abruptly attack, and Sophia watches with horror as Olga is caught in the strafing gunfire. As the planes depart, the village radio announces that the Germans have invaded Russia and the two countries are now officially at war. Boris, the village leader, gathers the survivors together and declares that the men must depart for the hills to take up guerrilla activities and the women and older people must remain behind to burn the village before the German army arrives. Rodion gives the village the oath of guerrillas before the men ride away. Boris then goes to the nearest army post to retrieve munitions for the guerrillas, but on his return he is strafed by another wave of planes. His truck turns over near where Damian, Kolya and the others are regrouping. Before dying, Boris instructs his sons to deliver the munitions to the guerrillas or North Star will be lost. After burying his father, Kolya helps load the gun supply onto two wagons, then departs to rejoin his air group. A village scout on horseback sees the advancing German army and reports to the women, who begin burning their houses. The Germans soon arrive in North Star and shoot several villagers to stop the burning, then question the survivors about Rodion's whereabouts. When none of the villagers respond, the soldiers torture Sophia, prompting Kurin to protest to the medical officer, Colonel von Harden, who explains that there are many unpleasant Nazi policies that must be acted upon. Meanwhile, as night falls, the hikers rest by the roadside, and as German scouts drive by, Grisha's dog darts out barking and three soldiers are dispatched to investigate. Damian and Karp send the others to harness the horses while they ambush the German soldiers and set off again. Early the next morning an exhausted Kolya is on his fourth bombing run with a novice pilot, who decides to strafe a German armoured division, but the plane is shot up and the pilot and co-pilot killed, forcing Kolya to take over. Realizing the plane is too damaged to land, Kolya crashes it into the tank line. Meanwhile, in North Star, the Germans have converted one remaining building into a hospital, where they force the village children to make blood transfusions for their wounded soldiers. Kurin, watching von Harden's cold efficiency, is bitterly shocked and attempts to save a young boy, who later dies in his arms. He takes the child's body to his father in the guerrilla hideout. Out in the forest, the hikers realize that the only route into North Star is across the road and they must cause a diversion to halt the German transport. Damian volunteers and, unknown to him, Clavdia follows, determined to overcome her fear. Both successfully bring the transport to a halt, allowing the carts to dash across further up the road, but when the Germans fire on the fleeing youths, Clavdia is mortally wounded. Damian is stunned by an exploding grenade and when he comes to, discovers he has been blinded. When Damian and Clavdia fail to return to the carts, Marina insists on looking for them, and she and Karp soon find the distraught Damian. Incensed by the murder of the village children who died as a result of the blood transfusions, the guerrillas decide they can no longer wait for the munitions and must attack. Rodion and a handful of guerrillas slip into North Star undetected and into a warehouse that stores barrels of gasoline, which they silently pour into the river and then ignite with grenades. As the guerrillas storm the town on horseback, armed only with clubs, the weary hikers reach the edge of town with the guncarts. A sentry rushes them into town, where the guerrillas immediately arm themselves and continue their attack. At the hospital Kurin berates von Harden for claiming to despise those he nevertheless serves, then kills him. Later, after driving the Germans out, the surviving villagers leave the smoking remains of North Star, vowing to make this the last war and to fight for a free world. 

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
  Sam Nelson (Asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn (Prod)
  William Cameron Menzies (Assoc prod)
Writer: Lillian Hellman (Orig story and scr)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Photog)
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson (Art dir)
  McClure Capps (Assoc)
Film Editor: Daniel Mandell (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Howard Bristol (Set dec)
Sound: Fred Lau (Sd rec)
  Thomas T. Moulton (Sd eff)
Special Effects: Ray Binger (Spec photog eff)
  Clarence Slifer (Spec photog eff)
Dance: David Lichine (Choreog)
Make Up: Robert Stephanoff (Makeup)
Production Misc: Zina Voynow (Russian tech adv)
  Walter Mayo (Prod mgr)
Country: United States

Songs: "Song of the Fatherland," "Chari Vari Rastabari," "The Younger Generation," "No Village Like Mine" and "Song of the Guerrillas," music by Aaron Copland, lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
Composer: Aaron Copland
  Ira Gershwin

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Crescent Productions, Inc. 4/11/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12585

PCA NO: 9464
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Guerrilla warfare
  Invasions
  Russia
  Village life
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Air pilots, Military
  Blindness
  Blood--Transfusion
  Bombing, Aerial
  Children
  Family relationships
  Farmers
  Fires
  Germany
  Hospitals
  Munitions
  Peasantry
  Physicians
  Self-sacrifice
  Torture
  War heroes

Note: According to modern sources, the film was originally conceived by writer Lillian Hellman and director William Wyler, perhaps at the indirect behest of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as a documentary on the war in Russia. Hellman and Wyler went so far as to consult with Russian Ambassador Litinov in Washington, D.C. and were surprised when the Soviet government approved the project and granted permission to film within Russia. Because of a delay, in part due to Goldwyn's hesitation to commit to the film and Wyler's enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Force, the project was re-conceived as a semi-documentary feature to be shot entirely in Hollywood.
       In an interview, Lewis Milestone asserted that it was Hellman's recommendation that he replace Wyler. Hellman disagreed so strongly with Milestone and Goldwyn's changes to her script that she bought back her contract for $30,000 from Goldwyn, ending an eight-year working relationship. Goldwyn brought in Edward Chodorov for some minor script revisions, which went uncredited. According to information in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen Office had strong reservations about allowing the blood transfusion scenes in the completed film.
       On 23 Oct 1943, the publisher of the MPH , Martin Quigley, published a statement entitled "Valour--Without Politics" defending The North Star as "a tremendous exploration of human experience, recorded in the events of life and strife of people who live and die with the grace of courage." In the 7 Nov 1943 Sunday edition of the New York Mirror , staff reviewer Frank Quinn praised the film as "one of the most vivid of war dramas." Quinn's review was printed in the first 1,500,000 copies of the magazine section, but was replaced with a negative review by the Mirror's editor, Jack Lait, for the remaining 300,000 copies. The substitute review was written by Lait, who denied that the change was made because the paper's publisher, William Randolph Hearst, had ordered all Hearst newspaper editors to describe The North Star as "pure Bolshevist propaganda." Lait's review, however, followed the Hearst directive, indicating that the film was "worse than Mission to Moscow " (see above) and "could not be more flagrant if it were paid for by Stalin." Hearst's smear campaign succeeded in slowing the film's box-office receipts. The picture was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Art Direction (Black-and-White); Cinematography (Black-and-White); Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture); Sound Recording; Special Effects (Photographic Effects, Clarence Slifer, Ray Binger; Sound Effects, Thomas T. Moulton; and Writing (Original Screenplay).
       The HR noted in Dec 1943 that the film was to be shown to state officials in Moscow under the auspices of the American Embassy. The same item noted that in London, first night proceeds from The North Star would go to Mrs. Winston Churchill for Russian war relief. An article in the LAT indicated that the film carried "one of the most sensational exposés of the war" in the scenes showing Nazi doctors draining Russian children of their blood for their wounded soldiers. According to HR , the editor of the Soviet national newspaper, Pravda , praised the depiction of Soviet peasants in the film. In 1947, during the House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigation into communist and left-wing political activity in Hollywood, actor Adolphe Menjou cited The North Star along with Mission to Moscow and Song of Russia (see below) as pictures containing un-American propaganda that "would have been better unmade." In May 1952 Lillian Hellman was subpoenaed to appear before HUAC for her alleged communist ties, and when the committee refused her offer to answer questions about herself but not others, she took the Fifth Ammendment.
       Modern sources reveal that in 1957, Goldwyn sold The North Star to television and, in addition to changing the title to Armoured Attack , National Telefilm Associates (NTA) re-edited the film, adding credits that identified the film as "an Adaptation of the motion picture The North Star " and acknowledged Hellman as the author. The editing also removed each use of the word "comrade" and added a running voice-over commentary interlinking the Nazi invasion of Russia with the betrayal of the Russian people by the Soviet government. The edited version closed with a strongly worded anti-Communist epilogue, followed by newsreel footage of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. According to information contained in the Copyright registry, the running time for Armoured Attack was 76 minutes, indicating that some 30 minutes of footage had been deleted. A 1976 Var news item records that the complete original version of The North Star was not shown again in public until that year. The film marked the motion picture debut of actor Farley Granger.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   23 Oct 1943.   
Daily Variety   30 Jun 43   p. 1.
Daily Variety   12 Oct 43   pp. 3-4.
Daily Variety   8 Nov 43   p. 11.
Film Daily   13 Oct 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 43   p. 3
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 43   pp. 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 43   p. 1, 6, 9
Hollywood Reporter   8 Dec 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 44   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 44   p. 9.
Los Angeles Examiner   27 Dec 1943.   
Los Angeles Times   26 Dec 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   16 Oct 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   23 Oct 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Oct 43   p. 1585.
New York Mirror   7 Nov 1943.   
New York Times   5 Nov 43   p. 23.
New York Times   7 Nov 1943.   
PM (Journal)   4 Nov 1943.   
PM (Journal)   24 Nov 43   p. 3.
PM (Journal)   29 Nov 1943.   
Variety   13 Oct 43   p. 10.
Variety   8 Nov 43   p. 11.
Variety   28 Jan 1976.   

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership
AFI honoring the masters

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.