- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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More Than Propaganda
- David H.
The North Star may not be a great film, but I think it is a better than many give it credit for. It shows the devastation that war can bring to an idyllic rural setting with palpable tension as the Nazis begin their invasion. The picture is generally well-acted by a stellar cast while heavyweights behind the camera (Milestone, Hellman, Copland, etc.) are very evident. Those who would dismiss The North Star as pro-Soviet propaganda need to remember the Ukrainians depicted in this film were defending their homeland against outside invaders and not just because they liked Stalin and the Communist regime who deliberately targeted the Ukraine for genocide by starvation a scant few years earlier in 1932-1933.
Soviet propaganda is best left to Soviets
The key to understanding this movie is to consider its real intended audience: it's a bone tossed to the Soviet hierarchy. In 1942-43, Soviets were getting hammered and the US was still on the periphery of the European theatre. If the US couldn't send an army to Eastern front, we could try to salve tensions by making a movie acknowledging existence of same. Goldwyn obliged Roosevelt admin with a talented cast and Aaron Copeland and lensing by James Wong Howe. Hollywood polish available to independent production isn't allowed to Americanize the Ukrainians all that much (although Anne Baxter gets in a good Tom Joad speech at end) and yet any authentic Russian atmosphere/characterization gives way to inoffensive singsong fairytale-land villagers & their accordions. Then the Nazis hit and the unfortunate villagers are simultaneously victimized while standing resolute for the Motherland. Village menfolk stage revenge counterattack on horseback against Nazi machine guns, perhaps a nod toward Stalin's fondness of Westerns. The result is a second half that's more violent than its contemporary films and yet lacking in emotional appeal. Leaving aside all the hardships in the Ukraine before the war, once the shooting started these were some of the more doomed people of the 20th century, none of which this film can acknowledge. It's a long slog made more miserable with realization that real life counterparts depicted here would suffer for another 3 1/2 years of war, if they could last that long. Print has blown out highlights. Farley Granger impresses in screen debut.
- kevin sellers
For a good writer Lillian Hellman sure is a crappy writer, huh? The first half our of this love letter to our Russian allies features hearty, life affirming, cheerful, earthy peasant dialogue that's like "Fiddler" with a bow missing. (You haven't lived till you've heard Dana Andrews on the balalaika or Walter Brennan channeling Tevya with a Boston accent.) Things get a bit better when the evil Nazis enter the picture, (at least there's some action!) although the dialogue shifts from Happy Peasant to Suffering, Noble Peasant. (Sample: "The young do not know about war." "We are no longer young, uncle.") The total effect is one of stultifying boredom. Give it a D. P.S. To all the American Commie haters in TCM land who are "offended" by this movie, because it exalted the Reds, let me just remind them that when this movie was made they were on our side and suffered a helluva lot more civilian casualties and bombed out cities and general domestic misery than we did.
Chris, you were right!!
I scanned thru the movie, and then read the reviews. Yours was in 2010, and you foretold the forthcoming events in Ukraine at the hands of the Russians. I am sorry that you were proved right.But, in defense of the movie, a lot of the Soviet atrocities, as well as the nazi ones, weren't well known at the time of the movie. I think that has to be taken into consideration when viewing this movie.And then we had the Cold War, and then we were butt buddies with the Russians, and now who knows what else Putin has up his sleeve?!?!? When will the US ever learn!?!?!??!
See it in context
This is such an interesting movie because of it's significance in history. Yes, today this movie seems odd. The characters calling each other comrade and praising the Soviets seem like a crime, but in 1943, when this movie was made, it made sense. It's all context. The war was in full swing in 1943 and the Soviets were our allies. Now the gore and realism of this movie is beyond its time. It's incredibly harsh, which might have helped it become an obscure movie. However, it was incredibly interesting because of the harsh reality the movie choose to show. The war and what it caused was not glossed over.My favorite actor is Dana Andrews, and I have a goal of watching all his filmography. That is how I can upon this movie. Mr. Andrews is incredible here, showing off his warm, playful side while revealing his true potential as an incredibly subtle dramatic actor (this is before he broke out in "Laura" and "The Best Years of Our Lives"). If you want to see a piece of Americana (yes, I would consider this a part of American history, because it is how we felt back in 1943) then I would suggest seeing this movie. Just make sure you are ready to see some harsh things. Dana Andrews is a huge draw as well. :) Thanks for reading! Happy movie watching!
To be more pro-Soviet this movie would have had to be written and filmed by Uncle Joe's (Stalin) Ministry of Truth. Was it?The question should have been asked, "Whose boot do you prefer on your neck?" The boot of the German Fascist or the boot of the Communist Russians?This film should be shown time and time again with the disclaimer that it was for indoctrination purposes only.
I agree that this is a tough movie to watch, but you must remember this was made at the height of WWII and anti-German sentiment was at its highest, so the filmmaker had to make the Germans monsters. Apart from the historical accuracy (or inaccuracy) the large ensemble cast were all very good. A very young Anne Baxter (whom I didn't recognize at first), an equally young Farley Granger and Dean Jagger, Ann Harding (a wonderful, often over-looked actress of the day), Walter Brennan, Jane Withers, Erich von Stroheim (as a menacing German - what else!) and of course one of my faves of that era, Walter Huston. And I'll bet that was actually Dana Andrews singing in the early scenes - he was a trained singer, a little known fact as far as directors were concerned, since his voice was dubbed for "State Fair"!
Truth and fiction
- L. Foster
I too had to stop watching as it was too painfully real, yet it was compelling enough for me to be happy it is playing again so that I can try to watch all of it this time. One thing about movies made closer to the time when it all happened is that they all the more real without the computerized aspects, and they do include so many of the basic ways of life that were just background, yet very familiar to me as being things I grew up with even in the US. I think the cast does a fine job. I notice how often I see Walter Brennan in particular in movies made in support of the war and I pay tribute to him for his performances.
Was it true
I thought that some of the beginning of the movie was pretty homey, but I thought that it was a good portrayal of the German invasion. I wonder if the German Army actually "milked blood" from children to obtain plasma for wounded soldiers. It is not that I would put it past them, but I had never heard of this atrocity before, among all of the others. When questioning another person interested in WWII he thought that with the Nazi racial thing that they would not use Slav blood?
Not what I hoped for!
Sadly, I walked out of this movie. It is based on fact, ie many Ukrainian villages were demolished by Germans - my father's in Western Ukraine was one of them. As is usual in movies and people's lack of knowledge, Ukrainians become Russians. Yes, Russians also suffered under German hands but once they took over as the Soviet Union, Ukrainians disappeared.Ukraine finally achieved freedom but it appears that with the elections right now (Jan, 2010) the Russian yoke will once again surround Ukrainians.The movie may have had some redeeming qualities but I simply could not continue to watch. I continued to feel the oppression by the Russians and what I fear lies ahead.