I love old war movies, especially those made during the Second World War. Sure, they include propaganda, but that’s part of the charm.
I recently discovered that that as they were preparing to go to Europe, some soldiers from my unit, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, were extras in a movie called the 49th Parallel (from 1941). This movie was released in the USA as the Invaders.
The movie is about some German sailors who are shipwrecked in Canada after their U-Boat is sunk in Hudson Bay. Their only hope is to make it to the United States, as the USA was officially neutral at that time. But that’s a lot of Canada to cross!
It was interesting to watch how Canada was portrayed. A lot of emphasis on indigenous people (“Eskimos” and “Indians” in the movie). That makes sense for the areas the Germans were travelling through. There were plenty of stereotypes but that’s what movies are made of.
I especially enjoyed the part where the Germans come across a Hutterite community in Manitoba. Many of the Hutterites were of German origin and the ranking officer attempts to recruit them to the Nazi cause. That plan fails miserably but one of the Nazis is tempted to join the Hutterites.
One by one, the Nazis are either killed or captured until only their commander is left. He attempts to enter the United States through my own home area of Niagara. This brings him into conflict with a wayward Canadian soldier.
There were moments that the movie dragged a bit but I thought overall it was quite good. Not only was it good propaganda for the Allies, it was good propaganda for Canada. I ended the movie quite proud to be a Canadian.
I thought the 49th Parallel was a good snapshot of the rhetoric of the war years. I liked how the Nazis and the Canadians attempted to spin the same events for their own purposes.
I’m looking forward to watching more of these classic war movies. You can watch the 49th Parallel below.
Check out my Second World War Podcast.