|Passage to Marseille|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Curtiz|
|Produced by||Hal B. Wallis
Jack L. Warner (executive producer)
|Written by||Casey Robinson
Charles Nordhoff (novel)
James Norman Hall (novel)
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Editing by||Owen Marks|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||February 16, 1944|
|Running time||109 minutes|
Passage to Marseille is a 1944 war film made by Warner Brothers, directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal B. Wallis with Jack L. Warner as executive producer. The screenplay was by Casey Robinson and Jack Moffitt from the novel Sans Patrie (Men Without Country) by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography was by James Wong Howe.
The film reunited much of the cast of Casablanca (1942), also directed by Curtiz, including Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Helmut Dantine. Michèle Morgan (who had been the original choice for Casablanca), Victor Francen, Philip Dorn and George Tobias are also featured.
It is one of the few films to use a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, following the narrative structure of the novel on which it is based. The film opens at an airbase in England during World War II. Free French Captain Freycinet (Claude Rains) tells a journalist the story of the French pilots stationed there.
This opens into the first flashback, set on the tramp steamer Ville de Nancy just before the defeat of France by the Germans. Five convicts are found adrift in a small canoe in the Caribbean Sea: Marius (Peter Lorre), Garou (Helmut Dantine), Petit (George Tobias), Renault (Philip Dorn) and their leader, Matrac (Humphrey Bogart). Taken aboard, they tell Captain Patain Malo (Victor Francen) the story of their escape from the French prison colony at Cayenne in French Guiana (the second flashback). They had been recruited by Grandpère (Vladimir Sokoloff), a fervently patriotic ex-convict, to fight for France in her hour of need. That leads to another flashback (the third), in which the inmates recount Matrac's troubles in pre-war France to convince the old man to choose Matrac to lead the escape. A crusading newspaper publisher, Matrac had been framed for murder to shut him up.
By the time the Ville de Nancy nears the port of Marseille, France has surrendered to Nazi Germany, and a collaborationist Vichy government has been set up. Upon hearing the news, the captain secretly decides not to deliver his valuable cargo to the Germans. Pro-Vichy passenger Major Duval (Sydney Greenstreet) organizes an attempt to seize control of the ship, but is defeated, in great part due to the escapees. When they reach England, the convicts join the Free French forces.
Matrac becomes a gunner on a bomber. His wife Paula (Michèle Morgan) and their son, whom he has never seen, live in occupied France. So, after each mission, he flies over their house and drops a letter. This time however, there is no message; Matrac has been killed in combat.
As appearing in the screen credits:
|Humphrey Bogart||Jean Matrac|
|Claude Rains||Captain Freycinet|
|Michèle Morgan (as Michele Morgan)||Paula|
|Sydney Greenstreet||Major Duval|
|Victor Francen||Captain Patain Malo|
|Eduardo Ciannelli (as Edward Ciannelli)||Chief Engineer|
Although exotic locales were called for, principal photography by James Wong Howe actually took place at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, California with further location shooting at Victorville, California. Based on a Nordhoff-Hall novel, the story veered into propaganda near the end, although censors actually cut a scene in the foreign version that showed Bogart's character machine gunning German pilots.
Before Bogart began work on the film, preproduction had been underway for six months, but due to a conflict with Jack Warner over another prospective film Conflict, his starring role as Matrac was in jeopardy, with Jean Gabin being touted as a replacement. Although the issue was decided, Bogart's portrayal was hampered by marital difficulties and a lack of commitment to the project.
Although the flying sequences show the Free French Air Force (French: Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, FAFL) using B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, the production took liberties with the actual bombing campaign carried out by the Free French units. The use of the ubiquitous B-17 was due to its being recognizable to American audiences.