Northwest Passage

It is 1759 in colonial America. After Langdon Towne is expelled from Harvard, he returns to his home in New Hampshire. He plans a future as an artist. But when he gets into a fight with British officials, he is forced to flee and make his way through the forest. He joins up with the famed rangers led by Major Robert Rogers, as they mount a punitive expedition against the Abnaki nation, who are aligned with the French. The long journey through swamps and wilderness is full of hardship, but they are still able to carry out a massacre. Injured during the battle, Towne endures additional suffering during the rangers’ retreat … King Vidor’s first colour film spent three years in development and was not without hardship for its crew. Shot over twelve weeks on location in Idaho, Northwest Passage is a masterpiece of plein air painting on film, for which Vidor specifically explored paintings in oil. The racist atrocities depicted in the film are of a piece with the Robert Rogers character, portrayed by Spencer Tracy as a ruthless warrior. The dubious hero’s unscrupulousness is fully revealed in the second part of the novel, which – to King Vidor’s regret, he never received financing to film.
by King Vidor, Jack Conway, Harold Weinberger
with Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey, Nat Pendleton, Louis Hector, Robert Barrat, Lumsden Hare, Donald MacBride, Isabel Jewell
USA 1940 English 126’ Colour Rating R12


  • Spencer Tracy
  • Robert Young
  • Walter Brennan
  • Ruth Hussey
  • Nat Pendleton
  • Louis Hector
  • Robert Barrat
  • Lumsden Hare
  • Donald MacBride
  • Isabel Jewell


Director King Vidor, Jack Conway, Harold Weinberger
Screenplay Laurence Stallings, Talbot Jennings
Story Kenneth Roberts Northwest Passage (1937)
Cinematography Sidney Wagner, William V. Skall
Editing Conrad A. Nervig
Music Herbert Stothart
Sound Douglas Shearer
Art Director Cedric Gibbons
Assistant Directors Robert S. Golden, Bert Sperling
Producer Hunt Stromberg

Produced by

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew’s, Inc.) (King Vidor’s production)