Passage to Marseille (1944)

Passage to Marseillepassge to marseille poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Casey Robinson and Jack Moffitt from a novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
Warner Bros
First viewing/iTunes rental

Maj. Duval: Haven’t you been taught to stand in the presence of officials?

Jean Matrac: [Flatly] No.

Warner Brothers attempts to recapture the success of Casablanca with this story of Devil’s Islands escapees turned French freedom fighters. It can be forgiven for not reaching the heights of the former film.

Crusading journalist Jean Matrac (Humphrey Bogart) is accused of inciting a riot and sent off to Devil’s Island leaving his new wife (Michéle Morgan) behind.  Devil’s Island strips him of his ideals quickly.  Then a group of men who speak patriotically of France are approached by freed convict “Grandpere” (Vladimir Sokoloff) who has gathered a sum of money together and would like to take a group of men willing to fight for the Free French along with him on his escape.  The men point to Matrac as the natural leader of such an endeavor.  Matrac, however, is silent as the old man makes the escapees swear an oath to fight for France.

The band manages to leave the island and a passing French freighter rescues the nearly starving men after many days.  They concoct a story about having been miners in Venezuela but fellow passenger Major Duval (Sidney Greenstreet) sees right through them. They finally confide the truth to the other officer on board Captain Freycinet (Claude Rains).


During the journey, everyone learns of the armistice between Marshall Petáin and the Nazis.  The ship’s captain and Freycinet decide to divert the ship from its course toward Marseille and take its cargo of vital nickel ore to England.  Duval insists that the freighter go on to France and persuades part of the crew to side with him.  A fight between the factions ensues, putting Matrac’s patriotism to the test.  With Peter Lorre, John Loder, and George Tobias as convicts.


It was a treat to see Bogart, Greenstreet, Lorre and Rains together again.  This is a pretty entertaining picture.  Why do they always have to kill off the youngest member of any company right after he makes a patriotic speech, though?

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