The North Star
Theatrical poster
Directed byLewis Milestone
Written byLillian Hellman (story and screenplay)
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn
William Cameron Menzies
StarringAnne Baxter
Dana Andrews
Walter Huston
Walter Brennan
Ann Harding
Jane Withers
Farley Granger
Erich von Stroheim
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Music byAaron Copland
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • November 4, 1943 (1943-11-04)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.8 million (US rentals)[1]

The North Star (also known as Armored Attack in the US) is a 1943 pro-resistance war film starring Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan and Erich von Stroheim It was produced by Samuel Goldwyn Productions and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, written by Lillian Hellman and featured production design by William Cameron Menzies. The music was written by Aaron Copland, the lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and the cinematography by James Wong Howe. The film also marked the debut of Farley Granger.

The film is about the resistance of Ukrainian villagers, through guerrilla tactics, against the German invaders of the Ukrainian SSR. The film is considered to be pro-Soviet propaganda at the height of the war.[2]

In the 1950s, it was criticized for this reason and it was re-cut to remove the idealized portrayal of Soviet collective farms at the beginning and to include references to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.[2] The film was then retitled Armored Attack and released to American theatres, where it begins with the arrival of the Germans in the town and continues through the scenes of the uprising, with a narration tacked on praising the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.


Title card

In June 1941, Ukrainian villagers are living in peace. As the school year ends, a group of friends decide to travel to Kiev for a holiday. To their horror, they find themselves attacked by German aircraft, part of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Eventually their village itself is occupied by the Nazis. Meanwhile, men and women take to the hills to form partisan militias.

The full brutality of the Nazis is revealed when the Germans send Dr. von Harden to use the village children as a source of blood for transfusions into wounded German soldiers. Some children lose so much blood that they die. When Dr. Pavel Kurin, a famous Ukrainian doctor, discovers this and informs the partisans, they prepare to strike back. They launch a cavalry assault on the village to rescue their families. Kurin accuses von Harden of being worse than the ardent Nazis, because he has used his skills to support them. He then shoots him. The peasants join together, and one girl envisions a future in which they will "make a free world for all men".



The House Committee on Un-American Activities would later cite The North Star as one of the three noted examples of pro-Soviet works made by Hollywood, the other two being Warner Brothers' Mission to Moscow (1943) and MGM's Song of Russia (1944).[3] Similar U.S. World War II movies are RKO Radio Pictures's Days of Glory on Russian resistance in the Tula Oblast and MGM's Dragon Seed on Chinese efforts against the Japanese occupation.[4]

The extent to which the film incorporated official Soviet propaganda about collective farms prompted British anti-communist writer Robert Conquest, a member of the British Foreign Office's Information Research Department (an anti-communist propaganda unit)[5] in the 1950s, to later write "a travesty greater than could have been shown on Soviet screens to audiences used to lies, but experienced in [collective-farm conditions] to a degree requiring at least a minimum of restraint".[6]


The film was rereleased in 1957 under the title Armored Attack. This edited version opens with the entry of a German column marching into a village and concludes with narration praising the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. It was released together with Fred Zinnemann's 1950 film The Men which was also renamed to Battle Stripe.[7]

In later years, the original version was made available on home video restoring segments removed for the 1957 re-release.[8]


The film was nominated for six Academy Awards:[9]


  1. ^ Variety (21 February 2018). "Variety (January 1944)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b "The North Star (1943) - Notes -".
  3. ^ Murphy, Brenda (1999). "Congressional Theatre" (PDF). University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ "World War II: Soviet and Japanese Forces Battle at Khalkhin Gol - HistoryNet". 12 June 2006.
  5. ^ "Foreign Office's covert propaganda, Guardian 27 Jan 1978".
  6. ^ The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine, Conquest, page 321, Oxford Press, 1986; see Chapter 17 for detailed information on the efforts of pro-Soviet Westerns to help the regime cover up the true conditions on the collective farms.
  7. ^ Hollinger, Hy (March 26, 1958). "Film Reissues Need Prestige". Variety. p. 7. Retrieved October 11, 2021 – via
  8. ^ "Turner Classic Movies -".
  9. ^ "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-14.