The North Star (also known as Armored Attack in the US) is a 1943 war film 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 film starred Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan and Erich von Stroheim. The music was written by Aaron Copland, the lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and the cinematography was 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 was an unabashedly pro-Soviet propaganda film at the height of the war.
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.
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 a German doctor (Erich von Stroheim) uses the village children as a source of blood for transfusions into wounded German soldiers. Some children lose so much blood that they die. A famous Russian doctor (Walter Huston) discovers this and informs the partisans, who prepare to strike back. They launch a cavalry assault on the village to rescue the children. The Russian doctor accuses the German doctor of being worse than the convinced 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). 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.
The extent to which the film incorporated official Soviet propaganda about collective farms prompted British historian Robert Conquest, a member of the British Foreign Office's Information Research Department (a unit created for the purpose of combating communist influence and promoting anti-communist ideas) 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".
The film was rereleased in 1957 under the title of Armored Attack. This version starts with the entry of the German column into the town and ends with narration of Hungarians fighting the Red Army during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.
In later years, the actual print was made available on video with none of the cut segments in the 1957 print.
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards:Art Direction (Black-and-White) (Perry Ferguson, Howard Bristol)
Cinematography (Black-and-White) (James Wong Howe)
Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) (Aaron Copland)
Sound Recording (Thomas T. Moulton)
Special Effects (Clarence Slifer, Ray Binger, Thomas T. Moulton)
Writing (Original Screenplay) (Lillian Hellman)