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|Humphrey Bogart||Jean Matrac|
|Claude Rains||Captain Freycinet|
|Michèle Morgan||Paula Matrac|
|Sydney Greenstreet||Major Duval|
|Victor Francen||Captain Patain Malo|
|Eduardo Ciannelli||Chief Engineer|
|Peter Miles||Jean Matrac Jr|
|Jack L. Warner||Executive Producer|
|Max Steiner||Original Music Composer|
|Hal B. Wallis||Producer|
|James Wong Howe||Director of Photography|
|James Norman Hall||Novel|
|James Norman Hall||Story Contributor|
|Charles Nordhoff||Story Contributor|
In 1940, 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) were taken aboard, where they tell Captain Patain Malo (Victor Francen) the story of their escape from the French prison colony at Cayenne in French Guiana. They had been recruited by Grandpère (Vladimir Sokoloff), a fervently patriotic ex-convict, to fight for France in her hour of need. 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. After each mission, he flies over their house and drops a letter. On a final mission, however, as Free French Captain Freycinet (Claude Rains) relates, there is no message; Matrac has been killed in combat.