A few titles that didn’t make last week’s list:
Not long after the release of The Maltese Falcon, John Huston reunited with Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet to make this war-era propaganda film in which Bogie battles Japanese saboteurs.
Across the Pacific was originally envisioned as the story of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. Real-life events in December of 1941 intervened, so the location was changed to the Panama Canal. For reasons known only to Warner Bros., the title was retained despite the fact that none of the action takes place in the Pacific. +
Starring Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Ann Blyth, & Keenan Wynn
Based on the 1919 novel All the Brothers Were Valiant by Ben Ames Williams. Previously adapted to film in 1923, (starring Lon Chaney and now considered lost) this rousing sea adventure was given the prestige treatment by MGM the second time around in 1953. +
Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger star as seafaring siblings Joel and Mark Shore. When Mark disappears during a whaling expedition, Joel and his wife Priscilla (Ann Blyth) set off in search of the missing sibling. They discover to their horror that Mark has become a conscienceless reprobate and a disgrace to his family. A mysterious bag of pearls pits good brother versus bad; mutiny, chaos, and death soon follow. +
The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Color Cinematography.
“Now turn this tub around or else I’ll shoot your scar”
It’s surprising that Captain Scarface isn’t better known. Filmed during the height of the Red Scare, the story concerns a group of enemy agents (read: Commies!!), who plan to blow up the Panama Canal.
The spies abduct a brilliant atomic scientist and take him on a tramp steamer to their South American headquarters. The villain’s haven’t reckoned though, on ship’s captain Barton MacLane, who may not be the most decent of men, but sure aint no pinko! +
Don’t ask, don’t even start…
Miss Monkey’s British beau strongly encouraged her to watch this series of films some time ago. Good Times were guaranteed. After 30 minutes or so of one of these hallucinogenic horror dreams, I hit the kill switch with extreme prejudice. I think it was supposed to be about the French Revolution, I have tried earnestly to force it from my mind.
I would have gladly, no — Delightedly left them out altogether except a certain someone “threw his teddy out of the cot”, “pitched a wobbly” and was otherwise being a mardy git, which in the land of pervy, warm-beer-drinking, bare-knuckle fighting, malnourished pygmy people means “had a shit fit” and insisted I include them.
The Carry On series was a long-running sequence of 31 low-budget British comedy motion pictures produced between 1958 and 1992, all made at Pinewood Studios; often cleverly shot on the same sets and using leftover props and costumes from major Pinewood productions. While many of them parodied more serious films, the series’ humour relied largely on innuendo, double entendre, and the sending-up of British institutions and customs.
Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were the sole producer and director respectively and mostly employed the same crew and a regular group of actors. Next to the James Bond films, they are the second-longest continually-running UK film series.
Penelope Gilliatt opined, “The usual charge to make against the Carry On films is to say that they could be so much better done. This is true enough. They look dreadful, they seem to be edited with a bacon slicer, the effects are perfunctory and the comic rhythm jerks along like a cat on a cold morning. But if all these things were more elegant I don’t really think the films would be more enjoyable: the badness is part of the funniness.”
These movies are just plain moronic. Second only to Half Man, Half Biscuit, the Carry On films are the single worst form of entertainment ever exported from the UK.
Reverent to the point of tedium, Christopher Columbus stars Fredric March in the title role, and he’s welcome to it. March’s wife Florence Eldredge co-stars as Queen Isabella, who finances Columbus’ expedition to find a westward route to India. After several reels devoted to table-top miniatures impersonating the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria (punctuated by rumbles of mutiny) Columbus FINALLY reaches the New World.
Though obviously filmed on an extravagant budget (Technicolor was still considered lavish in 1949), the British production of Christopher Columbus has less going for it than a Porky Pig cartoon. Audiences steered clear in droves, as they would again in the 1990’s. +
text of the original novel at Project Gutenberg
Starring Clive Brook, John Clements, Edward Chapman, Judy Campbell.
Directed by Pen Tennyson
Clive Brook heads the cast of this low-key British war film playing the skipper of a tiny English cruiser on convoy duty in the north seas, whom a German battleship has targeted for a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Just when it seems that Brook and his crew will be blown out of the water, a battle squadron comes to the rescue. One of the first World War II combat films ever made, Convoy features future stars Stewart Granger and Michael Wilding in very minor roles. +
Blissfully happy newlywed Ruth Bowman (Jeanne Crain) boards an ocean liner with her new husband John (Carl Betz). A few days later, John mysteriously disappears. Ruth quickly discovers that her ticket was made out under her maiden name, and that her husband never even bought one. To make matters worse, no one on board will admit to having ever seen them together. Only the ship’s doctor (Michael Rennie) believes the distraught bride’s story… +
Davey Jones says, “The definitive destroyer-hunts-sub movie”
The Enemy Below
(20th Century Fox, 1957)
Starring Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens
Directed by Dick Powell
“Tastes like oil and bilge and green mold. Tastes like a U-Boat…”
A study of submarine warfare from the vantage point of both sides. Robert Mitchum plays the captain of an American destroyer, who despite having lost his wife in the war, endeavors to ensure his head rules his heart in combat.
Curt Jurgens co-stars as the German U-boat commander, depicted (contrary to stereotype) as being as honorable and compassionate. The two men develop a grudging mutual respect as they pursue one another throughout the South Atlantic. +
Destroyer escort USS Haynes was portrayed by USS Whitehurst (DE-634), with exteriors filmed in the Pacific Ocean near Oahu, Hawaii. Many of the Whitehurst‘s actual crewmen appear as extras. The phone talkers, gun and depth charge crews, a sailor fishing, and all of the men seen piling into lifeboats were Whitehurst sailors. +
Based on the novel by Denys Rayner, a British naval officer involved in anti-submarine warfare throughout the Battle of the Atlantic. And a very dapper fellow, go read his bio.
“This is a bad war. If we die in this war, we die without God.”
Yeah, and this one too.
I had left it out intentionally, but got so many sniffy emails from my cinephile friends that I must perform this act of contrition. Now shut up, go away, and quit telling me how to do my job before I show up at yours. Anybody else? Happy now?
You guys want a comprehensive list? Ok, now you’re gonna get one.
And I don’t want to hear ANY bitching.
Now… where were we? Oh yes:
Starring Wallace Beery and Clark Gable (in his first “starring” role) as a pair of competitive chief petty officers in the early days of naval aviation.
The film, made with the cooperation of the United States Navy, features considerable footage of flight operations on board the Navy’s second aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga, including dramatic shots of takeoffs and landings filmed from the Curtiss F8C-4 Helldiver dive bombers after which the movie was named. +
(Film Alliance, 1939)
aka Dangerous Cargo
Filmed in 1935, the British Hell’s Cargo finally received a US release in 1939, capitalizing on the recent outbreak of war in Europe. Most of the story takes place on a cargo ship, slowly inching its way through treacherous waters with a cargo consisting of a top-secret poison gas. When the ship’s intoxicated doctor reveals the nature of the cargo to a good-time girl in a foreign port, chaos ensues.
Shot in Hawaii aboard the USS Arizona. +
James Cagney is Chesty O’Connor, a tough-as-nails, always-ready-for-a-fight shipyard worker, who loses out to US Navy CPO Biff Martin (Pat O’Brien) in a fight over a girl — he not only loses the girl, but his job, and decides he wants a rematch. To get it, he has to join the Navy. He ends up assigned to the same ship as Martin, but can’t goad the chief petty officer into a fight and doesn’t seem to understand much about navy discipline or regulations. more
We can keep this one brief:
The Andrews Sisters, Navy, ship, romance, songwriters, and plagiarism. –more
The Immigrant (also called Broke)
1917 silent comedy short
Chaplin’s Tramp character stars as an immigrant coming to the United States. The film begins aboard a steamer crossing the Atlantic Ocean and showcases the misadventures of the Tramp while trying to avoid seasick passengers. During the voyage he befriends a young woman traveling with her ailing mother, yet ends up being accused of theft.
A scene in which Chaplin’s character kicks an immigration officer was later cited as evidence of his anti-Americanism when he was exiled from the United States in 1952.
In 1998, The Immigrant was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and designated as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.
Chaplin shot this film largely on board the SS Vaquero, which he had rented for the production. His cameraman devised a special pivot for the camera which simulated the violent rocking of the ship.
Charlie is a willing but inept seaman, knocking the whole crew overboard by misdirecting a loading crane, then later washing dishes in the soup that the cook is preparing. As the ship’s rolling increases, Charlie has difficulty serving dinner and becomes seasick.
In this story, Charlie is in love with Edna Purviance, whose father owns a ship which he plans to have blown up for the insurance money. Forbidden to see Charlie, Edna runs away, leaving a note: “Father, I have stowed away on your boat. Goodbye. Your unhappy daughter, Edna…” +
You can confidently write the rest of this blurb yourself.
“We’ve got ourselves another war. A gut bustin’, mother-lovin’ Navy war.” +
Based on the James Bassett novel Harm’s Way, this flick has enough plot for four movies. A heavy cruiser, commanded by Rockwell Torrey (John Wayne), and the destroyer Cassidy are are two of a handful of ships that escape destruction during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Under Torrey’s command, the tiny fleet of a dozen ships carries out its orders to track down and engage the enemy.
A daring maneuver by Torrey causes his ship to be seriously damaged. He is relieved of command and assigned to a desk job routing convoys. He ends up being chosen by the commander of the Pacific Fleet (Henry Fonda) to salvage an essential operation called Sky Hook, which has become bogged down due to the indecisiveness of its commander.
Promoted to rear admiral, Torrey gets Sky Hook rolling and finally finds his purpose in this war. more
Few morale-boosting wartime films have retained their power and
entertainment value as emphatically as NoÃ«l Coward’s In Which We Serve.
To witness Coward’s sober, no-nonsense direction (in collaboration with his co-director/editor, David Lean) and to watch his straightforward portrayal of Royal Navy Captain Kinross, one would never suspect that he’d built his theatrical reputation penning sophisticated drawing-room comedies and brittle, witty song lyrics.
Knowing he could handle the direction of the actors but would be at a loss with the action scenes, he asked David Lean to supervise the filming of those. In Which We Serve was the first of several films on which the two would collaborate.
Coward agreed to work on the project as long as he was given complete control. He was determined that he would portray Captain Kinross in the film himself, despite the studio’s concern that his public “dressing gown and cigarette-holder” persona might make it difficult for audiences to accept him in the role of a tough Navy man.
In order to do research, Coward departed for the naval base in Plymouth where Michael Redgrave, (with whom he was having a romantic relationship at the time) was stationed aboard the HMS Illustrious. He also visited the fleet at Scapa Flow, cruised on the HMS Nigeria, and spent considerable time in Portsmouth.
The real star of In Which We Serve is the British destroyer Torrin, portrayed in the film by HMAS Nepal. Torpedoed in battle, the Torrin miraculously survives and is brought back to English shores for repair. The paint is barely dry before the ship and her crew are pressed again into action during the Dunkirk evacuation.
After a brutal dive-bombing in Crete, surviving crew members cling to floating wreckage awaiting rescue. Coward and his men each flash back to their homes and loved ones, and in doing so, recall anew for what they’re fighting. +
more about In Which We Serve on wikipedia
This high seas adventure stars Humphrey Bogart as a man guilty of murder who lives quietly with his wife on a remote island. When he saves the life of a ship wrecked Donald Woods, he soon realizes the man is a detective sent to arrest him.
The Narrow Corner (1933) – Based on the third and last exotic novel by Somerset Maugham, published 1932. Narrow Corner with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was remade, with tighter censorship restrictions in effect, as Isle of Fury.
poster: The Narrow Corner (another gorgeous watercolor much like the one above)
Ray Milland plays Patrick Fairlie, a schooner master who is lured into salvaging a wrecked ship. Somewhere in the wreckage is a century-old bill of sale which will prove that a huge estate is indeed the property of landowner Ena Dacey (Arlene Dahl) and her tosspot mother (Carroll McComas).
Certain parties want to get their meathooks into the property in order to build a resort hotel, putting Fairlie in danger should he start exploring the scuttled ship. +
RKO Radio’s Johnny Angel was adapted by Steve Fisher and Frank Gruber from the novella Mr. Angel Comes Aboard by Charles Gordon Booth.
In one of his better performances, George Raft plays sea captain Johnny Angel, who doggedly pursues the no-good rats who murdered his father and swiped a shipment of gold bullion. Along the way, Johnny crosses paths (and words) with Lilah (Claire Trevor), the faithless wife of his boss, and French stowaway Paulette,(Signe Hasso) the only witness to the murder-hijacking of five million dollars in gold that the Free French have smuggled out of Vichy by way of Casablanca.
Although RKO had low expectations for the film it was an unexpected hit, earning the studio a profit of $1,192,000. +
If you’re looking for an above-average noir film with a World War II setting, don’t miss Johnny Angel. +
Volcano was the reissue title of the muddled disaster flick Krakatoa: East of Java. The name change was reportedly put into effect after thousands of filmgoers noted publicly that Krakatoa is indeed west of Java.
As might be expected, the story takes place in 1883, when the long-dormant volcano erupted with A-bomb force. Since everyone knows what’s coming, the filmmakers tried to stir up suspense with a gratuitous subplot involving ship’s-captain Maximilian Schell and his mutinous crew (a similar plot device had been used in a previous dramatization of the Krakatoa incident, 1953’s Fair Wind to Java).
The climactic special effects are spectacular enough to make the all-star cast utterly superfluous. +
A detective is called in to investigate the fate of a derelict ship found floating off the coast of Port Said. Except for a woman and a madman, the ship is empty. The investigator soon discovers a plot involving destruction of the vessel for the insurance money. When the crew got wise to the potential scam, they mutinied. +
Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone are play a married couple on a vacation with their young daughter, (Tammy Marihugh) taking their first sea voyage aboard the aging ocean liner Claridon. All is well for the passengers topside, but below decks a fire has broken out. Disaster follows as the boilers explode, blasting a hole through the hull that is way too big to patch. +
(20th Century Fox, 1944)
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn and Canada Lee.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
A menagerie of British and American civilians are stuck in a lifeboat on the North Atlantic after their ship and a U-boat sink each other in combat. Willi (Walter Slezak), a German survivor, is pulled aboard but denies being an enemy officer.
During an animated debate, Kovac (John Hodiak) demands the German be thrown out and allowed to drown. Cooler heads prevail when Garrett (Hume Cronyn) and columnist Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) assert the German’s prisoner of war status, so he is allowed to stay.
One passenger, an infant, dies almost immediately after boarding. His mother, a young British woman (Heather Angel), who, after being treated by the nurse (Mary Anderson), must be tied down to prevent her from hurting herself. The grief-stricken woman sneaks off the boat while the other passengers sleep, drowning herself in the night.
The film then follows the lifeboat inhabitants as they attempt to organize their rations, set a course for Bermuda, and coexist as they try to survive. Despite it’s limited setting, there is a sense that anything can happen.
Having so many characters to present in a restricted space provided an unusual framing challenge. Hitchcock pre-planned all camera angles for the film using a miniature lifeboat and figurines, with four total lifeboats utilized during shooting. Rehearsals took place in one, with separate boats used for close-ups and long shots. Except for background footage shot by the second unit around Miami, the Florida Keys and on San Miguel Island in California, the film was shot entirely in the Twentieth Century-Fox studio’s large-scale tank in Century City.
Tallulah Bankhead came down with pneumonia twice during shooting, and Mary Anderson became seriously ill during production, causing several days of production time to be lost. Hume Cronyn suffered two cracked ribs and nearly drowned when he was caught under a water-activator making waves for a storm scene. He was saved by a studio lifeguard.
Tallulah Bankhead was an avid baseball fan whose favorite team was the New York Giants. “There have been only two geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare…” was one of her many famous quotes.
The film is unique among Hitchcock’s American films for having no musical score during the narrative; the studio orchestra was utilized only during the opening and closing credits.
In addition to 1944 Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography; Black & White, Best Original Story for John Steinbeck, and Best Director for Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat received numerous other award considerations; named one of the 10 Best Films of 1944 by Film Daily, nominated for Best Picture of 1944 by the National Board of Review, and Bankhead won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. more
Action-adventure film based on Jules Verne’s novel The Lighthouse at the Edge of the World. It takes place in 1865 on the chilly tip of Argentina in a lighthouse set up to guide ships around the extremely dangerous and turbulent waters of Cape Horn. +
Kirk Douglas plays a jaded American lighthouse keeper seeking isolation to escape a troubled past and evade punishment after a deadly gunfight.
A shipload of sadistic pirates show up, murder everyone they can find, and extinguish the light. They are wreckers, brigands who mislead ships into the rocks so they can loot the cargo and prey upon the victims. Their leader, Captain Jonathan Kongre (Yul Brynner) is a diabolical fiend with a seductive and charismatic facade. Douglas cleverly rigs the pirates’ cannon to sink their own ship, sending the bad guys to the bottom.
Despite having a large Hollywood budget, collaboration with prestigious foreign film studios, exotic European shooting locations, and some of the biggest name movie stars, the film was a failure at the box office. +
Jack Wade (Reed Howes) plays the son of a wealthy father who runs a successful ship-building company. He uses his athletic prowess to defeat the villainous competitors who are out to ruin the family business.
The films was little more than a vehicle for the handsome Reed Howes to appear in various costume changes for the enjoyment of his female fans. +
above rt: Reed Howes (he aint all that iffins you ask me)
Reed served in the US Navy in the closing stages of World War I, after which he became a model (one of several Arrow Collar Men) and later, a silent-movie actor. Only bit parts later in the talkies, including Hell Divers in 1931. +
“We acknowledge with appreciation the assistance of the official historian of Lloyds of London in the preparation of the historical background for this production.” +
In 1770, youngster Jonathan Blake (Freddie Bartholomew) overhears two sailors discussing something suspicious in his aunt’s ale-house in a Norfolk fishing village; a plot involving insurance fraud…
Jonathan walks all the way to London to Lloyd’s Coffee House, where the insurers conduct their business. At first no one can be bothered with him, but eventually Mr. Angerstein, (the head of Lloyd’s) takes him seriously. In lieu of a monetary reward, Jonathan asks for employment at Lloyd’s in an entry level position, where he learns that news is the lifeblood of the insurance industry. +
A lifelong friend of naval hero Lord Nelson, Blake puts his job and the financial stability of Lloyds and its founder on the line when he announces Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar — before it takes place. Read more about his clever trick here
Lloyds of London traces the rise to prominence of the venerable British insurance company, as seen through the eyes of fictional 19th-century Londoner Jonathan Blake (Tyrone Power, in his first starring role).
Despite being about accounting and insurance, it was a box-office bonanza. Also starring the always loveable George Sanders as despicable regency cad, Lord Everett Stacy +
In this elaborately mounted seafaring adventure, Rolfe (Richard Widmark) is a Viking leader with the cunning and devious mind of a pirate. Also starring Sidney Poitier as Aly Mansuh, the leader of a group of ambitious Moors competing to find “The Mother of All Voices,” a legendary golden bell near the Pillars of Hercules. +
see also: The Long Ships Polish poster
John Ford welded four of Eugene O’Neill‘s one-act plays about the sea, Bound East for Cardiff (1914), The Long Voyage Home (1917), In The Zone (1917), and Moon of the Caribees (1918), into this melancholy film about wayfaring seamen, then set the mash-up during World War II. (The Glencairn Plays on wikipedia)
After a night of revelry in the West Indies, the crew of the tramp steamer SS Glencairn set sail for Baltimore to pick up a load of dynamite. The rough seas they encounter are especially nerve-racking to the crew, who are also concerned that one of their number might be a German spy.
O’Neill spent several years at sea, during which he suffered from depression and alcoholism, (now, that’s unique!) eventually joining the Marine Transport Workers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Despite his depression, he had a deep love for the sea. It became a prominent theme in many of his plays, several of which were set on ships similar to those on which he had worked.
This was O’Neill’s favorite of all the films based upon his work. He watched it so often he eventually wore out his print. +
Links to O’Neill works which can be downloaded or read online can be found here.
Joseph Conrad’s cerebral, philosophical novel Lord Jim is streamlined and simplified by producer/director/writer Richard Brooks for the swinging sixties action-and-adventure crowd. Peter O’Toole plays the first officer of a tramp steamer, who, during a hurricane, cravenly abandons ship, leaving the passengers to drown.
Disgraced, O’Toole seeks to redeem himself–not only in the eyes of the British maritime commission, but in his own. He signs on to deliver a shipment of dynamite to a tribe of natives somewhere in the uncharted Orient, then joins the natives’ fight against feudal warlord Eli Wallach. (huh?) Filmed in Cambodia and Hong Kong. +
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Lord Jim #85 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Starring George Brent & Alice White
Based on Luxusdampfer, (Luxury Ship) a 1932 novel by Gina Kaus
George Brent went on to also play the skipper on a love boat-type cruise ship in a second film entitled Luxury Liner; a 1948 romantic musical comedy made by MGM and starring Jane Powell and Xavier Cugat.
The highlight of the film features Jane Powell in male drag singing “Spring Came to Vienna.“+
Ms. Monkey Fist needs to re-locate…
Bureaucratic entanglements in my UK Residency Visa application are taking waaaaaay longer than I anticipated. Until this is sorted out, I need a new place to live, preferably in the NYC / NJ / or New England area. Nothing fancy. (like I could afford it on what they pay me to do this?) Internet access is a must.
Traveling light with computer, art supplies and a sewing machine would be one 48 year old female artist/writer, one fastidiously housebroken Boxer/Mastiff mix (very friendly) and one large orange Maine Coon cat with thumbs; both fixed and very cool with other animals.
I can pay rent, but finances are tight. Willing to cut grass, garden or perform household chores if that helps. I drink socially and have never been arrested. I am happily mired in a serious, albeit long-distance relationship, so there will be no creepy boyfriends hanging around.
If you have a house, apartment, or basement to share, or know of a good lead, please email me (subject “housing”) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alphabetically previous titles that have been accidentally omitted
will be posted to Adventures of the Blackgang as they surface