Maritime Monday for September 23rd, 2013: Movies About Sailors, Part IV; The Navy Comes Through

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September 22, 2013

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McHale's Navy (Universal, 1964)

McHale’s Navy (Universal, 1964)

The crew of PT-73 get into trouble when they back the wrong horse in a race. + Captain Wallace Binghamton (Joe FLynn), St. Comdr. Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine) and Ensign Charles Parker (Tim Conway) brought their wacky antics to the big screen for this feature, spawned from the popular 1960’s television program of the same name. +

Claudine Longet (looking like a wistful daffodil) has a few quick scenes as a French lass who develops a crush on the klutzy Conway. +

There was a sequel entitled McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force which did not feature Borgnine, who could not appear due to a schedule conflict. +

McHale's Navy TVMcHale’s Navy aired 138 half-hour episodes over four seasons, from October 11, 1962, to April 12, 1966, on the ABC network. The series was filmed in black and white and originated from an hour drama called Seven Against the Sea, broadcast on April 3, 1962, and starred Academy Award-winning dramatic actor Ernest Borgnine’s character Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, in his first appearance.


Miss Pacific Fleet (Warner Brothers, 1935)

Miss Pacific Fleet (Warner Brothers, 1935)

Based on Frederick Hazlitt Brennan‘s play Battleship Gertie, Miss Pacific Fleet is short and snappy “gobs and gals” affair. At the urging of gold-digging showgirls Gloria Foy (Joan Blondell) and Mae O’Brien (Glenda Farrell) come up with a “Miss Pacific Fleet” contest scheme, with each 10-cent purchase at a seaside amusement park representing one vote.

Hundreds of sailors participate in the voting process, including Kewpie Wiggins (Allen Jenkins), who hopes that his “goil” Gloria will emerge the winner. He and the gals hope to confiscate the money collected and skeedaddle to New York.  Things don’t work out quite as they had planned. +

Murder in the Fleet (MGM, 1935)

Murder in the Fleet (MGM, 1935)

The handsome Robert Taylor is cast as Lt. Tom Randolph, one of several naval officers confined to his ship when a murder occurs; the victim in the process of delivering components for a new electrical flight-control device. Everyone concerned is suspected of being a killer, a foreign agent, or both. Several more murders occur before Lt. Randolph takes matters in his own hands and tracks down the culprit. +

We’ve got a reporter who can’t file his story, an industrialist trying to bribe Taylor, his girlfriend who wants Taylor to leave the Navy, and a few more. There are enough red herrings in this story for a whole fishing trip. When you reach the end it won’t be who you might have thought. +

The Navigator (Metro Goldwyn Picture, 1924)

The Navigator (Metro Goldwyn Picture, 1924)

At the request of his star Buster Keaton, producer Joseph M. Schenck purchased an obsolete ocean liner for $20,000. Keaton wanted to use the boat as a “prop” in his upcoming feature comedy.

Buster and his chief gagman Clyde Bruckman came up with a story involving two wealthy, pampered young people (played by Keaton and Kathryn McGuire), who through a series of fantastic but logical plot convolutions end up stranded together on a drifting, deserted ship, The Navigator.

The Navigator (Metro Goldwyn Picture, 1924) inset

While the film is rife with some of Buster Keaton’s most elaborate gags, he scores equally well with smaller, more intimate comedy bits, notably his losing battle with a deck chair.

At one point, they sight a navy ship and hoist a brightly colored flag, not realizing it signals that the ship is under quarantine. As a result, the other vessel turns away. +

rt:Navigator memorabilia on Dr. Macro (more)

Joe Schenck’s initial 20 grand investment proved sagacious when Navigator ended up as Buster Keaton’s most profitable silent feature film. +

The actual vessel used was the former USAT Buford, a combination passenger/cargo liner that had served as an Army transport during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Prior to The Navigator, the Buford’s most controversial service had occurred in 1919-20, during the First Red Scare, when it was used as the “Soviet Ark” to deport 249 “undesirables” from the United States to revolutionary Russia.

Navy Blue and Gold (MGM, 1937)

Navy Blue and Gold (MGM, 1937)

The film charts the progress of three Annapolis “plebes,” all played by actors in the age range of 24 to 30. Wisecracking Roger Ash (Robert Young) is a cynic, wide-eyed Richard Gates Jr. (Tom Brown) is overeager), and reclusive Truck Cross (James Stewart) harbors a dark secret. When not going about their appointed duties, Ash and Cross battle over the attentions of heroine Patricia (Florence Rice)

All the while, Captain Skinny Dawes (Lionel Barrymore), the traditional crusty old seafarin’ man with a heart of gold, tries to instill the love of Honor, Duty and Country in all three heroes. The plot is resolved in a climactic football game, with everyone showing his true colors (blue and gold, of course!) +

Navy Blues (Warner Brothers, 1941)

Navy Blues (Warner Brothers, 1941)

The 1940 peacetime draft spawned a whole slew of military and naval comedies, the most successful of which was Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates. In this vein, Warners’ Navy Blues features several studio contractees (including Ann Sheridan and Jack Carson), a few borrowed comedians (Jack Oakie, Jack Haley, Martha Raye) and a plethora of forgettable musical numbers.

Plot: A ship’s crew goes on leave in Honolulu, has a high old time, meets a few pretty girls, and heads back to sea. That’s all. +

The Navy Comes Through (RKO, 1942)

The Navy Comes Through (RKO, 1942)

A combat picture was virtually a license to print money in 1942, and RKO Radio’s The Navy Comes Through was no exception (net profit: $542,000). Most of the film takes place on a ramshackle old merchant-marine freighter, skippered by Captain McCall (Ray Collins).

The captain and his stalwart crew, the most stalwart of which are Mallory (Pat O’Brien), Sands (George Murphy), Babe (Jackie Cooper), Tarriba (Desi Arnaz) and Berringer, (Max Baer Sr.) keep busy by blowing Nazi bombers and U-boats to smithereens and capturing a Nazi supply ship that ends up being used against its own navy. +

The Navy Lark

The Navy Lark; 1959 British comedy film

Navy Lark aThe Navy Lark was a radio sit-com about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge, (a pun on HMS Troubridge, an actual Royal Navy destroyer) based in HMNB Portsmouth. In series 1 and 2, the ship and crew were stationed offshore at an unnamed location known simply as “The Island”. In series 2 this island was revealed to be owned by Lt. Cdr. Stanton.

Navy Lark bEpisodes were self-contained, although there was continuity within the series. A normal episode consisted of Sub Lt Phillips, scheming Chief Petty Officer Pertwee, and bemused Lt. Murray trying to get out of trouble they created for themselves without their direct superior, Commander (later Captain) “Thunderguts” Povey finding out.

Episodes frequently featured a string of eccentric characters, used accents and characterised voices to supplement the humour, and contained a good deal of innuendo.

Other recurring features were the invented words “humgrummits” and “floggle-toggle” which served to cover all manner of unspecified objects ranging from foodstuffs to naval equipment. The show’s theme tune was a traditional hornpipe called St Ninian’s Isle+

Download:The Navy Lark and The TV Lark (All Surviving Episodes)

Watch the movie on You Tube:  The Navy Lark 1959

The Navy Lark at OTR.Network (Old Time Radio) Free (RealPlayer required)

Night Tide (American International, 1963)

(left) – Night Tide (American International, 1963) – (right)

Hopper plays a sailor who falls for a carny girl (Linda Lawson) who performs a mermaid act at the carnival and believes herself to be descendant from an underwater race that must kill by the light of the full moon to survive.+

Night Tide (1963) Lobby Card Set

Night Tide (1963) Lobby Card Set

Low budget doesn’t BEGIN to describe this film’s aesthetic.

No Man Is an Island (Universal International, 1962)

No Man Is an Island (Universal International, 1962)

The true story of George Tweed, an American sailor who became the only serviceman on the island of Guam to avoid capture by the Japanese during the early years of World War II. (more on wikipedia)

George Ray Tweed (1902 – 1989) A sixteen-year veteran of the Navy, was the chief radioman on Guam when the Japanese invaded the island on December 10, 1941. He and five other men slipped into the Guam jungle rather than become prisoners of war. When the Japanese became aware of them, they began the hunt.

Tweed managed to elude the Japanese for two years and seven months.On July 10, 1944, just before the Battle of Guam, he was able to signal two destroyers involved in preparations for the impending US invasion, and was rescued by a whaleboat from the USS McCall (DD-400).

According to a newspaper article (Le Petit Journal, Montreal) from August 25, 1946, George Tweed had promised a local native, Antonio Artero, a brand new car if he evaded capture and returned to the United States. Tweed, with the help of General Motors, sent a car to Antonio Artero from San Francisco. +

Oh! Sailor Behave (Warner Brothers, 1930)

Oh! Sailor Behave (Warner Brothers, 1930)

Based on the play See Naples and Die, written by Elmer Rice. Comedy duo Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson team up as a pair of hapless sailors getting into trouble in Naples in this musical comedy. Irene Delroy, Charles King, and Noah Beery co-star. +

Oh! Sailor Behave on wikipedia

John Sigvard “Ole” Olsen (November 6, 1892 – January 26, 1963) was an American vaudevillian and comedian. Born in Peru, Indiana, he graduated from Northwestern University in 1912 with a degree in music and hit the Vaudeville circuit. In 1914 he met Chic Johnson, who was advertising himself as the “Greatest Ragtime Pianist in the Midwest,” and was known for his strangely infectious, high-pitched laugh.

Olsen and JohnsonThe two performers met when they were hired as musicians in the same band. When the band broke up “Ole” Olsen and “Chic” Johnson formed the Olsen and Johnson comedy team.

They performed in Vaudeville; Johnson on piano playing ragtime tunes and Olsen on his his violin. They would sing, making up comical lyrics as they went along. The pair began to exchange “patter”, mostly insults and the soon-to-be-famous “Olsen and Johnson” team emerged.

They performed together for 24 years before hitting Broadway in 1938 with the show Hellzapoppin’, later made into a successful feature film. They are buried side by side at Palm Desert Memorial cemetery in Las Vegas.

Olsen and Johnson videos on You Tube

audio: “Leave A Little Smile” (1930) sung by Charles King (from Oh, Sailor Bahave)

O.K. Nero (IFE Releasing, 1953)

OK Nero (IFE Releasing, 1953)aka OK Nerone stars Italian film favorites Walter Chiari and Cario Capanine (Carlo Campanini) as a pair of fun-loving American sailors. While on a sightseeing tour of Rome, the two tars imagine themselves back to the days of Emperor Nero (Gino Cervi).

The rest of the film is in the fine tradition of such Eddie Cantor comedies as Roman Scandals and Ali Baba Goes to Town, with Chiari and Capanine introducing 1st-century Rome to the pleasures of 20th-century America.

The climax takes place in the Colosseum, as our heroes stage a football game to rescue the Christians from the lions. +

see also:  Polish poster for O.K. Nero by Eryk Lipinski

On the Town (MGM, 1949)

On the Town (MGM, 1949)

The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, and Kelly and Sinatra are back in sailor suits as sailors on a day of shore leave in New York City, looking for fun and romance before their twenty-four hours are up. +

Music by Leonard Bernstein and Roger Edens, adaptation of the Broadway stage musical of the same name produced in 1944. Notable for its location filming, at Gene Kelly’s insistence, that some scenes be shot in New York City itself, including at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center. The film was an instant success and won the Academy Award for Best Music. +

Frank Sinatra, who was very thin, had to wear prosthetic padding to fill out the seat of his uniform. +

On the Town (MGM, 1949) lobby card

On the Town (MGM, 1949) lobby card

Our Relations (MGM, 1936)

Laurel and Hardy; Our Relations (MGM, 1936)

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are two solid citizens, happily married and highly respected in their community. One morning, Hardy receives a letter from his mother, containing an old photo of himself and Laurel with their twin brothers, Alf Laurel and Bert Hardy.

Mamma also reveals that Alf and Bert turned out to be “bad lads” and ran off to sea. “Isn’t that calamitous!” remarks Hardy, who conspires with Laurel to hide the facts about their no-good brothers from their wives.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the S.S. Periwinkle pulls into port. Among the crew members are the selfsame Alf and Bert…  +

Pacific Liner (RKO, 1939)

Pacific Liner (RKO, 1939)

An outbreak of cholera threatens the luxury liner S. S. Arcturus in this surprisingly low-budget melodrama from RKO. En route from Shanghai to San Francisco, chief engineer Crusher McKay (Victor McLaglen) and shipboard doctor Tony Craig (Chester Morris) become rivals for the attention of nurse Ann Grayson (Wendy Barrie). A Chinese stowaway, meanwhile, infects the stokehold with cholera and it is left to Crusher to keep the engines at full throttle until reaching harbor. +

Panama Hattie (MGM, 1942)

Panama Hattie (MGM, 1942)

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, musical numbers staged by Vincente Minnelli.+

Ann Sothern as Hattie, brassy but golden-hearted proprietress of a Canal Zone hotel. Accustomed to dealing with such raucous cohorts as she-sick sailors Red (Red Skelton), Rags (Rags Ragland) and Rowdy (Ben Blue), Hattie isn’t quite certain how to handle herself when she falls in love with wealthy and cultured Dick Bulliett (Dan Dailey Jr.)

The play’s original storyline, which shifted into gear when Hattie began picking up Nazi shortwave radio broadcast in the fillings of her teeth, is virtually nonexistent here.  Most of Porter’s original songs got the axe as well. After a disastrous preview, the film was almost completely re-shot and edited. +  Taken as a whole, the movie is pretty much a mess. +

Port of Seven Seas (MGM, 1938)

Port of Seven Seas (MGM, 1938)

Written for the screen by Preston Sturges, James Whale directed this screen adaptation of Marcel Pagnol‘s French classic Fanny. (right)

Fanny 1932Madelon (Maureen O’Hara) is a lovely young woman who lives in a seaside community, where she has fallen in love with Marius (John Beal), a sailor. Marius is called to duty and sets sail.  Soon after, Madelon discovers that she’s pregnant with his child.

Unsure what to do, Madelon confesses her predicament to Panisse (Frank Morgan), a longtime friend who is pals with Cesar (Wallace Beery), Marius’s father.

To spare Madelon the shame of a child born out of wedlock, Panisse offers to marry Madelon, and she agrees. Both realize this will be a union of convenience rather than love.

When Marius returns after his hitch is up, he declares his love to Madelon, but time has forced her to realize that the older but loving Panisse would be a better father for her child than Marius, whom she loves but is never at home. +

see also: Fanny (1961 film), a remake of the 1932 version.

French posters for
Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny Trilogy (Les Films Marcel Pagnol)
art by Albert Dubout

Pride of the Marines (Warner Brothers, 1945)

Pride of the Marines (Warner Brothers, 1945)

Eleanor Parker and John Garfield in Pride Of The MarinesJohn Garfield stars as Al Schmid, a true-life marine who served in World War II. Schmid becomes a hero at Guadalcanal, defending a machine gun post and killing 200 Japanese before he is permanently blinded by a grenade.

rt: Eleanor Parker and John Garfield in Pride Of The Marines

His life story appeared in the American news magazines and the book Al Schmid, Marine by Roger Butterfield. +

Despite being awarded the Navy Cross, Schmid returns home embittered by his disability. After a long and grueling convalescence, he is shaken back to life by his girl friend Ruth (Eleanor Parker) and his best pal (Dane Clark), neither of whom allow him to wallow in self-pity. +

VIDEO: Pride Of The Marines (1945) – Original Trailer on You Tube

Querelle (Triumph, 1982)

Querelle (Triumph, 1982)

West German-French English-language drama film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, adapted from French author Jean Genet‘s 1947 novel Querelle de Brest. +

Brad Davis as QuerelleHandsome Belgian sailor Georges Querelle, (Brad Davis) arrives in Brest and starts frequenting a strange whorehouse. He discovers that his brother Robert is the lover of the lady owner, Lysiane, (Jeanne Moreau).

There, you can play dice with Nono, Lysiane’s husband. If you win, you are allowed to make love with Lysiane; if you lose, you have to make love with Nono…  +

rt: Brad Davis as Querelle

Querelle marked Fassbinder’s final film as a writer/director, and was released just months after the director died of a drug overdose in June 1982. The film sold more than 100,000 tickets in the first three weeks after its release in Paris, albeit to mixed reviews, due to it’s strong homosexual theme.

Rainbow Island (Paramount, 1944)

Rainbow Island (Paramount, 1944)

A lavish Technicolor confection designed to show off the physical attributes of star Dorothy Lamour. Caucasian Lamour is raised as native on a tropical hide-away. Barry Sullivan, Eddie Bracken and Gil Lamb play merchant-marine sailors hiding from Japanese troops on Isle de Lamour. Any dramatic inclinations this story may have had are forgotten amidst several seductive musical numbers and numerous shots of Dorothy swaying in her patented sarong.

Perhaps aware that no one could have taken this film seriously, Ms. Lamour plays her role for laughs, and gets them. +

The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

Arthur Davies, (Simon MacCorkindale) is exploring a chain of islands off the German coast, attempting to update navigation charts for the area in which treacherous sandbanks abound. He becomes suspicious of a mysterious German who apparently is running a salvage operation on one of the islands, and does not welcome Davies’ interest in his activities. Davies summons the help of his friend Charles Carruthers, (Michael York) who works in the Foreign Office, to get to the bottom of the curious goings on. +

Set in 1901, it concerns the efforts of two British yachtsmen to avert a German plot to invade the east coast of England using a flotilla of specially designed barges, and was filmed on the North Sea coast of Germany and the Netherlands. +

Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale in The Riddle of the Sands

Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale in The Riddle of the Sands

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is a 1903 novel by Erskine Childers. The book, which enjoyed immense popularity in the years before World War I, is an early example of the espionage novel and was extremely influential in the genre of spy fiction. +

Sailor Beware (Paramount, 1952)

Sailor Beware (Paramount, 1952)

Adaption of a 1933 Kenyon Nicholson play of the same name. + As usual, Jerry Lewis is the helpless goof and Dean Martin the suave ladies’ man; this time Lewis is a navy recruit while Martin is his submarine-officer buddy. Betty Hutton has an uncredited cameo as Martin’s girlfriend, curiously named Hetty Button. Also, watch for an unnamed James Dean as one of the team’s shipmates. +

See You Next Week Martin and Lewis

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