Maritime Monday for September 9th, 2013: Movies About Sailors Part II; Shape Ahoy!

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September 8, 2013

Movies About Sailors part 2

Part 1

Dames Ahoy (Universal, 1930) Swedish language poster

Dames Ahoy (Universal, 1930) Swedish language poster

Three sailors go searching for a blonde gold-digger who tricked one of them into marriage when he was drunk. All he can remember is that his elusive bride has a strawberry-shaped birthmark on her knee. +

Between the delightful performances, the sustained good humor of the piece, the location crowd shots involving the three principals, and the establishing shots of the 1930-vintage navy ships (too many of which were still in service 11 years later when the US entered World War II), this is not only still a fun movie 80-some years later but also a priceless document of a more innocent age. +

The Day of the Triffids (Rank, 1962)

The Day of the Triffids (Rank, 1962)

Adapted from the novel by John Wyndham, this intelligent British monster movie begins with a meteor shower so intensely bright that it blinds the majority of the world’s population, rendering them vulnerable to attack from hordes of carnivorous plants known as “Triffidus Celestus” grown from meteor-borne spores.

rt: Joseph Smith Original Movie Poster Art

Joseph Smith Original Movie Poster ArtAs the plant-monsters continue to multiply and seek human prey, the remaining sighted people join forces to combat the veggie invaders.

One such survivor, an American seaman (Howard Keel) whose eyes were bandaged during the meteorite impact, battles his way through the Triffid ranks. Meanwhile, a couple (Kieron Moore and Janette Scott are trapped in a lighthouse.

Good production values make this low-budget effort look more expensive than it probably was. +

The Day of the Triffids was cited by Karl Edward Wagner as one of the thirteen best science-fiction horror novels. Arthur C. Clarke called it an “immortal story”. +

The Devil's Henchmen (Columbia, 1949)

The Devil’s Henchmen (Columbia, 1949)

B-movie about an insurance investigator that infiltrates a rough-and-tumble waterfront gang of thieves and smugglers. (more)

Don Winslow of the Coast Guard (Universal, 1943)

Don Winslow of the Coast Guard (Universal, 1943)

The 13-chapter Don Winslow of the Coast Guard was the second of two Universal serials based on the comic strip Don Winslow of the Navy. Don Terry returns as Don Winslow, who has been promoted to Commander in this effort.

Also returning is mystery villain The Scorpion, once more working in cahoots with the Japanese to sabotage American installations in the Pacific. Winslow’s mission is to prevent the Scorpion from severing vital supply lines to America’s armed forces. The movie serial staple gimmick prop this time out is an underwater aircraft carrier! +

Don Winslow of the Navy (Universal, 1942)

Don Winslow of the Navy (Universal, 1942)

Don Winslow of the Navy was an American comic strip that ran from 1934 to 1955. The title character was a spy-chasing Lieutenant Commander in Naval intelligence, conceived by Lieutenant Commander Frank V. Martinek USNR, himself a storied veteran of World War I Naval Intel.

Martinek thought that a comic strip that focused on Naval tradition and courage would educate and fascinate America’s youth, and would serve as a recruiting tool. (more)

Don Winslow of the Navy serial; plot synopsis

Everything's Ducky (Columbia, 1961)

Everything’s Ducky (Columbia, 1961)

Beetle McKay (Mickey Rooney) and Admiral John Paul Jones (Buddy Hackett) are two wacky sailors who befriend a talking duck, a verbose fowl who possesses a secret formula.

The formula is needed by the Navy satellite program and so the chatty mallard is worth quite a bit. In the meantime, the duck is hooked on booze and is a failure at taking to the water or even sounding like a normal duck. The sailors have their work cut out for them as the deadline for launching the satellite approaches. +

Fate Gave Me Twenty Cents (Paramount, 1926)

Fate Gave Me Twenty Cents (Paramount, 1926)

(aka God Gave Me Twenty Cents) Set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras week, the story concerns the misadventures of sailor Steve Doren (Jack Mulhall), who tries his best to support his wife Mary (Lois Moran) on his piddling income.

But, like seafaring men everywhere, Steve is constitutionally unreliable, especially when hip-swinging temptress Cassie Lang (Lya De Putti) sashays into view. Initially, it looks as though long-suffering Mary has been betrayed by her husband, but appearances can be deceiving… +

extended review on IMDb

The Fleet's In (Paramount, 1928)

The Fleet’s In (Paramount, 1928)

A girl who works in a dance hall falls in love with a sailor, but he has the wrong idea of what it is she does and wants nothing to do with her. +

The Fleet's In (Paramount, 1928) insetClara Bow, (1905 – 1965) “The It Girl,” rose to stardom in silent movies during the 1920s. She came to personify the Roaring Twenties and is described as its leading sex symbol. By the late 20’s she was the top box office draw.

Director Elmer Clifton needed a tomboy for his movie Down to the Sea in Ships, saw Bow in Motion Picture Classic magazine and sent for her. Bow got 10th billing in the credits, but her star quality shone through. In movie parlance, she ‘stole’ the picture.

By the age of 25, her career was essentially over. Bow retired from acting in 1933, after having appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies. During her lifetime, Bow was the subject of wild rumors regarding her sex life; most of which were untrue. She died of a heart attack on September 27, 1965 at the age of 60.

image above right

The Fleet's In (Paramount, 1942)

The Fleet’s In (Paramount, 1942)

William Holden plays Casey Kirby, a shy sailor who through a series of misunderstandings develops a reputation as a world-class lady-killer. In order to save face, Casey has to persuade “The Countess of Swingland” (Dorothy Lamour), a popular Big Band vocalist, to give him a big kiss in public.

Betty Hutton made her screen debut in this movie, backed by Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, (who also perform several other numbers) including their hit “Tangerine.” +

VIDEO: Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra – Tangerine from “The Fleet’s In”

The Fighting Sullivans (Twentieth Century Fox, 1944)

The Fighting Sullivans (Twentieth Century Fox, 1944)

The Sullivans attempts to find the positives in one of the most tragic chapters of World War II. Edward Ryan, John Campbell, James B. Cardwell, John Alvin and George Offerman Jr. play the Sullivan brothers, sons of an Iowa railroad worker (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife (Selena Royle). The film traces the boys from childhood, maintaining a relatively lighthearted tone until the Sullivans sign up en masse for the US Navy after hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sullivan brothers on board the USS Juneau (CL-52)

Sullivan brothers on board the USS Juneau (CL-52)
left to right: Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George

Refusing to be separated, the boys are all assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau — and all are killed on November 13, 1942 when the vessel goes down at Guadalcanal. The scene in which the family receives the wire from the war department is impossible to watch with a dry eye. +

As a direct result of the Sullivans’ deaths (and the deaths of four of the Borgstrom brothers within a few months of each other two years later), the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.

more about the Sullivan Brothers

USS The Sullivans

USS The Sullivans (1,472 × 1,104 pixels)

USS The Sullivans (DD-537) is a Fletcher-class destroyer named in honor of the five Sullivan brothers. Laid down 10 October 1942 at San Francisco by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation; the name was made official by FDR on 6 February 1943, and she was launched 4 April 1943.  detailed service history

After service in both World War II and the Korean War, The Sullivans was assigned to the 6th Fleet and was a training ship until she was decommissioned on 7 January 1965. She was then donated to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York, where she now serves as a memorial and is open for public tours.

Her motto: “We Stick Together+

Francis in the Navy (Universal International, 1955)

Francis in the Navy (Universal International, 1955)

Francis the Talking Mule was a mule celebrity, featured in seven movie comedies in the 1950s. The character originated in a novel by writer David Stern, and Universal Studios bought the rights for a film series.

Francis in the NavyThe book and series focused on the exploits of Francis, an experienced Army mule, and Peter Stirling, the young soldier whom he befriends, (and stays with into civilian life).  In the original 1950 film, the mule identifies himself to the commanding general as “Francis…123rd Mule Detachment… serial number M52519.” Donald O’Connor received top billing as Peter, but the true star was undoubtedly Francis.

The first six movies were directed by Universal comedy veteran Arthur Lubin, previously known for helming Abbott and Costello vehicles, who would go on to produce and direct Mister Ed for television. Like in Mr. Ed, Francis would usually only talk to Peter, invariably causing problems for his upright companion.

The actual mule who appeared on-screen was not a male at all, but a female named Molly, selected because she was easy to handle. Universal paid $350 for the animal, and went on to make millions from the film series. The distinctive voice of Francis was provided by veteran character actor Chill Wills, who lent his deep, rough vocal texture and Western twang to the cynical and sardonic mule.  more

source, inset

Francis in the Navy

set of 8 lobby cards

In this installment, (the sixth of seven and O’Connor’s final foray) O’Connor plays Army lieutenant Peter Sterling, who heads to a navy base when it looks like his old pal Francis is about to be auctioned off as surplus. Sterling is mistaken for a bos’n’s mate whom he resembles, and it’s off to sea for both Peter and the mule. Among the able-bodied seamen in this film is a chap named Jonesy, played by a young Clint Eastwood. +

The Frisco Kid (Warner Brothers, 1935)

The Frisco Kid (Warner Brothers, 1935)

In San Francisco in the 1850s, gold fever has left shipowners short-handed.  James Cagney plays Bat Morgan, a sailor come ashore who is robbed and nearly shanghaied. Managing to escape, he sticks around town to pay back those responsible.  +

more detailed synopsis on allmovie

The Frogmen (20th Century Fox, 1951)

The Frogmen (20th Century Fox, 1951)

In this World War II drama, Richard Widmark plays Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence, a strict navy commander assigned to replace the popular senior officer of a group of underwater demolition divers. Lawrence disciplines this brave but fiercely independent group of underwater warriors, winning few friends in the process. The unpopular officer proves his worth in front of his men by neutralizing a live torpedo at the risk of his own life. The principal attraction of The Frogmen is its underwater photography. +

A Girl in Every Port (RKO, 1952)

A Girl in Every Port (RKO, 1952)

Groucho and Bendix play Benny Linn and Tim Dunnevan, respectively, a couple of scheming sailors who embark upon one get-rich-quick scheme after another. A box-office disappointment, A Girl in Every Port ended Groucho Marx’s efforts to become a solo screen star. +

Give Me a Sailor (Paramount, 1938)

Give Me a Sailor (Paramount, 1938)

Bob Hope and Jack Whiting are amorous sailors. Martha Raye is the “ugly duckling” sister of beautiful Betty Grable. Everyone’s in love with the wrong person: Martha pines for Jack who pines for Betty who pines for Bob. What could possibly go wrong? +

A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (RKO, 1941)

A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (RKO, 1941)

The girl is stenographer Dot Duncan (Lucille Ball); the guy is her boss, stuffy young shipping magnate Stephen Herrick (Edmond O’Brien); and the gob is a brash sailor known as Coffee Cup (George Murphy). Not surprisingly, the plot involves the efforts by the self-effacing Stephen and the self-confident Coffee Cup to woo and win the lovely Dot. Jam-packed with round-robin comic misunderstandings and wild slapstick. +

Gobs and Gals (1952)

Gobs and Gals (Republic, 1952)

Florence Marly George & Bert BernardThe Bernard Brothers were a comedy brother act from the early 1950’s, and were stylistic contemporaries of Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis.

In Gobs and Gals, George and Bert play a couple of sailors stationed at a remote South Sea weather station. To keep themselves well stocked with cookies, candy and the like, the boys send out love letters to various stateside girls, enclosing photographs of their much handsomer commanding officer (Robert Hutton).

rt: Florence Marly with George & Bert Bernard

Somehow this harmless subterfuge gets the Bernard boys mixed up with a nest of Soviet spies, headed by modern-day Mata Hari Sonya Dubois (Florence Marly). Some of the jokes at the expense of Stalinist communism are amusing, as is the film’s zany slapstick finale. +

The Hairy Ape (United Artists, 1944)

The Hairy Ape (United Artists, 1944)

The Hairy Ape (United Artists, 1944)Based on a play by Eugene O’Neill, William Bendix is nothing less than brilliant as ship’s stoker Hank Smith, a brutish but sensitive lug who is convinced that his strength is derived from the hair that covers his body.

While Hank’s ship is docked in Lisbon, the boiler room is visited by the wealthy-but-bitchy Mildred Douglas (Susan Hayward). Disgusted by Hank’s hirsuteness, she calls him a “hairy ape.”

At first enraged, Hank becomes fascinated by the beautiful Mildred, and before long is openly lusting after her. For her own selfish purposes, Mildred leads him on, laying the groundwork for the disastrous events that follow…  keep reading

rt: The Hairy Ape (United Artists, 1944)

Hell Raiders of the Deep (IFE Releasing Corporation, 1953)

Hell Raiders of the Deep (IFE Releasing Corporation, 1953)

This movie tells a little-known true story of heroism on the part of a small group of Italian Navy frogmen who entered the harbor at Alexandria and sunk a British ship riding manned torpedoes. rt: cockpit of an Italian manned torpedo

cockpit of Italian manned torpedoEleonora Rossi Drago as a dancer with eyes and ears for intelligence adds a human and romantic element to the tale.

Interesting for both its technical as well as historical details; it ends with the British commander of the sunken warship decorating the Italian seaman who sunk his ship with the Medaglia d’Oro, Italy’s Medal of Honor, at a NATO ceremony. +

VIDEO: 1942; La Decima Mas attacca New York (9 mins 54 sec)

Hit the Deck

Hit the Deck (RKO, 1930)  — Hit the Deck (MGM, 1955)

1930: Starring Jack Oakie. In this musical, based on a long-running Broadway hit from 1927, a sailor finds himself the object of a cafe owner’s affections. Singin’, dancin’, and mayhem ensues.+

The last known copy was destroyed in an RKO fire in the 1950s, and the film is considered lost. +  see also: Beautiful Swedish art deco poster

1955: The second film version of the same-named 1927 hit Broadway musical. Though updated for the 1950s, the basic plot remains the same. Sailors Tony Martin, Vic Damone and Russ Tamblyn, (as the son of by-the-book admiral Walter Pidgeon) spend their entire shore leave in pursuit of three beautiful gals.

Videos: Hallelujah! (Hit the Deck-1955)Hallelujah! (Reprise)

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