The setting of this film is WWII. The American oil tanker, the SS Northern Star is captained by Steve Jarvis and a German U-boat sinks the ship in the North Atlantic Ocean. The First Officer is Joe Rossi and they make it to a lifeboat with the other crew members. The U-Boat crew starts to film the men in the lifeboat and then they are rammed by the sub. They drift at sea on a raft for 11 days. They have a brief liberty and then they are back aboard a newly launched ship. It’s the Liberty Ship SS Seawitch and this ship is armed with 5-inch anti-aircraft guns. There is a Navy Armed Guard force on the ship to man the guns. The Seawitch sails with a convoy but they are attacked by a German wolf pack. The convoy ships are ordered to scatter and one of the U-boats follows the Seawitch. The U-boat contacts the Luftwaffe and the next day a pair of Heinkel He 59 seaplanes attack the Seawitch with machine guns and bombs. Several seamen are killed and Capt. Jarvis is wounded.
I was surprised that none of this sea action was actually on the water, it’s all done on sound stages and a back lot. The directors were prohibited from filming at sea due to wartime restrictions by the US government. The working title for this film was Heroes Without Uniforms. More than a dozen merchant mariners and several hundred US sailors were at the premier in New York. The shipbuilding magnate Henry J. Kaiser wanted this film shown to all his employees. The Merchant Marine schools used it for training because of the technical and educational material. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Best Original Story). I previously reviewed this film in July of 2013. 3 ½* (I liked this movie)
126 min, Action directed by Lloyd Bacon and Byron Haskin with Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Dane Clark Peter Whitney, Dick Hogan.
Note: Imdb 7.0 out of 10, 70% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4* user rating 4.4* out of 5*.
Special Note: Filmed in Santa Barbara and Burbank, California. Near the end of this film as the ship is nearing Murmansk, several Russian airplanes fly out to meet them. One of the pilots guns his engine in short bursts. Three short bursts followed by a long one. Audiences of the 1940’s would know that this is the three dots and a dash of the more Code V for Victory. It was heavily used as a slogan during WWII. A replica of a ten thousand-ton tanker was built in sound stages six and seven. Each stage contained ½ of the ship’s hull and deck-housing fixtures. A Liberty Ship was constructed on the same stages for later scenes. Their size prohibited rocking equipment and a rocking camera mounted on a crane was used. The House Un-American Activities Committee looking for subversive activities later investigated several writers, John Howard Lawson, A.I. Besserides and Alvah Bessie and they were blacklisted. Bessie and Lawson became known as members of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors refusing to answer questions from the Committee. They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights under the US Constitution. They were sent to prison for refusing to testify. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Best Original Story).