My husband and I watched AWAY ALL BOATS this weekend; it's an old favorite of his, but I'd never seen it before. I can see now why he likes it so much, as I thought it was a terrific WWII film with a superb cast.
The movie begins early in WWII, as Captain Jebediah S. Hawks (Jeff Chandler) takes command of the USS Belinda, a Navy transport ship. It's Hawks' job to turn a bunch of fairly green Navy recruits into an efficient fighting force. Hawks is a tough taskmaster, but it's up to him to make sure the Belinda stays afloat and his men stay alive so they can play their roles in the Pacific campaign.
In some regards, AWAY ALL BOATS might be thought of as a much more serious version of YOU'RE IN THE NAVY NOW (1951). Chandler as Hawks effectively portrays both a confident leader and a lonely man who cannot become friends with the men for whom he is responsible. It's fascinating watching him and seeing the effect he has on the men under his command, such as immature Commander Quigley (Lex Barker), who starts out clearly appreciating the relative glamour of being an officer, but not the responsibility.
It's eventually clear that while Hawks may seem cold and intimidating, he has an appreciation for the contributions of each man on the crew, including the goofy guy in charge of grinding up the garbage so that the ship doesn't leave a trail for the enemy; he also has a good understanding of group psychology. It's an excellent part, and Chandler makes the most of it.
I found the conclusion slightly melodramatic, given the film's matter-of-fact attitude up to that point, but all in all this was a really well-done, highly engrossing film. Any movie with a cast including Richard Boone, Charles McGraw, John McIntire, Julie Adams, Jock Mahoney, Arthur Space, and Frank Faylen has got to be pretty good, and indeed it is. McIntire's only in one scene and Adams is seen only at the opening and in a flashback, but I appreciated that even small roles were cast with top actors. Keith Andes, George Nader, William Reynolds, and James Westerfield are also among the large cast. David Janssen and Clint Eastwood, then on their way up the career ladder, are credited with bit parts at IMDb, but I didn't spot them on this viewing.
The screenplay by Ted Sherdeman was based on the novel by Kenneth M. Dodson.
AWAY ALL BOATS was directed by Joseph Pevney and filmed in VistaVision by William Daniels. It runs 114 minutes.
I'm very fortunate I was able to see the movie, as these days this is a relatively difficult film to obtain. AWAY ALL BOATS was released on VHS back in 2001. A DVD release of the same year is long out of print and very expensive.
It is available in Europe on Region 2 DVD. This is a title which really needs to be released in the Universal Vault Series; it's an excellent film with a top cast which was beautifully filmed, and I suspect it would be a very popular release, especially if the print is of the high quality typical of the Universal Vault DVDs.
Viewers who love World War II films, Jeff Chandler, and/or Universal movies of the '50s should find this film to be great entertainment. Highly recommended.