Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Navy Comes Through (1942)

THE NAVY COMES THROUGH (1942) is a well-done patriotic film released in the first year after America's entry into World War II.

THE NAVY COMES THROUGH stars Pat O'Brien and was directed by A. Edward Sutherland. Sutherland and O'Brien would later team on a film I thoroughly enjoyed, SECRET COMMAND (1944), as well as HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME (1945). HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME reunited O'Brien with George Murphy, his costar from THE NAVY COMES THROUGH, and also with Carole Landis of SECRET COMMAND. I hope to watch HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME in the near future.

In THE NAVY COMES THROUGH Murphy plays Lt. Tom Sands, who resigns his commission as a Naval officer circa 1940, after he's found responsible for a fatal shipboard accident. The incident also puts an end to Tom's romance with Myra (Jane Wyatt), a nurse who is the sister of his commanding officer, Mike Mallory (O'Brien).

After Pearl Harbor Tom enlists in the Navy as an ordinary sailor, and he ends up under the command of a shocked Mallory, who is deeply bitter towards Tom.

The men are part of a small Navy crew serving aboard a merchant marine vessel, protecting it as it traverses the Atlantic. Mallory comes to grudgingly respect Tom as they take on German ships, and eventually he also learns the truth about the accident which had led to Tom's resignation.

I am developing quite an appreciation for O'Brien, who strikes me as similar to Lloyd Nolan in his ability to imbue his characters with personality and give interesting line readings even when there's nothing much going on.

The best scene in the movie is when a young sailor (Jackie Cooper) tries to play it cool saying goodbye to his mother when he's about to embark on the ship, and O'Brien orders him to go back and say goodbye to his mother "right," after which the young man kisses and hugs his mother in an emotional goodbye. Then, once the sailor is on the ship, O'Brien further goes over to the mother and hugs and reassures her. It's a lovely little moment.

The film is further made enjoyable by an excellent supporting cast. The ship's crew includes the young Desi Arnaz (left), Frank Jenks, and Carl Esmond, with Ray Collins as the captain of the merchant marine ship.

The only problem I had with the film was that I found Murphy colorless as Tom. His character starts out on a negative note, going through the inquiry regarding the accident, and he's remote and impassive through most of the movie. We never get a sense of what he's feeling or who he really is. I felt like the role was tailor made for someone like O'Brien's SECRET COMMAND costar Chester Morris, who might have brought more shadings to the character, along with conveying a sense of longing toward Myra which was completely missing here.

I seem to be watching films with Jane Wyatt and/or a Navy theme with some frequency of late! Last week I saw Wyatt in WE'RE ONLY HUMAN and watched the Navy movie WINGS OF THE NAVY (1939). Wyatt and the Navy were also both part of TASK FORCE (1949), seen a couple of weeks ago.

THE NAVY COMES THROUGH runs 82 minutes. The story was by Borden Chase, who would go on to write many fine Westerns. The movie was filmed by Nicholas Musuraca. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects.

THE NAVY COMES THROUGH is an RKO film which had a VHS release as part of the RKO Collection series. It has not been released on DVD.

I saw THE NAVY COMES THROUGH thanks to Turner Classic Movies.

May 2016 Update: THE NAVY COMES THROUGH is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.


Blogger Robby Cress said...

Thanks for the review Laura. This is one I've been wanting to see but only saw available on VHS. I'm hoping a DVD release may come in the future.

I would be interested to hear what you think of Having Wonderful Crime. It's more of a B picture but has its moments, particularly seeing Landis in more of a lead role as opposed to the bit parts she played in many films.

8:31 AM  

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