Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

Warner Bros. goes to war in ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943), a very fine tribute to the bravery of the Merchant Marine.

Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Dane Clark, Alan Hale (Sr.), and Sam Levene are part of the crew on a tanker which is torpedoed by a German submarine. The surviving crew is rescued after a number of harrowing days floating on a raft, and they soon embark on a new voyage aboard the Liberty Ship Sea Witch, joining a huge convoy delivering equipment from Halifax to Murmansk.

It's a challenge for the convoy to hold together due to Nazi submarine attacks, and as the Sea Witch struggles to stay afloat and safely deliver its cargo, it also finds itself under attack from the sky.

This is a very well-done and engrossing film with quite a bit of interesting info on the Merchant Marine and its role in World War II. I was particularly fascinated by the Halifax captains' conference where the convoy formation and rules are explained. Very interesting stuff, especially then seeing the plans put into action.

I especially liked the relationship between Captain Jarvis (Massey) and his First Mate, Lt. Rossi (Bogart), which is simultaneously easy and professional. They're both excellent, and the interactions between Captain Jarvis and "Mister" Rossi are the best reasons to see the film.

Of course, this being a Warner Bros. film, there are many familiar faces among the crew, including Clark, Hale, Levene, Kane Richmond, Dick Hogan, and more. Julie Bishop and Ruth Gordon have brief roles as the women Bogart and Massey leave behind; the film reunited Massey and Gordon, who costarred in ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1940).

About the only things I didn't care for were a couple different sequences involving shipboard kittens, which were entirely too nerve-wracking to watch, when I should have been worrying about the crew!

ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC was directed by Lloyd Bacon. IMDb also lists uncredited contributions by Raoul Walsh and Byron Haskin. It's a long yet well-paced film, running 126 minutes.

The movie was filmed in black and white by Ted McCord and the uncredited Tony Gaudio. The film does an especially good job smoothly mixing shots in a soundstage tank with special effects, stock footage, and the backlot dock. I was so wrapped up in the film that it was only near the end when it crossed my mind the ship was in a soundstage. That's good movie-making.

ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC is available on DVD in the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection Vol. 2 or the Bogart TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection. I actually had my Signature Collection DVD stop working after a few years, which has occasionally happened to me with Warner Bros. discs, and I replaced it with the TCM DVD.

Last month this film was reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC also had a 2000 release on VHS.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I found this a very moving and exciting film with fine performances. Haven't seen it in years and you have me aching to see it again soon.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree! I really enjoyed this one. I'm glad to know you enjoyed it also and hope you can revisit it soon!

Best wishes,

4:35 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Laura. I rewatched it a few months ago, and to me the first part is just so engrossing and thrilling. I guess I never thought about the soundstage scenes until you mentioned it; it’s that well made.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Seth! That's interesting that you also didn't think about how the movie was made as you were watching it. Sure is a mark of good storytelling and filmmaking.

Best wishes,

7:19 PM  

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