In the Atlantic during WWII, a ship and a German U-boat are involved in a battle and both are sunk. The survivors from the ship gather in one of the boats. They are from a variety of backgrounds: an international journalist, a rich businessman, the radio operator, a nurse, a steward, a sailor and an engineer with communist tendencies. Trouble starts when they pull a man out of the water who turns out to be from the U-boat. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Screen Director's Playhouse" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 16, 1950 with Tallulah Bankhead reprising her film role. See more »
After Gus awakes from his amputation, the nurse has both arms near her at first. Then, she is leaning over Gus with her right arm outstretched in the next shot. See more »
[climbs into boat]
Lady, you certainly don't look like somebody that's just been shipwrecked.
Man, I certainly feel like it.
See more »
When David O. Selznick got some loan out money from Darryl Zanuck for Alfred Hitchcock's services for two films (the second was never made), I'm sure Zanuck must have just loved Hitchcock when he told him that he wanted to make a film with just one set. Talk about cost cutting, anyway after a few failed scripts, Zanuck got American premier novelist John Steinbeck to write an original screenplay and since it was timely patriotic, Hitchcock did it.
So for Hitchcock asking for a one set film, the movie going public got Lifeboat. A disparate group of passengers and crew are torpedoed in the mid-Atlantic and wind up together in a lifeboat. After their ship went down however, another ship in the convoy rammed in the U-Boat that sank them. The last one picked up on board is a German.
The crew members include John Hodiak, William Bendix, Hume Cronyn and Canada Lee. Passengers are Mary Anderson, Heather Angel and a dead baby she clings to, and millionaire Henry Hull. And of course playing a Dorothy Thompson like correspondent is the great Tallulah Bankhead.
Lifeboat is a wonderful film not just for the fact that Alfred Hitchcock succeeded in making a one set film that you are never conscious of while watching. But it's the only opportunity to see Tallulah at the height of her fame. She made a bunch of Hollywood features at the beginning of the sound era, but they flopped for the most part. So she went back to Broadway which loved her best and her season box seat at the Polo Grounds where she was the New York Giants most devoted fan. Lifeboat should have rejuvenated a movie career, but she apparently didn't care. Lifeboat even on its own is her best work on film, let alone in comparison to other films.
The villain of Lifeboat is our German, Walter Slezak. He's a devious and cunning individual, he seems stronger and more fit than the other Lifeboat survivors and because of that and in spite of the fact he's hated, he gradually assumes charge. There's a reason for his actions and his fitness and when it's discovered, grave consequences erupt.
Canada Lee, distinguished black actor from the stage, gets a role here that's far from Willie Best or Step N' Fetchit. My favorite scene in Lifeboat is when Hodiak who represents the left on the boat is trying to rouse the rest to just toss Walter Slezak to the sharks when he first arrives, asks Lee for his opinion as he's a member of the party. Lee replies simply he didn't realize he had any vote or say in the matter, a very trenchant observation about how blacks were disenfranchised in a quarter of the USA, some twenty years before the Voting Rights Act.
The Lifeboat survivors are a cross section of the American people and this World War II allegory in microcosm is to show just why these Nazis are as evil as they are and why we have to resist. Even today more than sixty years after it was first made, Lifeboat is still a great cinematic achievement from Alfred Hitchcock.
And it was made so cheaply which Darryl Zanuck ecstatic.
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