Oil-tanker Captain Manson rescues Kathie Hall after her ship is sunk by a U-boat. He marries her. When his ship is sunk and she is suspected because she has no identification. Manson tries ... See full summary »
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H. Bruce Humberstone,
Oil-tanker Captain Manson rescues Kathie Hall after her ship is sunk by a U-boat. He marries her. When his ship is sunk and she is suspected because she has no identification. Manson tries to clear her of the charge and discovers that his first mate, Adamson, is a German agent. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
I know of only one other movie that was made about the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II. That was "Action in the North Atlantic" by Warner Brothers in 1943. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey and Alan Hale. That film was set in the North Atlantic and had considerable action. "Tampico" isn't on the same level, but it gives a peek at what the Merchant Marine was like around the world during WWII. And, it includes a look at fifth column activities during the war. Nazi operators existed in the U.S. and many other nations. Their primary purpose in the U.S. was to keep it out of the war on the side of the Allies. It's secondary operations were disruption of industrial production, sabotage and espionage to aid in the sinking of Allied ships.
The plot is fairly simple and somewhat contrived for this film. Edward G. Robinson is very good as Capt. Bart Manson. Victor McLaglen is very good as his first mate. Lynn Bari is good as Kathy Hall. Her part in the film does seem quite contrived. Some reviewers couldn't place her being attracted to Robinson. And a couple questioned Robinson's age as a ship's captain. The script gives a good accounting of Kathy's situation. She had left the U.S. five years earlier and traveled and worked as a dancer in Europe. And, with the rise of the Nazis and invasion of France, she had been trying to return to the U.S. through Lisbon, Portugal. That was a familiar struggle for many civilians, including Americans, trying to get away from the Nazis.
As to Robinson's age, the Merchant Marine had many ship captains in their 40s and 50s. And, during WWII, the service was very happy to have all the experienced captains stay at their helms. Before the start of the war, the Merchant Marine had 55,000 experienced mariners. That number grew to 215,000 during the war all trained by the Maritime Service.
During the war, about 4,300 Allied ships were sunk. More than 9,300 U.S. mariners lost their lives. In the peak year 1942, the Allies lost 33 ships per week. The U.S. Merchant Marine operated in most of the oceans and seas of the world, and lost ships in all those areas. The Atlantic Ocean had the most ships lost more than 700. But more than 230 ships were sunk by German U-boats in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
So, "Tampico" gives a look at Merchant Marine operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Early in the film, Captain Manson lectures his men before they go on shore leave about maintaining security so that the enemy can't find out about their shipping plans and cargoes. Very few war films show these warnings to the troops, but it is something that regularly took place among all the services. One of the most familiar posters seen during WWII warned, "Loose lips sink ships." "Tampico" fits that warning to a tee.
This movie doesn't have the action of many other films at sea. And, it spends more time in port. But it gives us a rare look at the silent service during WWII that was so crucial to supplying the Allied forces and to their winning the war.
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