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Hellcats of the Navy (1957)

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The daring exploits of a submarine commander whose mission is to chart the minefields in the watersof Japan during WWII. This is Ronald and Nancy Reagan's only screen appearance together.



(book) (as Vice-Admiral Charles A. Lockwood Vice-Admiral USN Ret.), (book) (as Col. Hans Christian Adamson USAF Ret.) | 3 more credits »



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Cast overview:
Nurse Lt. Helen Blair (as Nancy Davis)
Lt. Cmdr. Don Landon
Freddy Warren
William Leslie ...
Lt. Paul Prentice
William 'Bill' Phillips ...
Carroll (as William Phillips)
Lt. (j.g.) Wes Barton
Michael Garth ...
Bill aka Lt. Charlie
Chick (as Joseph Turkel)


The daring exploits of a submarine commander whose mission is to chart the minefields in the watersof Japan during WWII. This is Ronald and Nancy Reagan's only screen appearance together.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Down . . . Down . . . Down . . . into enemy waters with the fightin' hellcats of the U.S. sub pack !


Drama | Thriller | War


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Release Date:

May 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hellcats of the Sea  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This movie was the first and only time that former American President and actor Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy Reagan (aka Nancy Davis) star-teamed and made a movie together. The couple however did appear frequently together in television episodes of General Electric Theater (1953). Technically speaking though, in this movie, Reagan actually received top billing and Nancy second-billing. As the couple have become more famous through time, the perception of their billing has been equalized due to their presidential married status. See more »


Near the beginning of the movie when the Starfish is preparing to torpedo the Japanese ships, Landon calls out "bearing 250", but his mouth does not match the "250" or later bearings. See more »


Features Blood Alley (1955) See more »

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User Reviews

modest sub movie
25 March 2005 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

You have to feel sorry for anybody who tries to write the screenplay for a submarine movie. How is it possible to avoid all the established clichés? The shattered chronometer, the bursting pipe, the ritual commands, the toy submarine nosing through the murk, the wounded skipper lying on the deck and ordering the boat down, the periscope slicing the sea, the tin can approaching at high speed, the pinging sonar gear, the tense sweaty faces, the walloped camera as the depth charge explodes, the conflict between the CO and the Exec, the playful bantering of the crew, a down-the-throat shot.

Added to that are the problems that any Navy movie has. The men have no chance at individual heroism and practically none of being dramatically wounded. (Unless one of them gets appendicitis or has a torpedo fall on him, which happens from time to time.) Basically, the crew are there for comic purposes, so the burden of the drama must fall on the officers. The question can never be about who is going to rush out with his tommy gun and save the rest of the patrol, so it can only be about whose judgment is correct, the skipper or one of his officers. (Sometimes a romantic conflict on the beach is thrown in, but that's rather arbitrary, kind of like the appendicitis patient.) This one isn't too bad, as sub movies go, but it arrives late in the post-war genre. Nobody in it is weak. The enemy is dehumanized, the dialogue trite and exhausted, the action scenes shot on the cheap, and the story is twisted, hard to follow, and sometimes pointless. (Example, midway through the movie a great deal is made of Captain Reagan's having brought back an accurate chart of the Japanese mine fields, but when the subs are sent out en masse it turns out the mines have been moved around so the chart is now irrelevant.) The performers do as well as they can under the circumstances, although Nancy Reagan is definitely in the wrong part here. The right parts would have been those taken by the elderly Bette Davis. The cast has a lot of familiar faces, but none of them memorable because of their having given good performances elsewhere, only memorable because we've seen them so often before.

The director should be spanked. A man is knocked about during a depth charge attack and is taken to sick bay. After he's been treated and bandaged up, there are still trickles of blood down his chin and the side of his face. Once winces at such sloppiness. And there is another painfully staged scene, when Reagan and Davis are saying good-bye. Davis's face is in the foreground. She stares unblinkingly just to the left of the camera's lens while Reagan stands behind and speaks to her over her shoulder. This particular part of cinematic grammar must antedate cinema itself.

Should you see it? Well -- why not. It's a historical curiosity if nothing else.

17 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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