During WW2, successive tug boat British captains sent on dangerous salvage missions pass-on the key to a home-port apartment where a lonely Swiss-Italian young war-widow lives.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Chris Ford
Capt. Van Dam (as Oscar Homolka)
Cmdr. Wadlow
Beatrix Lehmann ...
Hotel Porter
Bryan Forbes ...
Sidney Vivian ...
Rupert Davies ...
Russell Waters ...
American Captain
Jameson Clark ...
English Captain


During World War II, tug boats conduct what are called salvage missions - picking up disabled ships. Not well equipped with weaponry, the tugs are sitting ducks for enemy fire. As such, the crew working the tugs have precarious lives, many with deep seated emotional problems. Before the Americans join the war, ex-American military man David Ross is assigned to captain a tug for the British military. He is shown the ropes by an old friend, Captain Chris Ford. Chris currently shares a flat with a young beautiful Italian-Swiss woman named Stella, who came with the flat and who lives a reclusive life there. Chris is the latest in a long line of tug boat captains who have lived there, each who has found another person to take over the flat and the associated looking after of Stella if anything is to happen to him. That person is given a key to the flat, the key only to be used if needed. The first in the series was Phillip Westerby, to who Stella was to be married before Phillip was killed... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He had the life expectancy of a match... See more »


Drama | Romance | War


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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 September 1958 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Stella  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


After just a few weeks of filming, Carl Foreman wanted to replace Sophia Loren with Ingrid Bergman but William Holden persuaded Foreman to keep her. See more »


When Captain Ross is standing in the office listening to the Morse code transmission several people say that the ship is sending an SOS. While the shipboard operator may be requesting help, he is not sending SOS which consists of 3 short - 3 long - 3 short keystrokes. See more »


Referenced in McCullin (2012) See more »


Lambeth Walk
Music by Noel Gay
Lyrics by Douglas Furber
Sung by the customers at the dance hall
See more »

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User Reviews

15 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As a master (captain) of salvage tugs I can attest to the incredible reality of the shipboard scenes. I have seen no other film that rivals the scenes shot at sea for this film. I found the film riveting for both the action at sea, and the drama ashore.

The plot develops as the characters develop. Will the ship complete her mission? Will the captain return to the apartment? Will the characters overcome the obstacles before them, both emotionally and physically?

Trevor Howard is the perfect old salt, full of bravado, yet terrified.

William Holden, the optimistic American.

Sophia Loren played the role of Stella perfectly! She is the despondent, cynical, war shocked shell in whom we are drawn to share William Holden's hope.

I was mesmerized to the end.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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