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In Harm's Way is a film that is historically important in the career of
its star, John Wayne, for two reasons. First, it marked his last
appearance in a Black and White film, and second, it was his last film
before undergoing surgery for lung cancer. It also marks Wayne's first
of three films with Kirk Douglas, and his only film with director Otto
As for the film itself, it is a character-driven story with the World War II setting used as a backdrop. Like other Preminger pictures of the time (Exodus, Advise and Consent) it has a big-name cast and an "epic" feel. Watch for Henry Fonda in a small part as Admiral Nimitz (referred to as "CINCPAC II"). Wayne plays Rockwell Torrey, a naval officer blamed for the Pearl Harbor disaster, and demoted. But Nimitz (Fonda) knows that Torrey is a good commander, and when timorous politician-turned-Admiral Broderick (Dana Andrews) botches a key operation, Nimitz turns control over to Torrey, giving him a second chance.
On the personal side, Torrey tries to help his second-in-command, Paul Eddington (Kirk Douglas), who, as they say, is going through some personal problems of his own. Torrey also tries to repair his relationship with his estranged son Jeremiah (Brandon De Wilde), and finds time to conduct a "twilight romance" with nurse Lieutenant Maggie Haynes (Patricia Neal).
Two scenes in particular make this film stand out. The first occurs when Wayne and Neal are alone together in his apartment, the night before she is about to be shipped out. I won't spoil it for anyone, but let me say that it is a classic example of how a scene can ooze with "sex" without actually "showing" a single thing. It's a perfect example of how this kind of scene can be handled tastefully and professionally. It's called class, folks, and it is apparently something that modern Hollywood cannot or will not understand. The second is a discussion on cowardice between Wayne and Burgess Meredith as the fleet is preparing to meet the Japanese in battle. Once again, I won't spoil it, but it a memorable and classic scene, the quote that I have used to head my review is delivered by Wayne during it.
While In Harm's Way may, at first, seem to be simply a film about the politics of Navy hierarchy, it is really a film about the personal lives and struggles of the men and women of World War II.
I've always felt that in these big budget all star epics, the trick is
to give each of the star a role of substance as small as the part might
be sometimes. That's one of the best things about In Harm's Way, Otto
Preminger cast this film with a whole lot of big movie names and each
one of them made their presence felt.
Case in point the three admirals played by Franchot Tone, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. All three are very different type men. Tone is a man knowing he'll be sitting the war out because it was on his watch that the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. He's not bitter, he knows that's how things work in the navy. Dana Andrews is a publicity conscious admiral who employs the unctuous Patrick O'Neal in that regard. Henry Fonda plays the second commander in chief of the Pacific, Chester Nimitz in all but name. Oddly enough Fonda would play Nimitz again and by name in the film Midway a decade later. All three of these men make a deep impression on the audience despite having limited roles.
I'm sure that when Otto Preminger was casting In Harm's Way he must have seen Operation Pacific and saw the easy chemistry that John Wayne and Patricia Neal had 14 years earlier. Playing older and wiser versions of themselves from the previous film, Wayne and Neal show love ain't just for the young.
In Harm's Way has the Duke as a father figure for the first time. As Rockwell Torrey, the rock of ages as Kirk Douglas calls him, in addition to the Pacific War he takes on a whole lot of people's problems and they look to him for advice and comfort. In addition to his biological son Brandon DeWilde, the Duke also deals with Kirk Douglas and his problem concerning his tramp of a wife and the problems of young Lieutenant j.g. Tom Tryon and his wife Paula Prentiss.
One of my favorite John Wayne scenes is with Prentiss as he brings her the news about Tryon being missing in action. It is so well done from both players I'm still moved after having seen In Harm's Way a dozen times or more.
Acting honors however may go to Kirk Douglas as Wayne's chief aide who has the most complex role in the film. Douglas runs the gamut of emotions as he does in so many of his roles, from naval hero to maniacal rapist. Douglas actually hopes the war coming will help him put his personal problems on a back burner. For a while and it does, but only temporarily.
Another favorite I have here is Patrick O'Neal who if there is a villain other than the Japanese, he's it. He's a smarmy former Congressman who's looking as the war as a series of photo ops and is already planning his post war political career. O'Neal's not above jeopardizing a naval operation for the sake of a little publicity for his boss Dana Andrews. His confrontation with Kirk Douglas in the latrine is a classic.
In Harm's Way is a skilled blend of war drama and soap opera in the best sense of that term. It can be enjoyed and appreciated by fans of both.
I have been watching this movie since it came out in 1965. It is one of the movies that sent me off to the US Navy in 1967. I recently purchased a DVD copy on the net for a great price and I watched it again. Yes, it is all fiction; but still a great movie against the back drop of WWII and the US Navy in the Pacific. It has battleships, cruisers, destroyers, PT boats, and submarines. It has confused yet brave men and women. It has old fashion love scenes that "fade to black after the first kiss". It has a rape scene where you do not see the violence; but, it is so well acted it is still terrifying. In the last 40 years I have read dozens of factual books about the US Navy in the Pacific. I still enjoy this movie very much and recommend it.
Critically under-valued at the time of it's release and now largely
forgotten, Otto Preminger's World War Two movie is a first-class
entertainment, intelligently scripted, crisply photographed and very well
directed. (There is a beautifully sustained scene where Preminger cross
cuts between John Wayne's date with Patricia Neal and son Brandon De Wilde's
date with Neal's room-mate Jill Haworth in which the characters of all four
protagonists are neatly established).
For once an all-star cast adds to, rather than detracts from, the film. With a few exceptions (Henry Fonda and Franchot Tone in blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos) all the actors are allowed to flesh out their roles with Patricia Neal and Burgess Meredith outstanding. Ultimately. of course, it never rises above melodrama and is the cinematic equivalent of those door-stopper novels favoured on the beach, but then melodrama was always where Peminger really came into his own. While certainly not in the class of "Laura", "Bonjour Tristesse", "Anatomy of a Murder" or "Advise and Consent", it is no disgrace and is a reminder that even second-rate Preminger is head and shoulders above a lot of the junk food cinema that fills our multi-plexes today.
No, I didn't go to see Pearl Harbor this weekend. I stayed at home and
watch my new DVD of In Harm's Way. The DVD cover is quite misleading. It
sports a color photo of Wayne and Douglas, but the film is black and white.
Their smiles would indicate a comedy.
Like From Here to Eternity, the human drama is set against the Pearl Harbor attack. Unlike, From Here to Eternity, the attack starts the film. And what a drama it is! Romance, infedelity, poor father/son relationship, honor, courage, rape, suicide. Never maudlin or schmaltzy, the performances are excellent, but low key. Back in 1965, taking the time to develop character was the norm, so to most young people, this movie would seem slow. Pity.
The battles scene are very good and the cinematography was Oscar nominated. There are some really breathtaking black and white high angel long shots of Hawaii with leaning palm trees and dark skies filled with billowing clouds.
And the cast! Your face will light up with every new character that appears. George Kennedy, Stanley Holloway, Hugh O' Brien, Dana Andrews, Bruce Cabot.
War, it is often said, brings out the best and the worst in man...
Stanley Kubrick clearly considered 'Path of Glory' as an effective
comment on men exposed to repulsive circumstances
The threatening morning of December 7, 1941a quiet Sundayis shattered by waves of Japanese planes bombing U.S Navy's base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sending all its battleships to the bottom of the ocean... The scene is taken in brief, with few shots of airplanes and some explosions in the ocean...
Among the few ships that escape, in one piece, is the destroyer Cassidy protected by Lieutenant William McConnel(Tom Tryon).
Out on patrol, in high seas, a cruiser, commanded by Captain Torrey Rockwell (John Wayne), is having gunnery practice... It is this ship that serves as temporary operational headquarters for the survivors of the aerial attack...
In the aftermath of the surprise military strike, Torrey receives orders to amass his small fleet of warships and engage the enemy
Photographed in black and white, the film has several characters, most of them very mature and realistic...
Paul Eddington (Kirk Douglas), a commander whose drunken wife (Barbara Bouchet) has committed adultery with a pilot (Hugh O'Brien). He relieves his anger by brutally raping a young nurse (Jill Haworth), and later, to save from being a total failure, defies orders by flying a reconnaissance plane and takes off alone to situate the hidden Japanese fleet in a very hazardous mission...
Egan Powell (Burgess Meredith), a sardonic wartime officer and a peacetime script writer who gives moments of sane observation, specially in a scene with Wayne discussing danger...
Patricia Neal, a mature and understanding Navy nurse who loves Captain Torrey and informs him that his son from whom he hasn't seen since for many years, is a naval officer on the island...
Brandon De Wilde is Jere, the young opportunist hoping to keep out of the way his PT boat assignment by leading a soft staff job Henry Fonda is the admiral in command of the Pacific theater; Dana Andrews is the weak Admiral Broderick and Patrick O'Neal is a well-connected congressman-turned-officer Cmdr. Neal Owynn...
John Wayne spent much of his later career foolishly playing much younger
characters (e.g. "McQ" or "Brannigan") or indulging in clearly conscious
self-parodies such as "True Grit." Most of his roles in the 60s and 70s
were unworthy of his talents, but in 1964 he turned in one of his finest
performances in Otto Preminger's "In Harms Way." His portrayal of Captain
(later Rear Admiral) Rockwell Torrey saves an elaborate war film and shows
that the Duke was a very capable actor.
Wayne will always be remembered as an action hero - riding, brawling, and shooting his way across the screen, stopping now and then for a drink or, less often, a kiss. But in this film, there are no horses, his one brawl is verbal, and he doesn't even carry a gun. Shorn of his usual props and plot devices, Wayne has no choice but to act and he delivers an extremely effective performance. He commands, he counsels, and in his own understated way, he loves. The picture's soap opera structure actually works to his advantage, giving him many opportunities to show different sides of his character's personality and to interact with almost every other performer in the film.
The rest of the huge cast is generally strong. Patricia Neal is fine as Wayne's romantic interest, playing a nurse who, as she says, is not a lady; Kirk Douglas is a bit overbearing at times as his exec, but then the role calls for it; Dana Andrews has one of his few good mature roles as the overly cautious Admiral Broderick. Everyone is up to the task but it's Wayne who carries the picture.
"In Harm's Way" is a heavily fictionalized account of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent campaign to take and hold Guadalcanal. Although the story owes more to the source novel than to real history, the tone of the film reasonably reflects the anxieties and uncertainties the Navy faced during the first year of the Pacific War.
Barbara Bouchet as Liz Eddington is the initial focus of this war movie,
dancing wildly and parading herself before the officers while her husband
Paul (Kirk Douglas) is away on duty. But 'In Harm's Way' isn't just her
story, it is a number of personal stories interwoven with battle with the
Japanese from Pearl Harbor onwards.
In the nominal lead is big John Wayne, drawling his way through the role of Rock Torrey as only he could. In war movies he was probably at his most effective as his whole bearing says 'I'm in charge'. He also has a personal life - a romance with croaky nurse Maggie (Patricia Neal, good as ever), and conflict with his sulky son Jere (Brandon de Wilde). Also in the cast are Stanley Holloway (as an Australian who leads the soldiers through dangerous terrain), Burgess Meredith (who has the memorable discussion about cowardice with Wayne), Dana Andrews, Franchot Tone, Henry Fonda, Bruce Cabot, Tom Tryon, George Kennedy, and James Mitchum.
This Otto Preminger film is as much about the lives of men at war as it is about battle sequences (although when they appear they are impressive). It also boasts an interesting sequence of shots over its end titles. Perhaps too long at two and a half hours plus, it nevertheless has a decent script, clever characterisations, and manages to keep the viewer awake.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the early 1990's, an essay in "Film Comment" magazine by film critic Elliot Stein started the reconsideration of Otto Preminger's "In Harm's Way", which opened with less than enthusiastic reviews upon its release. Audiences and critics had come to expect either polemic motion pictures or big budgeted productions from Preminger, after titles such as "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "Exodus." But back in 1965, Preminger released this film about Second World War, where personal situations seemed to overshadow the battle scenes, and on top of that he shot it in black and white and wide-screen, a common practice in those days (even Preminger made that same year "Bunny Lake Is Missing", a thriller more apt for monochromatic wide-screen), but rarely a combination for a spectacle with a huge cast of stars. As pointed out by the author of the essay, "In Harm's Way" followed the vein of earlier Preminger films centred on polemic issues, American institutions, or big world issues: "The Moon Is Blue" dealt with virginity, "The Man with the Golden Arm" with drugs, "Anatomy of a Murder" with the justice system, "Advise and Consent" with the US Senate and homosexuality, "The Cardinal" with the Vatican, and "Exodus" with the creation of Israel. This time Preminger focused on the US Navy but with a twist: when the film ends it has cleverly illustrated its notion that the happiness and functionality of the couple are requisites for the efficiency of the Navy, the American society, the nation, and the world as a whole. "In Harm's Way" is more focused on basic emotions, and it frames the story with the relationship of a married couple. In the first scene we meet William and Beverly McConnell (Tom Tryon and Paula Prentiss) happily dancing by a swimming pool, in an officers' ball. Their idyll is rapidly interrupted by the wild swing of a drunken blonde, Liz Eddington (Barbara Bouchet), a married woman who is having an affair with an officer (Hugh O'Brian.) Liz and the officer leave the party and go to a beach, where their love making is interrupted as the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour. From then on, while battles create separation and tension, we are mostly concerned with the main characters' private lives. On one hand, we see Capt. Torrey's (John Wayne) dealing with the estrangement from his son Jeremiah (Brandon De Wilde) and his relationship with Nurse Maggie Haynes (Patricia Neal), while Jeremiah courts Maggie's roommate, Annalee Dorne (Jill Haworth.) On the other hand, we see Com. Paul Eddington (Kirk Douglas) coping with his wife's infidelity and death, fighting Officer O'Wynn (Patrick O'Neal), and raping Annalee, before his pseudo-heroic denouement. Every now and then, we return to the McConnells, who seem to be a rather unobtrusive leit motif "in harm's way" (Tryon and Prentiss respectively received fourth and fifth billing, although they have little screen time.) First, Torrey communicates Bev of William's disappearance, later Bev asks William to impregnate her before he goes on a destroyer duty, and finally the couple is reunited in San Francisco for a brief stay, after which the Navy wins its "first victory" (as the film was known in many countries.) "In Harm's Way" has a rich early score by Jerry Goldsmith, in which the maestro had the opportunity to compose music for war scenes, love themes, dance tunes for the officers' ball, "ethnic" music of the South Seas, a theme for John Wayne's character (known as "The Rock"), which eventually turns into the "Battle Hymn" of "In Harm's Way", following the screenplay's strategy of turning the action hero into an icon of the United States; and a very dark, ominous "end title" music that evokes the theme of war affecting human relations that runs throughout the story. Goldsmith dedicated the love theme neither to the Torrey-Maggie affair, nor to the Jeremiah-Annalee romance, but to the McConnells. Forget the model ships critics complained about, and enjoy the last of the better part of Otto Preminger's filmography.
Though a film about US entry into World War II centering on the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, "In Harm's Way" has a 60's look and
feel about it. The opening sequence with Barbara Bouchet as Liz
Eddington salaciously dancing around teasing all the men and
infuriating all the women is more a twist than a swing. The dress she
wears is also more of a sack dress than the skirts fashionable in
America in 1941. John Ford's 1945 "They Were Expendable," starring John
Wayne, is a superior film overall and is closer to home since it was
made during the war years. Still "In Harm's Way" has its moments and
should be enjoyed, especially by the many fans of the Duke.
The story about Capt. Rockwell Torrey (Wayne) trying to get to know the son he has not seen since the boy was four nearly slips into maudlin sentimentality several times, but is yanked back to more refined cinema by director Otto Preminger. Ditto for the budding romances between Admiral Torrey and Maggie Haynes (Patricia Neal), and between the admiral's son, Jere (Brandon De Wilde) and Annalee (Jill Haworth). The battle scenes are exciting and well-staged. The ending is a bit much but still satisfactory. The acting by a Hollywood cast of major stars of the era is top notch all the way as is to be expected.
The screen play by Wendell Mayes from James Bassett's novel, "Harm's Way," is effective, telling the story of Admiral Rockwell Torrey's daring comeback following humiliation at Pearl Harbor. Torrey is sent to salvage a mess up by politically motivated Admiral Broderick (Dana Andrews), whose tactics are similar to General George B. McClellan's in the early days of the American Civil War and for like reasons. The assignment is in reality a backup operation to take pressure from the main assault by the Japanese on General Douglas MacArthur's forces in the Pacific. Against great odds, including one of the largest ships in the Japanese navy, Admiral Torrey and his fighting men, including several nurses, must persevere. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (Henry Fonda) personally places full confidence and support in Torrey. Along with the brutal fighting are the subplots involving the romances and father-son theme mentioned above.
John Wayne fans and war action fans should enjoy "In Harm's Way." I highly recommend "They Were Expendable" for those viewers who like this movie.
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