Cry 'Havoc' (1943) Poster


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What a great chance to see a collection of great actresses
jjnxn-16 May 2012
As a patriotic exercise in morale rising this film does a good job even though it is downbeat but as an opportunity to see an amazing group of actresses gathered together it can't be beat.

With its almost totally female cast, a very young Robert Mitchum just starting out is in and out of the picture in about a minute, this is a rare bird indeed. It's closest match would be The Women but unlike that high comedy cat fest this is a grim examination of the bravery of a group of dedicated nurses and volunteers during the seize of Bataan.

All the women are terrific but a few stand out. The great Margaret Sullavan in her second to last feature is fantastic as the outwardly tough nurse Smitty who is hiding many secrets. Ann Sothern and Joan Blondell are wisecracking experts and even under these tough conditions manage to brighten their scenes with plenty of snap. Two of the best character actresses the movies ever had, Fay Bainter and Connie Gilchrist, don't have much too do but inject their special touch into their scenes.

Each actress gets some type of spotlight moment and that makes this a memorable exercise. While surely actual field hospitals are much tougher than the one shown here the film still doesn't scrimp and try to make this seem glamorous in any way. These women are going through hell and the ending leaves little doubt that their struggles are far from over but that their courage helped to win the war. A fine piece of entertainment.
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A great cast of actresses.
haroldg-213 September 2001
'Cry Havoc' is Richard Thorp's 1943 film about the courageous women Army nurses and volunteers on Bataan during WWII. The film suffers a bit from showing it's stage origins, but offers a terrific ensemble cast of actresses, all giving top-notch performances.

Margaret Sullavan is wonderful as Lt. Smith, an Army nurse secretly married against the rules to an officer on Bataan. She is suffering from malignant malaria, but refuses to leave Bataan for treatment, wanting to be near her husband, but also unwilling to desert the overworked nurses and volunteers. Sullavan was always great at suffering nobly on film (as in 'Three Comrades,' 1938), and again gives a beautiful, moving performance as the dedicated nurse, keeping both her marriage and illness to herself.

Ann Sothern and Joan Blondell share top billing with Sullavan and give terrific support as two of the volunteers. Blondell is funny as the former Vaudeville performer who entertains the other women with a demonstration of her old striptease act. And Ann Sothern, who was sooooooo beautiful, is marvelous as the tough, straight-talking waitress with her sights set on an Army officer, unaware he's Sullavan's husband.

The supporting cast includes Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines, Heather Angel and Connie Gilcrest, all excellent, and a bit by young Robert Mitchum as a dying soldier.

Not a classic WWII film, but recommended for fans of the actresses.
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Women at war
LFRibeiro21 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I agree with almost all of the comments above, except in one important aspect. In calling "So Proudly We Hail" 'superior' to "Cry Havoc," the writer overlooks the fact that, as in most Golden Era films, women's stories were almost exclusively told in relation to their romantic relationships with men. What hobbles "So Proudly We Hail" (and it is a terrific film, don't get me wrong), is its constant undercutting the challenges and dangers faced by WWII American nurses in the Pacific by shifting the characters' priorities to romance. That detail is handled very nicely in "Cry Havoc" by having almost no men appear. "Smitty" and "Pat" face off over a man, sure, but we never see him and so it becomes a greater conflict about command, duty, subordinating oneself to the greater good etc. And face it, as wonderful as films from this era are, its all too rare (then and now!) that those kind of issues are presented as significant to women. So in some ways, although "Havoc" could be considered more static and talky (from its stage origins, as mentioned above), I find it "better" than "Proudly," because I feel it lets the women stand front and center -- and stay there. Enjoy this rarely seen film!
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A Compelling and Offbeat WWII Drama.
kryck4 July 2002
What makes the 1943 WWII drama,"Cry,Havoc", offbeat is that it deals with a subject of the war that was rarely talked about then or now. The subject is the struggles and noble sacrifices of army nurses. "Cry,Havoc" was based on a fairly successful stage play, which explains why the film is set primarily in the confines of an underground bomb shelter. However,this doesn't make the film any the less powerful or intriguing. Lieutenant Mary "Smitty" Smith(Margaret Sullavan) desperately needs more experienced nurses at an army hospital in Bataan. Later,several volunteers arrive at Bataan and are willing to do their part for the war effort. Smitty is somewhat disappointed when see learns they aren't experienced. Although, the nurses are willing to work, they aren't fully aware of the hardships and destruction they'll have to face. The nurses' predicament becomes worse when two hospital buildings are hit and bombed by Japanese planes. Their chance of survival becomes extremely slim. This film paints an unglamorous and intense picture of war. Except for a few male extras,the majority of the cast is female. MGM put an ensemble cast of accomplished actresses in the leads. The cast includes: Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt,and Heather Angel. Sothern stands out among the cast. Although, she was a gifted comedienne,Sothern had an immense talent in dramatic areas as well. Here she plays Pat Conlin, a tough, headstrong nurse,who thinks she knows the severity of war. She learns the hard way that isn't that easy and becomes a more sympathetic person because of it. Sullavan gives a fine,realistic performance as Lieutenant Smitty. She's a courageous character that is slowly dying of malignant Malaria. The rest of the cast give unique performances as well. This is one of Richard Thrope's better directorial efforts. He had directed the unsatisfying spy thriller,"Above Suspicion" and the dull sequel to the award-winning classic,"Mrs. Miniver". If you want to see a similarly-themed film,watch Paramount's "So,Proudly We Hail",also made in 1943. It is actually superior to "Cry,Havoc". It goes more in-depth about army nurses' sacrifices and is set in many different areas. "Cry,Havoc" is still very good and makes a compelling viewing experience. I give it an 8 out of 10.
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Female ensemble cast in World War II drama
blanche-218 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
*****NO SPOILERS HERE*** A cast of some top actresses make up the ensemble of "Cry Havoc," a film about war nurses and volunteers in Bataan, their courage, hard work, and sacrifices. Margaret Sullavan heads the cast in her second to last film. An accomplished stage actress, her last film was in 1950, 10 years before her suicide. She is marvelous as the head nurse with two secrets. She is joined by Fay Bainter, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Ella Raines, Marsha Hunt, and others.

Even today, this is a difficult film to watch, and one can really feel the dirt, the fear, the hunger, the frustration, and the sorrow these women experienced. I can't imagine the impact when it was first released during World War II.

We know that the World War II films produced in the '40s were whitewashed - men who were on the actual Bataan Death March think movies depicting it are a joke, and there was certainly nothing produced like "Saving Private Ryan" back then. I have no idea whether "Cry Havoc" was an accurate depiction of life at war but it presented nothing romantic, desirable, or pretty, except for the very brave nurses who represented the real thing serving our country in World War II.


Though the ending of the film is somewhat depressing, nurses who served at Bataan and were taken prisoner were treated with great respect by the Japanese, and worked in an internment hospital until they were evacuated. According to what I've read, all the nurses who were there made it home.
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A powerful drama at the time it came out!
GRCmgs29 October 2000
Today this film is viewed as lackluster and stagey, but at the time it was released it told a powerful story that needed to be told. MGM always made good use of it's stable of fine supporting players, and this film did a remarkable job. Marsha Hunt, Frances Gifford, Diana Lewis, etc. all got a chance to emote along with the biggies ... Margaret Sullavan, Fay Bainter, Ann Sothern, etc. Other films that should be viewed in the same era include Bataan, So Proudly They Hail, Purple Heart, Wake Island, etc.
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Very good film about women in war
SimonJack5 September 2012
The service of more than 100 nurses in the Philippines in World War II is one of the great stories of heroism in war. And the capture of 79 of those mostly Army and Navy nurses is the largest single military imprisonment of women in history. The other 23 were evacuated just a few days before the fall of Corregidor when the Americans surrendered to the Japanese on May 8, 1942.

Two movies were made, and two books have been written about this group, referred to as the "Angels of Bataan." There are significant differences between the films, and the books. An Army nurse, Lt. Juanita Redmond, who was among the evacuees from Corregidor, wrote the first book, "I Served on Bataan." It covered the five months from the Japanese attack of the Philippines on Dec.8, 1941, to the fall of Corregidor. It was published in 1943 and was the basis for the Paramount movie, "So Proudly We Hail," that came out on Sept. 9, 1943. The book and movie were about the ordeal of the nurses over those five months, first on Bataan and then on Corregidor. Although no nurses were killed, some were wounded as the Japanese continually shelled and bombed the Allied defenses.

The second book is more recent. "We Band of Angels," came out in 1999. It was written by Elizabeth Norman, an associate professor of nursing at New York University. Norman did extensive research and travel, and interviewed the remaining survivors in the 1990s. Her book includes the months the nurses tended the wounded on Bataan and Corregidor. It covers the evacuation of nearly a quarter of the nurses by a flying boat and submarine before Corregidor fell. Then it goes into the details of the nearly three years of imprisonment. It ends with the liberation of the women in February, 1945, their return home, and the later years of the remaining survivors.

Another Army nurse, Lt. Eunice Hatchitt, had been tabbed by the military to be an adviser for the Paramount movie. She wanted to dissociate from the film because she didn't like some of the Hollywood touches to the story, especially two romances. So, her name doesn't appear in the film credits. Even with the Hollywood touches, "So Proudly We Hail" is an outstanding movie, in all respects. The recreation of the Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor was most impressive and gave a very real feel to the film. The story is told and seen in a nearly continuous flashback from several of the nurse evacuees on board a ship as they are returning to the States.

"Cry Havoc," is another film altogether. MGM came out with it in February 1944 – five months after "So Proudly We Hail." It was based on a play that ran for just 11 performances over Christmas of 1942. Since Redmond's book was not yet written or published, the play author, Allen Kenwood, probably based his script on news reports and interviews of the evacuees that appeared in the press earlier that year. And MGM apparently didn't want to copy the first movie, so it kept to the fictional script of the play.

In this film, most of the women are not nurses but are civilians who answered a call for volunteers to help the nurses on Bataan. Only a couple of the women are military nurses. They are in charge. Some scenes are outside, and among hospital wards in tents. But much of the action takes place inside a large earthen bunker that served as quarters for the women. The cast, acting and script for this film were quite good. It does have a couple of incidents that are too much of a stretch. And, this film ends with the women being captured in the fall of Bataan.

I agree with other viewers who have compared the two films. "So Proudly We Hail" is the far superior film. But "Cry Havoc" also is a good telling and showing of the peril, ordeal and heroism of women serving in time of war.

"We Band of Angels" is still available from book stores. Noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose, author of "Band of Brothers" and other books, had high praise for it. "This is a gripping book. Elizabeth Norman presents a war story in which the main characters never kill one of the enemy, or even shoot at him, but are nevertheless heroes…They were the bravest of the brave, who endured unspeakable pain and torture. Americans today should thank God we had such women."

The title for this film may have come from William Shakespeare. In his 1599 play, "Julius Caesar," the term appears in a line in Act III, Scene 1. Bereaving the murder of Caesar, Antony says, "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war."
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So Proudly MGM hails their female contractees.
mark.waltz3 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Some of the brightest female stars of the 1940's get a chance to get dirt on their Max Factor faces in this "Women in War" drama which took them to Bataan, the location of a Robert Taylor war movie made the same year. Here, the women are nurses, brought out to aid head nurse Margaret Sullavan and her commanding officer (Fay Bainter), and conflict arises to the difference in their personalities. However, in wartime, everybody must pull their weight, put aside petty squabbles, and band together for the cause.

In addition to Sullavan and Bainter are the billed above the title Ann Sothern and Joan Blondell whose on-screen personalities were so alike that they sometimes seemed like sisters working at separate studios. Sothern has more to do here as a somewhat rebellious personality. She is classier than her MGM series character Maisie, while Blondell plays a burlesque queen who amuses everybody by referring to her job being similar to a banana. It is obvious that Blondell was cast for her name value rather than for characterization. Since she had been at MGM for more than just a few years, Sothern gets more meat to bite into with her part, Blondell simply adding a bit of comic relief to the wisecracks which seemed to be tossed up in the air for either her or Sothern to catch.

There are some very tense moments here where the women are pretty much all alone, no American or other Ally soldiers there to protect them from the villainous Japanese. This is where the film becomes very similar to Paramount's "So Proudly We Hail" which is certainly superior dramatically. Both rank equal in nail-biting emotion as to the fate of these lovelies who may be able to flip acid off of their tongue to deal with the others but won't be able to defend themselves against the enemy that surrounds them.

The always colorful Connie Gilchrist adds color as the cook, giving motherly advice towards the girls who venture into her kitchen, while Bainter provides a mentor-ship towards the women, especially the somewhat hard Sullavan. Marsha Hunt, Dorothy Morris, Heather Angel and Ella Raines round out the major female stars supporting the others, and each of them have moments to shine where their dreams seem threatened by the ugliness of war. Like "So Proudly We Hail", this contains a rather downbeat ending which is certainly within the reality of war and opens all kinds of thoughts as to what might be in store for these women.
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A work of art. Far better than its companion of 1943, "So Proudly We Hailed."
friedlandea23 May 2019
Assorted characters trapped in a perilous situation, each with his or her own motivations, backstory, hopes and fears, the sort of story ("The Flight of the Phoenix," for instance) that I find irresistible. Thirteen characters, all women - men are entirely peripheral, practically stage props - find themselves trapped in a perilous situation. For that, any danger could do. Here the peril is war. Will they survive? Will they escape? We know (dramatic irony) that even if they survive they will not escape. Very little action occurs. It is not required. We understand the situation. No need to show it dramatically. The story, originally a stage play, is character driven. The situation encompasses everything. How will the women react, each according to her own character, its weaknesses and strengths? That is the strength of "Cry Havoc." That is what makes it compelling. If you prefer a war movie with non-stop action, or a wartime love story, switch to another channel.

It is a women's picture in the true sense, akin to "The Women," "Stage Door," "Tender Comrade," "Caged." Men make fleeting appearances. There is no love story. True, the unseen Lt. Holt is a presence. But he is not a focus. He serves merely to create dramatic tension, to illuminate the characters of two women, Smitty (Margaret Sullavan) and Pat (Ann Southern), whose mismatched personalities clash. The women reveal themselves as they confront the enveloping menace. Andra (Heather Angel) displays courage, Connie (Ella Raines) fear, Sue (Dorothy Morris) intensity, Flo (Marsha Hunt) serenity, Nydia (Diana Lewis) insouciance. The desperate Smitty alone and the commander Capt. Marsh (Fay Bainter), resigned to her fate, realize what is to come. Luisita, the only Philipina in the group (dancer and actress Fely Franquelli) also seems to know. Surrender approaches. Only she hides her face in despair.

We know more now than the screenwriters knew then. We know what awaits: the death march, mistreatment, possibly rape, evidence that only became apparent at the war's end. The Japanese, perhaps for that reason, but surprisingly for a war movie in wartime, are not completely demonized. They are hardly virtuous. They bomb hospitals. They strafe unoffending people bathing in a stream. Still, I have seen far worse denigration in other films. At the end a voice calls out in accented English for the women to surrender. It is not a caricatural voice, not lewd or sinister. The enemy, like the wounded soldiers and Lt. Holt, are a backdrop. The psychological focus remains on the protagonists, their characters, their response to a perilous situation.

"Cry Havoc" was not alone in 1943. Hollywood's other nurses-on-Bataan movie, "So Proudly We Hailed," came out in the same year. It cannot match "Cry Havoc." "So Proudly's" long, rambling tale, told through a flashback with a clinical, newsreel-like voiceover narration, is principally propaganda (the title gives it away) sweetened with a love story. The enemy are emphatically demonized. Men, and how to attract them, are the nurses' constant preoccupation. The story sends its heroine (Claudette Colbert) on an unblushingly sappy, soap-operatic journey. Husband is reported killed. Claudette succumbs to a morbid catatonic depression. She stares unblinking, for weeks. (It's not even clear when or how she enables herself to eat.) She wills herself to die. Of course, husband pops up alive and well, well enough to write her an interminable cloying letter, which we endure until the music mercifully swells to conclude proceedings. Nurse Olivia (Veronica Lake) hates the enemy with such implacable vehemence (her husband had the misfortune to be at Pearl Harbor) that she blows herself up to kill them, hand grenade tucked into her pocket. One film develops character, the other caricature. One, like Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (Heather Angel was also briefly a passenger on that raft), transcends a war movie. The other remains a wartime curiosity.
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A war drama with a stellar (and almost all) female cast
jacobs-greenwood16 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Richard Thorpe, with a screenplay by Paul Osborn that was based on the play by Allan Kenward, this nearly all female cast war drama tells the harrowing story of thirteen women on Bataan during World War II just prior to its being overrun by Japanese forces in 1942.

Led by two veteran nurses, Lieutenant Mary Smith 'Smitty' (Margaret Sullavan) and Captain Alice Marsh (Fay Bainter), nine novice (e.g. only first aid expertise) volunteers receive on-the-job training (and quinine) to do the best they can to assist the officers with the continuous supply of American G.I. casualties on this precarious peninsula in the Philippine Islands. Connie Gilchrist, who plays the steady cook with a dry wit Sadie, and Marsha Hunt, who plays an already trained civilian that's calm and reasoned under all circumstances, Flo Norris, are the other two women.

The volunteers are streetwise Pat Conlin (Ann Sothern), former burlesque stripper Grace Lambert (Joan Blondell), fashion writer from a wealthy family Connie Booth (Ella Raines), attractive brunette Helen Domeret (Frances Gifford), Alabama southern belle with an eye for the "boys" Nydia Joyce (Diana Lewis), virtually invisible Steve Polden (Gloria Grafton), local Luisita Esperito (Fely Franquelli), Andra West (Heather Angel) and her younger sister Sue (Dorothy Morris). Robert Mitchum appears briefly, and uncredited (like all the other characters), as a groaning soldier. References are made to General MacArthur, Corregidor, and President Truman's order to evacuate which supersedes MacArthur's to dig in.

Though the film contains a few (unimpressive and requisite) action sequences, the story primarily takes place in the women's bunker, where they sleep and eat; there are a couple of scenes in the outer office of a never seen Lieutenant Thomas Holt (Addison Randall, uncredited does appear with field glasses covering his face near the very beginning), where a communications switchboard is operated by the women. Most of the scenes involve the women talking about their lives, the war, and its effect on themselves, their emotions, and each other.

Young Sue West talks about the simplicity of the situation (e.g. what's at stake): if they enemy wins, "we" die; she even says "if one of us dies, all of us will". She's the first to be lost in the first of the ever present air raid(s); she's later found, having lived trapped for four days among dead soldiers in a collapsed structure, such that she's pretty much a shell shocked basket case from then on. Her older sister Andra ends up being the second one to go missing, but later returns to triumphantly tout that she'd shot down an enemy plane when her anti-aircraft gunner "boyfriend" let her "man" the controls.

Connie, who'd initially been the biggest "fish out of water" and the most scared of the enemy's continuous bombing raid poundings, ends up growing a spine when a soldier dies in her arms such that she's the first to say she'll stay to the fateful end when the volunteers are given the opportunity (an hour into the film) to participate in a last chance evacuation. Ironically, she's the first to really die when she's strafed while swimming by an opportunistic Japanese pilot. It's also inferred that the enemy intentionally bombed the hospital. Helen, who initially expresses interest in Lieutenant Holt, is a calming influence and a voice of reason among the women while Grace, who laughingly tries to distract everybody's maudlin outlook by demonstrating her striptease act, says some things she shouldn't when her leg is wounded (an injury that magically disappears later).

The film's main subplot is relational, and it involves Smitty and Pat. Captain Marsh appears only briefly in a few scenes, including one at the beginning which is confusing until the end and one near the film's conclusion when she (somehow) appears in the bunker just before the voice of the enemy is heard outside. Pat has eyes for Lieutenant Holt, with whom (off-screen) she flirts incessantly to no avail. She's aware the Smitty is also interested in the Lieutenant, but doesn't see the seemingly all business, serious, and even homely nurse as much competition.

But Smitty has two secrets: not only is she suffering from malignant malaria (her Captain had wanted to evacuate her to better doctors in Australia even before the volunteers had arrived) but, as a civilian nurse, she'd married Lieutenant Holt; she's able to keep both of these facts from the others until (late in the film) she has an attack and reveals them to Flo, who then relates them to Pat. The film's final scene, after the bunker had been vacated by the others, with their hands above their heads, under orders from an unseen yet English speaking Japanese invader, shows these two women coming to terms with (respect for) one another.
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Cry Havoc- A Cry for Our Beloved Country ***
edwagreen25 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Needless to say, this war-time drama is gritty every step of the way.

The big surprise here is the toughness of the part given to Ann Sothern.

She certainly sheds her "Panama Hattie" way as well as comedic gifts in giving a very good performance as a no-nonsense volunteer among a group of women volunteering their services in Bataan during World War 11. She finds love with a Sgt. Holt, who is never seen. He is also the love interest of Margaret Sullavan, who plays her usual moody self. This part was perfect for Sullavan who would commit suicide 17 years later.

Joan Blondell, as always, is wonderful as the volunteer who was a burlesque queen prior to the war. Being shot in the leg is certainly no asset for this beauty queen and she plays the part to the hilt.

The somber scenery, basically in a bunker, reflects the dangers that these women endured.
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Nurses In War
DKosty1238 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
What a pleasure it is to see such an amazing cast of women put together in one film. Today we are lucky to get more than 2 women in a film unless we get a comic book movie. This cast has almost as diverse a cast of good women actresses as any movie I have seen.

This is a stage play made into a movie about army nurses dealing with the Japanese invasion of Bataan. Thank goodness it does not go to the conquest as I can not imagine a group of women and what would have happened to them if an invader got to plunder them.This film deals with the desperate and the more desperate situation as the invader gets closer and closer.

There are a few men, most notably a dying sequence by an uncredited Robert Mitchum but for the most part the ladies coping with the war and with each other are the subject here. There is very little love interest and more concern about the demands being put on the nurses in the situation. Sometimes even their faces get grim and dirt.

The reason this ensemble is only together for this one film is the war effort. Margaret Sullivan only had 21 acting roles in her career and one of these ladies only had 4 roles in her career. Others like Blondell had lots more screen time.

The screen play base makes this one solid. The war propaganda effort made it possible to put this cast together. A real one of a kind film from the MGM studios.
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"They're All So Young and Pretty"
dougdoepke28 January 2009
WWII curiosity—an all female cast, and those men that do briefly appear are wounded servicemen dependent on the women. The girls are nurses in a field hospital in the Phillipines just as the islands are falling to the Japanese. They're volunteers recruited at the last minute as the bombs are falling. So we wonder how well these comely civilians in their mascara and lipstick will perform under extreme battlefield conditions.

Good cast. But somehow the movie doesn't live up to the material's potential. As I see it, the problem lies with director Thorpe who films the dramatics from an impersonal distance as if it were still the stage play from which the movie was adapted. With the basically single set where the girls live, there's not much room to move about. So when the bombs fall or one of the girls freaks out, close-ups of personal reactions are needed, not a continuing group scene that disperses the emotion. There's a ton of dramatic material to engage with here, but too much is allowed to impersonally slip by.

Nonetheless, it is an entertaining cast, especially the two dames, Blondell and Sothern. They're natural rivals with their sassy wisecracking that keep the audience amused amid the grimness. Sullavan with her husky voice and domineering demeanor makes an unusual screen presence, as does the rail-thin, sharply intelligent Marsha Hunt. I just wish the Japanese planes had let Blondell finish her mock striptease.

The play was put together in 1942, the war's darkest period. This 1943 movie reflects many of these somber prospects, and is thus of some historical interest. Clearly, the purpose is to show that the girls can rise to wartime challenge as well as the boys, and by focusing on the women, we know the spirit comes from them and not from some male overseer. This is one of the few WWII films that really had me guessing about the ending. As it turns out, I failed. Nonetheless, there's enough suspense and good acting to make up for the parts that now (perhaps thankfully) seem dated and distant.
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Ella Raines bathing suit wardrobe malfunction
dogdba6 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen this movie about a dozen times on TV since I was a wee lad, way before DVR. So, while watching it again on TCM the other night in the scene where the gals are taking a recreational swim - just before they are attacked by an enemy plane (why the enemy wasted ammo on a bunch of bathing beauties is beyond me), Ella Raines appears to have a wardrobe malfunction with her bathing suit top. I re-played the scene several times on DVR and there is definitely some naked right boobage. Connie(Raines) gets shot and killed at the end of the scene. Janet Jackson got off easy. How this scene made it past the censors of the era is amazing.
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Needing Love and Quinine.
rmax30482326 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's a well-staged play about a dozen or so nurses trapped on the Bataan peninsula in 1942, short of medicine, short of love, short of everything except Japanese bombs and the rumble of their tanks as they draw nearer. The structure, while offering nothing much new, does a good job of building suspense until the final surrender.

It's the distaff side of "Bataan", released the same year, 1943, except that "Cry Havoc" is a bit less hysterical in its hatred. The Japanese may bomb a hospital but at least none of the nurses refers to them as "bandy legged monkeys" as Robert Taylor does in "Bataan."

It's not surprising that this group is as diverse and one-dimensional as the men of "Bataan." Let's see. There is the uncultured ex burlesque dancer from New York (Joan Blondell), the empty-headed comic Southerner, the stern but fair commander (Margaret Sullivan), the tireless and compassionate older cook (Connie Gilchrest), two loving British sisters joined at the hip, and others less individuated.

Ella Raines is probably the most attractive. She's a little hoity toity at first, a magazine editor, but she stands with the others before she is it by bullets from a Japanese Zero. She has the voice and manner of a frightened child. I imagine some men would have rushed to her side, thrown their arms around her, and whispered reassurances into her ear while copping a feel.

The nurse I found most interesting was Marsha Hunt, a lanky brunette whose dished face is redeemed by a nose obviously designed by someone familiar with Fibonacci numbers. She was black listed after the war for her communist propensities. I think she argued that women should have the vote or something.

Robert Mitchum has a bit part as a wounded soldier. A nurse turns him over, he groans, "I'm all right," then he promptly rolls his head to the side and dies. Otherwise, there are no men to speak of, although there is some rather bitter competition between Sullavan and Suthern over a lieutenant in the next room, happily resolved at the end.

There are no action scenes to speak of, and the sets are dominated by one underground shelter with tiered bunks and a central table, betraying the story's stage origins.

The dialog doesn't sparkle but the suspense mounts admirably. Sullavan is taken with malignant malaria. We don't hear much (or see much) about severe illnesses among combat troops in the movies but it's an important factor. Disease killed more men in the Civil War than died in battle. And malaria is no joke. It's a parasitic infection transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Once transferred to the human body, the infection travels to the liver where it multiplies and then enters the red blood cells. Inside the red blood cells the parasites multiply rapidly until the cells burst, releasing even more parasites into the blood stream. The cells burst at about the same time and cause the attacks. The damage to the brain and other organs can lead to coma and death. The disease still kills more than half a million people a year. We'll return to the movie as soon as I finish this surgical scrub.

Anyway, the last scene is predictable. The surviving nurses and the compassionate cook leave the bunker with their hands up. It's the last we see of them. The whole story isn't badly done.

The title is from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar": Caesar's spirit will return and "Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war." Two movie titles right there.
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Any film with Margaret Sullavan is worth watching, but....
fisherforrest12 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Like I said, any film with Margaret in it is going to give some viewer satisfaction, but this otherwise potentially great film has an insurmountable flaw for me. I refer to the ridiculous "eternal triangle" romantic sub plot involving "Lt. Mary Smith", her non-regulation husband, and one of the volunteer women. If you haven't seen the film, I won't tell you which, despite checking the spoiler box. Probably this silly business was in the original play, but if it wasn't, then Hollywood owes an apology to the movie going public for spoiling this tribute to the nurses and volunteers who served on Bataan in the early days of the Pacific Theatre of War, circa 1941-1942. If you could edit out the foolishness, this would no doubt be a very accurate picture of conditions facing the wounded soldiers and the women and doctors who tried to care for them. I don't know whether the Japanese deliberately bombed hospitals and aid stations, but there is plenty of evidence that such bombings occurred, accidentally or otherwise. Indeed, our own pilots were not completely innocent of such mistakes in various wars. Sometimes non-combatant establishments are poorly identified, but it is pointless to argue these points. War really is Hell, you know.

Well, for the good part of the film, we have 13 fine actresses (14 if you include uncredited Anna Q. Nilsson; it might be fun trying to spot her among the "nurses") of various ages from young to middle-aged. Emphasis is on Margaret Sullavan, Marsha Hunt and Fay Bainter for the serious aspects, and on Ann Sothern and Joan Blondell for what Hollywood no doubt regarded as humorous and "romantic" relief. None of them disappoint. You could look on the basic story as "Greek Tragedy", for the fate of Bataan is fore-ordained from the outset. The Japanese are going to win this one for the time being, and the nurses are headed for imprisonment. I hope what another commentator has said about their receiving good treatment is true. It would be one bright spot in the record of treatment of POW personnel by the Japanese in World War II.
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Cast of Veteran Actors
whpratt124 August 2006
This was a great WW II film which supported the war effort in America as we were fighting Japan and Germany, huge evil threats to the world. This story revolves around some new nurses who have to experience bombing raids as they are about to eat their evening meals. Ann Southern, (Pat Conlin), Joan Blondell (Grace), Ella Raines (Connie Booth) and Marsha Hunt,(Flo Norris) "Chloe's Prayer",'05. All of these women had great careers in Hollywood, some were just character actresses like Marsha Hunt, who had a cute turned up nose and simply never got the man she fell in love with. During the Joseph McCarthy Era, when McCarthy was investigating actors for being associated with the Communist party, Marsha Hunt was placed on his Black List, which turned out to be a false story. This film is a definite look back at the past and the opportunity to see great actors just starting their careers on the Silver Screen in Hollywood.
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masonfisk6 July 2019
A female led WWII story taking place in a Bataan medical facility from 1943. A couple of nurses muse how they're severely understaffed so when an opportunity comes up to enlarge their ranks (some women are in transit on the island & need employment), they hire them on. Based on a play, this film suffers from its stage-bound roots where the majority of the action takes place in the nurses' bunker so the complexity of the different women's past lives & what led them to these straits are lost. Starring Ann Sothern, Margaret Sullavan & Joan Blondell (she played the waitress at the diner in Grease).
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Nurses On Bataan
bkoganbing25 August 2011
Cry Havoc was based on a play by Allan Kenward which the Shuberts produced on Broadway and ran for a grand total of 11 performances over the Christmas/New Year's days of 1942-43. But what flops on Broadway can sometimes be a great success on screen and vice versa.

In this case the subject matter had already been thoroughly covered in the Paramount film So Proudly We Hail and Cry Havoc runs a distinct second to that film. Like the Paramount film, Cry Havoc deals with nurses in the Phillipines after Pearl Harbor and their experiences during the Japanese attack.

Margaret Sullavan was fulfilling the terms of an MGM contract with this movie. Afterwards she would concentrate on the stage and would only do one more film years later, No Sad Songs For Me. She plays the no nonsense army nurse with several new charges rushed up to the Bataan front among them Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern. Fay Bainter played Sullavan's superior and she also was winding up her MGM contract as well.

There are no substantial male roles in this film, they're seen briefly in fighting roles and of course as casualties. If you don't blink you'll see Robert Mitchum utter a couple of words and then die. Sullavan and Sothern have a rivalry going over an unseen army lieutenant.

In fact on the set they had a rivalry going as well. According to a recent biography of Margaret Sullavan, she and Sothern did not get along so their scenes together had some real bite. Sullavan felt that Sothern was slipping into her popular Maisie character for which she was doing a B picture series for MGM.

Cry Havoc should be seen because anything that has Margaret Sullavan should be seen as she left us way too few films for posterity. But this really is quite inferior to So Proudly We Hail.
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Nurses struggle with battle conditions on Philippines during WWII...
Doylenf17 October 2007
CRY HAVOC follows in the tradition of films like SO PROUDLY WE HAIL by dealing exclusively with nurses in the Philippines on active duty during WWII. MARGARET SULLAVAN is the lieutenant in charge of a group of gals including ANN SOTHERN, ELLA RAINES, FRANCES GIFFORD and JOAN BLONDELL, all of whom are inexperienced but have to learn the ropes fast during wartime bombardments.

Based on a play, it barely shows its stage origins and presents a gritty story of nurses under stress doing the best they can under dire circumstances. MARGARET SULLAVAN and FAY BAINTER fret over having to deal with "wet-nosed kids" (as Sullavan calls them), all of them eventually becoming battle hardened after working conditions continually put them in harm's way. Watch for ROBERT MITCHUM in a brief unbilled bit as a dying soldier.

Sullavan and Sothern argue over Sothern's infatuation for a man Sullavan loves and there's some trite dialog among the all-female cast when they get to exchange stories--but it's still an above average melodrama of women nurses during war.

Summing up: Worth it for the gritty wartime bombardments and interesting cast, but don't expect anything great. Richard Thorpe's direction keeps the pace steadfast without too many lulls until the downbeat ending.
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Cry "Enough is enough!"
JohnHowardReid12 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Margaret Sullavan made only sixteen movies. This is her second last. The none-too-interesting plot is built around army nurses on Bataan. At 97 minutes, it runs a little too long, but it's competently directed by journeyman Richard Thorpe and imaginatively photographed by Karl Freund. On the other hand, screenwriter Paul Osborn makes almost no attempt to disguise the film's origins in a stage play. Almost the whole of the movie's action is confined to a one-room dug-out. True, there are actually two or three cinematic forays into the outside world to accommodate a bit of action (put across with rapid tracking shots), but director Thorpe is content to play along with the stage groupings in the dug-out. Although obviously dated, the movie is comparatively restrained in its patriotic flag-waving. The cast is sound, but embarrassing propaganda in long takes and flat, medium shots, make this journey a somewhat weary 97 minutes.
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Not among the best of the type but still worth your time.
MartinHafer26 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Cry 'Havoc'" is one of quite a few films about women at the front lines in the Pacific theater during WWII. What makes this a bit different is that most of the women are NOT nurses, but untrained volunteers who are pressed into service during the final days in the Philippines during the early part of 1942. Ultimately, the audience knew that the women would not escape--as it was public knowledge of the fall of the islands.

The film is fairly good but does suffer from a few characters who are more caricatures. The most egregious of them is played by Ann Sothern. She plays a tough dame--who always walks around with a chip on her shoulder and is hot for a lieutenant she hardly knows. Most of the rest aren't as broadly written as her--and a few are even quite interesting, such as the sick nurse played by Margaret Sullavan. To me, the film celebrates these women but also failed to seem very real--and often the stiff and overly-patriotic dialog was the reason why. Compared to other films of this conflict, such as "In Harm's Way" and "So Proudly We Hail", it's inferior--but still quite watchable and uplifting. A decent time-passer.
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Truly Disappointing Look at Nurses in Wartime
vitaleralphlouis10 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is definitely NOT in the fine tradition of SO PROUDLY WE HAIL. Although filmed in 1943 when the war was going very badly for America, this film depicts the nurses as a grumbling useless band. It takes fully 1 hour and 22 minutes before any of these "nurses" helps a wounded GI, then the film ends soon after. This was a startlingly lame movie from MGM. I expected this film to be like "So Proudly We Hail." It was not.

Decades ago when I was 14, I remember a group of us young guys went to the reissue of "Wake Island" double-billed with "So Proudly We Hail." "Wake Island" was one of the toughest and bloodiest battles of World War II and was a solidly made classic war movie. But "So Proudly We Hail" --- about nurses operating in extreme combat --- that was just downright astonishing. I don't think any of us thought of women as less than our equal after that day. Sixty years later it stands out as the grittiest war movie ever.

"So Proudly We Hail" did the nurses --- and America --- proud. "Cry Havoc" fails absolutely in comparison.
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