19 user 4 critic

Stand by for Action (1942)

During WW2, two Navy officers take command of an obsolete, World War I-vintage, destroyer that is assigned to convoy-escort duty in the Japanese-controlled waters of the South Pacific.


Robert Z. Leonard


Laurence Kirk (suggested by a story by), Harvey S. Haislip (original story) (as Captain Harvey Haislip) | 4 more credits »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Joan Lyons and her friend Patricia Drew are autograph hounds spending most of their day bumping into, and having tea, with the likes of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Based on ... See full summary »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Taylor ... Lt. Gregg Masterman
Charles Laughton ... Rear Adm. Stephen Thomas
Brian Donlevy ... Lt. Cmdr. Martin J. Roberts
Walter Brennan ... Chief Yeoman Henry Johnson
Marilyn Maxwell ... Audrey Carr
Henry O'Neill ... Cmdr. Stone M.C
Marta Linden Marta Linden ... Mary Collins
Chill Wills ... Chief Boatswain's Mate Jenks
Douglass Dumbrille ... Capt. Ludlow
Richard Quine ... Ensign Lindsay
William Tannen ... Flag Lt. Dudley
Douglas Fowley ... Ensign Martin
Tim Ryan ... Lt. Tim Ryan
Dick Simmons ... Lt. (jg) Royce
Byron Foulger ... Pharmacist's Mate 'Doc' Miller


U. S. Navy Lieutenant Gregg Masterman (Robert Taylor), of THE Harvard and Boston Back Bay Mastermans, learned about the sea while winning silver cups sailing his yacht. He climbs swiftly in rank, and is now Junior Aide to Rear Admiral Stephen Thomas (Charles Laughton). In contrast,Lieutenant Commander Martin J. Roberts (Brian Donlevy), enlisted in World War I, and worked his way up gradually. He retired in 1935 but has been recalled as Executive Officer of the destroyer "Cranshaw." Impressed by Roberts' vigor, the rear admiral raises him to command of the destroyer "Warren,", an over-age World War I ship that has been recommissioned. Master laughs at Roberts' new command, only to have the Admiral assign him as the Executive Officer of the "Warren," under Roberts. The ship is to join a convoy which has already left Hawaii, bound for the United States. The Flagship of the convoy is the cruiser, "Chattanooga,' with Admiral Thomas in command. On the way, a lifeboat is sighted. From it are... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The mightiest naval drama of all time!


Action | Drama | War


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

14 February 1944 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

A Cargo of Innocents See more »


Box Office


$1,400,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,013,000, 31 December 1943

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,200,000, 31 December 1943
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial television showing in Seattle Friday 10 May 1957 on KING (Channel 5), followed by Honolulu 17 May 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13), by Philadelphia 24 May 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by New Haven CT 31 May 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Altoona PA 7 June 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by New York City 5 August 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2) , by Chicago 17 August 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Tampa 15 September 1957 on WFLA (Channel 8), by Minneapolis 18 September 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), by Hartford CT 22 September 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), and by Los Angeles 15 November 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11); in San Francisco it was first telecast 10 May 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


In the navy "aye-aye" is used to acknowledge an order. In this film it's used when "yes sir" would have been the proper response. See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Robert Taylor (1962) See more »


The Star Spangled Banner
(1814) (uncredited)
Music by John Stafford Smith
Lyrics by Francis Scott Key
Played by the naval band when the flag is raised
See more »

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User Reviews

Less a great war movie and more a love letter to the men and ships of the sea.
4 May 2016 | by selek-44899See all my reviews

An unexpected gem, this war movie is a warm and gentle tale filmed in the stark, cold terror which followed the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It lacks the rah-rah sentiment of many war pictures, but in many delivers a truth larger epics could not.

Though the story is (generally) about a crack-and-polish aristocrat getting his (much-deserved) comeuppance and becoming a better man, it is also a love story.

Walter Brennan plays Chief Yeoman Johnson, a passed-over and long- forgotten relic who spent the majority of his life caring for- and championing- the ship he loved.

To the world at large, the destroyer Warren is a forgotten relic, a rusting has-been best left mouldering in her grave. Johnson alone believes in her, and in the film's climax, she justifies the faith of both Johnson and the new generation recruited to man her.

As a retired USN sailor, I find a verisimilitude in Brennan's performance about the love of a crew for their ship, and in Charles Laughton's performance as a crusty old admiral doing the right things in the most irritating (for his victims) manner possible.

There is greater truth in the crew's reaction to the rescue of a boatload of women and children. People may laugh at the idea of gruff, rough-and-rowdy sailors melting (and getting slightly goofy) over children and babies, but I saw it first hand during Operation Sharp Edge. Yes- grizzled chief petty officers DO actually melt when babies smile.

In an era in which people are jaded by CGI, the special effects are quaint and antiquated, but effective. A great deal of care and attention to detail was paid to the models, and those versed in the ships of the era can make out the (American) vessels by type and class.

Finally, the humor in the movie is top-notch and satisfying with karma and just desserts being served in equal measure.

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