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Lifeboat (1944)

Not Rated | | Drama, War | 28 January 1944 (USA)
Several survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship in World War II find themselves in the same lifeboat with one of the U-boat men who sunk it.

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writers:

John Steinbeck (by), Jo Swerling (screen play)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tallulah Bankhead ... Connie Porter
William Bendix ... Gus Smith
Walter Slezak ... Willi
Mary Anderson ... Alice MacKenzie
John Hodiak ... John Kovac
Henry Hull ... Charles J. Rittenhouse
Heather Angel ... Mrs. Higley
Hume Cronyn ... Stanley Garrett
Canada Lee ... Joe Spencer
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Storyline

In the Atlantic during World War II, a ship and a German U-boat are involved in a battle, and both are sunk. The survivors from the ship gather in one of the boats. They are from a variety of backgrounds: an international journalist, a rich businessman, the radio operator, a nurse, a steward, a sailor, and an engineer with Communist tendencies. Trouble starts when they pull a man out of the water who turns out to be from the U-boat. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Who goes Primitive first...A man...Or a woman...adrift in an open boat ? See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | French

Release Date:

28 January 1944 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alfred Hitchcock's Production of Lifeboat See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,590,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the beginning of filming, Mary Anderson asked Sir Alfred Hitchcock what he thought "is my best side." He dryly responded, "You're sitting on it, my dear." See more »

Goofs

When Gus is chugging brandy, the amount in the bottle remains the same and does not go down. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[indistinct shouting]
John Kovac: Ahoy there!
[climbs into boat]
John Kovac: Lady, you certainly don't look like somebody that's just been shipwrecked.
Connie Porter: Man, I certainly feel like it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Knife in the Water (1962) See more »

Soundtracks

Du, Du, Liegst Mir im Herzen
(uncredited)
Traditional German folk song
Played on flute by Canada Lee
Reprised by Lee and Sung in German by Walter Slezak
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
"That isn't funny, it's logical"
8 November 2010 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

During the years of World War Two, Hollywood production followed the necessities of morale and propaganda, but tended towards movies that were minimalist and stripped down. Due to the conflict available resources were even lower than the cash-strapped days of the depression, and crews were smaller as many studio employees joined the armed forces. As far as the quality of the pictures produced is concerned, it wasn't always a bad thing. With fewer elements, filmmakers were encouraged towards inventiveness, as well as a more personal focus.

In the case of Lifeboat, it lead to the first in a series of pictures directed by Alfred Hitchcock made entirely in one confined set. Four years later he would make one called Rope, which gave the illusion of being shot in one continuous take. As such there was a constant feel of the artificiality of the process as the director's self-imposed limitations forced him to change angle and focus by moving the camera around. Lifeboat is different, not because Hitch didn't have the level of technical expertise yet, but because it has a far more timely and important story, and he could not afford to turn it into some self-indulgent technical exercise.

What we actually have is Hitch at his most thoughtful and least extravagant. Rather than drawing our attention to the smallness of the space, he makes the drama revolve entirely around the characters. His shot compositions are mostly designed to show only the actors, not the boat. This isn't just done with close-ups, but many cleverly arranged group shots. In acknowledgement of just how much the human brain can take in at once, he might have one character talking, while several others stand around them, not as bits of scenery but as part of the narrative. A good example is Walter Slezak, whom Hitch will place in some innocuous part of the shot, only to have the actor turn his head at some key moment while someone else is speaking, making us suddenly remember him and wonder if perhaps he is listening. While Hitch generally let actors get on with their own job, I am sure such precisely timed and presented bits of business were at his behest.

This is not to say the actors in Lifeboat are mere puppets for the director. Slezak is in fact a brilliant performer, intelligently displaying an air of innocence, with now and then a touch of something deeper. His manner is genuinely ambiguous, which makes it believable for the other characters to be divided in their opinion of him. Tallulah Bankhead seems more or less to be playing herself, or at least the delightfully vibrant persona that she crafted for herself. On dry land she could easily come across as a bit of a fraud, but here in the Lifeboat she personifies the spirit of defiance in the face of it all. From the rest of the cast come solid turns which are distinctive and lively, but never quite going so far as stereotype or overstatement.

The end result is not the most conventional piece of wartime propaganda ever. But while not exactly rousing, it is certainly entertaining. And this is what is best about Hitchcock – when he wasn't busy being a technical show-off, he always kept his mind on thrilling and enthralling the audience. A director who plays TO an audience, pandering to a specific set of sensibilities, will make films that will only ever appeal to the tastes of one era. Hitch on the other hand plays WITH the audience, and this has made his pictures stand the test of time.


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