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Hell Divers
Directed by George W. Hill (uncredited)
Produced by George W. Hill
Written by Frank Wead
Charles MacArthur
Starring Wallace Beery
Clark Gable
Cinematography Harold Wenstrom
Editing by Blanche Sewell
Release date(s) 1931
Running time 109 min
Country  United States
Language English

Hell Divers is a 1931 movie starring Wallace Beery and Clark Gable as a pair of competing chief petty officers on board the USS Saratoga (CV-3). Beery is the old-timer looking to trip up the young Gable, both on and off duty; the story is conventional but the acting is superb.

The movie features considerable footage of operations on board the Saratoga, with dramatic shots of takeoffs and landings of the Curtiss F8C "Helldivers", biplane dive bombers after which the movie was named. (The particular model seen in the movie saw little operational use, but was frequently used by the Navy for publicity.) Scenes include an exercise in which the Helldivers sink an old battleship within a few minutes, a harbinger of what was to happen at Pearl Harbor just ten years later.

It's noteworthy that in 1931 the US Navy (which reportedly had never permitted film crews aboard a carrier) considered its equipment top secret. Most of the footage showing aircraft landing aboard the ship has the lower part of the screen blacked out to hide the tailhook engaging the arresting wires. However, by that time Britain and Japan both had been operating carriers for years.

Other actors appearing include Conrad Nagel, Dorothy Jordan, Marjorie Rambeau, and Marie Prevost. Robert Young made one of his first appearances in a movie, as one of several uncredited pilots.

Hell Divers was filmed before Gable began wearing his famous moustache. Gable had appeared in a minor supporting role in another Wallace Beery film, The Secret Six, earlier the same year, and would work with Beery once more, as the top-billed lead in China Seas four years later.

Frank Wead, one of the film's writers, was later portrayed by John Wayne in John Ford's movie biography of Wead called The Wings of Eagles.


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