In Harm's Way: Wikis


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In Harm's Way

film poster by Saul Bass
Directed by Otto Preminger
Produced by Otto Preminger
Written by James Bassett (novel)
Wendell Mayes
Starring John Wayne
Kirk Douglas
Patricia Neal
Carroll O'Connor
Tom Tryon
Paula Prentiss
Brandon De Wilde
Jill Haworth
Dana Andrews
Henry Fonda
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Loyal Griggs
Editing by George Tomasini
Hugh S. Fowler
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) April 6, 1965 (US)
Running time 165 minutes
Country United States
Language English

In Harm's Way is a 1965 epic war film produced and directed by Otto Preminger and starring John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Carroll O'Connor, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Brandon De Wilde, Jill Haworth, Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda. The screenplay was written by Wendell Mayes based on the novel Harm's Way by James Bassett. The movie recounts the lives of several naval officers and their wives or lovers while based in Hawaii as the US involvement in World War II begins. The title of the film comes from a quote from American Revolutionary naval hero John Paul Jones: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."



John Wayne stars as U.S. Navy Captain Rockwell "Rock" Torrey, a divorced "second generation Navy" son of a career Chief Petty Officer. A Naval Academy graduate career officer, Torrey is removed from command of his heavy cruiser for "throwing away the book" when pursuing the enemy and then being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After several months of desk duty ashore and recuperation from a broken arm he suffered in the attack on his cruiser, he is promoted to Rear Admiral and given a crucial mission requiring the same sort of guts and gallantry he previously displayed as commanding officer of his cruiser.

Though it makes use of the same heroic persona that Wayne displayed in his Westerns, this persona is very much restrained under Otto Preminger's direction. We learn more of the character's human qualities: his estrangement from his son, now an Ensign in the Naval Reserve (played by Brandon De Wilde), and his romance with a divorced Navy Nurse Corps Lieutenant (played by Patricia Neal), which brings out his yearning for a stable emotional anchor in his life. The Wayne/Neal relationship forms the emotional crux of the movie, and the two stars give sensitive performances.

There are sub-plots involving characters played by Kirk Douglas and Tom Tryon, who offer differing portraits of two other career naval officers associated with Wayne's command. Douglas portrays Commander, later Captain, Paul Eddington, a wayward sort of career officer who has resigned as a Naval Aviator and returned to the Surface Navy because of an unhappy marriage. Tryon portrays Lieutenant, junior grade, later Lieutenant and Lieutenant Commander, William "Mack" McConnell, a conventional type of young officer only a few years removed from the Naval Academy, with a characteristic Navy wife of the period (played by Paula Prentiss), who is ever solicitous and faithful.

The film presents an unglorified and realistic picture of the American Navy and its officers, and its sprawling narrative is typical of Preminger's works in which he examined institutions and the people who run them (such as the American Congress and the Presidency in Advise and Consent, the Catholic Church in The Cardinal and the British Intelligence Service in The Human Factor).


DVD cover
  • John Wayne as Captain Rockwell W. "Rock" Torrey USN, CO of Old Swayback; afterwards Rear Admiral Rockwell W. Torrey, USN, "operational commander" of "Operation Skyhook."
  • Kirk Douglas as Commander Paul Eddington, USN, a former Naval Aviator who has resigned from Naval Aviation due to marital problems; executive officer of Old Swayback under Captain Torrey; later, as Captain Paul Eddington, Admiral Torrey's first Chief of Staff
  • Patricia Neal as Lieutenant Maggie Haines, Nurse Corps, USNR, a Navy nurse and Rock Torrey's love interest
  • Tom Tryon as Lieutenant (jg) William "Mac" McConnell, USN, appearing first as Officer of the Deck aboard the USS Cassidy; afterwards Lieutenant then Lieutenant Commander William "Mac" McConnell, Flag Secretary in Admiral Torrey's command
  • Paula Prentiss as Beverly McConnell, "Mac" McConnell's wife, who works briefly as a civil defense aircraft spotter near Pearl Harbor
  • Brandon De Wilde as Ensign (later Lieutenant, junior grade) Jeremiah Torrey, USNR, Rock Torrey's estranged son
  • Jill Haworth as Ensign Annalee Dohrn, Nurse Corps, USNR, Navy nurse, Maggie Haines' roommate, and ENS/LTJG Jeremiah Torrey's girlfriend/fiancee
  • Burgess Meredith as Commander Egan T. Powell, USNR, Admiral Torrey's Intelligence Officer and confidante. Powell is portrayed as a Naval Reservist recalled to active duty who is a Hollywood screenwriter in civilian life and has been married to...and divorced from...several Holywood actresses. Meredith's character is based on Commander (later Rear Admiral) Gene Markey, USNR, a good friend of John Wayne's in real life.
  • Barbara Bouchet as Liz Eddington, Paul Eddington's faithless wife; killed in an automobile accident on 7 Dec 1941 with an Army Air Forces major and fighter pilot she previously seduced while fleeing a strafing run by Japanese planes in the attack on Pearl Harbor)
  • Patrick O'Neal as Commander (and former United States Congressman) Neal Owynn, USNR, Admiral Broderick's Public Affairs Officer and briefly, liaison between Admirals Broderick and Torrey
  • Stanley Holloway as Clayton Canfil, an Australian former planter who runs a system of native coast watchers on the island of Gavabutu and later undertakes a hazardous reconnaissance of the target island of Levu-Vana
  • Dana Andrews as Vice Admiral B. T. "Blackjack" Broderick, USN, Area Commander, Southwest Pacific Area Three
  • Franchot Tone as Admiral Husband Kimmel, USN (listed as "CINCPAC I"), Commander-in-Chief Pacific during the attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Henry Fonda as Admiral Chester Nimitz, USN (listed as "CINCPAC II"), Commander-in-Chief Pacific during the rest of the war
  • Slim Pickens as Chief Petty Officer Culpeper, USN, chief boatswain's mate aboard the USS Cassidy (who, after the sinking of the Cassidy in action and the subsequent rescue of its crew, later proclaims then-LT McConnell as, "...the best officer to be marooned on a desert island with")
  • Carroll O'Connor as Commander, later Captain Burke; initially the Operations Officer of Captain Torrey's cruiser, the "Old Swayback", and later her Commanding Officer when Rear Admiral Torrey returns, making "Old Swayback" his flagship
  • George Kennedy as Lieutenant Colonel Gregory, USMC, commanding a parachute-capable Marine Corps battalion
  • James Mitchum, the son of actor Robert Mitchum, as Ensign Griggs, USN, a young engineering officer aboard "Old Swayback"
  • Larry Hagman as Lieutenant (jg) Cline, USN, Communications Officer aboard the USS Cassidy
  • Hugh O'Brian (uncredited) as a Major in the US Army Air Forces and fighter pilot who is Liz Eddington's lover while CDR Paul Eddington is at sea
  • Jerry Goldsmith (uncredited) as the piano player
  • Christian Haren (uncredited)

Background and production

Many believe Wayne's underplayed performance was due to the fact that he was seriously ill with lung cancer when the film was made. Shortly after filming ended in August 1964 he was diagnosed with the disease, and a month later underwent surgery to remove his entire left lung and two ribs. Co-star Franchot Tone was soon to develop lung cancer and died of the disease in September 1968.

The film was shot in black-and-white by Loyal Griggs, who composed his scenes in the scope format often using deep focus (Griggs was nominated for a Best Cinematographer Academy Award for his work). Jerry Goldsmith's musical score is also notable, as is the work of Saul Bass in the credit titles sequence (this sequence actually comes at the very end of the film, an interesting departure from the norm in a major Hollywood production at the time).

The film received extensive cooperation from the Department of Defense, especially the US Navy and US Marine Corps. This included the use of the USS Saint Paul (CA 73) in the role of the straw bottom cruiser referred to only as the "old swayback" and an accompanying destroyer, USS Philip (DD-498), that took on the role USS Cassiday. Other US Navy ships that participated include destroyers USS Braine (DD 630), USS O'Bannon (DD 450), USS Renshaw (DD 499), USS Walker (DD 517), submarine USS Capitaine (SS 336) and the attack transport USS Renville (APA 227). Additional smaller vessels were provided in support, as well as an HU-16 Albatross amphibious aircraft, even though said aircraft did not enter the US inventory until 1949. The HU-16 likely substitutes for a PBY Catalina, of which no flyable examples were likely available for the film schedule.

The climactic battle with the Japanese fleet was staged mostly with model ships. Kirk Douglas thought the special effects poor and complained bitterly to both the director and the studio about it. He offered to restage the scenes at his own expense using the special effects people who worked with him on Paths of Glory.

Awards and honors

In Harm's Way was nominated for the 1965 Academy Award for Cinematography (Black-and-White) for cinematographer Loyal Griggs.[1] It was also screened at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition. [2]

Patricia Neal received a 1966 BAFTA Film Award as Best Foreign Actress for her performance in the film.[3][4]


External links



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