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Working titles of the film were Cargo of Innocence, A Cargo of Innocents, Men O'War, Clear for Action, Navy Convoy, This Man's Navy and Pacific Task Force. According to M-G-M production records, the film was released in a December 1942-February 1943 package, although the picture appears to have been shown only at "premiere" venues prior to January 1943. A brief opening montage is narrated by M-G-M advertising and exploitation executive Frank Whitbeck, who provided the "voice" for many M-G-M's trailers. Hollywood Reporter news items reveal the following information about the production: In November 1941, the film, which was initially known as Cargo of Innocence, was set for production at M-G-M's facilities in England, to star Robert Donat and Edmund Gwenn and to be directed by Clarence Brown. By early December 1941, "uncertain production possibilities" due to the war in Europe resulted in the studio's decision to move the film to Hollywood, with some backgrounds and "extraneous cover-up shots" to be made in England. At that time, the film was to have an Atlantic Ocean setting and deal with the British Navy. By March 1942, following American entry into the war, the production was planned as a total Hollywood shoot, and the setting was changed to the Pacific Ocean, featuring the American Navy.
Additional news items note that Stand By for Action, which was M-G-M's first naval picture of World War II, was filmed in cooperation with the U.S. Navy. Barry Nelson, who was not in the released film, was to have appeared in the production. Although a multi-city "world premiere" took place on New Year's Eve, 1941, news items variously reported that early December 1941 screenings had taken place for naval officers on Treasure and Mare Islands, CA and a December 23, 1941 premiere was scheduled for either Toledo or Cleveland, OH. The film did not receive good reviews either from the civilian or military press. Sgt. Bill Davidson, who reviewed films for Yank magazine, said that it was "not about The War, but about Hollywood's War." Other critics compared it unfavorably with the British naval drama In Which We Serve, which had opened in the United States a short time prior to the release of Stand By for Action. A. Arnold Gillespie, Dan Jahraus and Michael Steinore received an Academy Award nomination for special effects for the film.