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WWII in the Movies: Allied Powers
Remind Me
,Cry 'Havoc'

Cry Havoc

Wednesday July, 31 2019 at 04:00 PM
Monday August, 12 2019 at 10:00 PM

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Based on a play called Proof Through The Night by Allan Kenward, Cry Havoc (1943) features a rare all-female cast, including Star of the Month Ann Sothern. Joining Sothern are Margaret Sullavan, Joan Blondell and Fay Bainter. Set in a Bataan bomb shelter during World War II, Cry Havoc relates the story of nine nurses who turn to discussions of life, love and combat while waiting out an imminent Japanese attack. And while there are a couple of brief male appearances in the film, the women have all the lines.

Despite a set filled with actresses, there were no problems with ego on the set of Cry Havoc. With no feuds to report, publicists focused on the similarity between two of the leads - Ann Sothern and Joan Blondell. But in an interview about the film, Sothern commented, "when we appeared side by side there was no need for either of us to change hair color or make-up as we weren't alike at all." Blondell, it seems, disagreed about the resemblance. After an absence from the screen to get married, Blondell said on her return, "My friends told me Ann Sothern had forgotten how to do me."

The movie marked a special moment in Ann Sothern's personal life. During the filming of Cry Havoc she married second husband Robert Sterling on May 23, 1943. Sterling, son of Chicago Cub Walter S. Hart, was born William John Hart. He started out as a clothing salesman before being spotted by a talent scout for Columbia Pictures and landing in Hollywood in 1938. Columbia offered Sterling a short-term contract, and he appeared in sixteen studio releases before switching over to Fox. The Fox contract was short lived, and Sterling moved to his third studio, MGM.

It was at MGM in 1941 that Sterling and Sothern would meet, as co-stars in Ringside Maisie. Ann, however, was still married to first husband Roger Pryor at the time. Later, after separating from Pryor, Sothern would bump into Sterling again - while visiting Robert's neighbor, Hedy Lamarr. This time, apparently sparks flew and the twosome starting dating, amid much speculation in fan magazines. Sterling enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1942 and was stationed in Phoenix. Once Ann's divorce was final, the couple agreed to marry, but with both their schedules, it was difficult to find time. An emergency appendectomy for Sterling would eventually provide the opportunity. Following his surgery, Sterling was given two weeks leave. And as a wedding gift, Cry Havoc director Richard Thorpe gave Ann a one day vacation from shooting.

Cry Havoc was filmed by MGM at the same time the studio was making Bataan with Robert Taylor so it was likely that the two films shared some of the same sets. Also, both films were typical of the pro-American propaganda entertainments that were being cranked out by Hollywood during WWII. In particular, the brutality of the Japanese is emphasized in Cry Havoc which includes a scene where a defenseless American nurse is machine-gunned by an enemy fighter pilot while bathing in a stream. In defiance, one of the surviving nurses promises, "We'll get him, we'll get every mother's son of them!"

While Cry Havoc stands as a testament to the heroism of American nurses during the Pacific Campaign, it was also an opportunity for Ann Sothern to show her own patriotism. In addition to appearing in films like Cry Havoc, she kept busy during the war years touring camps and hospitals, working as a volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen, and even making an appearance in a film short for the Department of War Information entitled You, John Jones.

Producer: Edwin Knopf
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Allan Kenward (play Proof Through the Night), Paul Osborn, Jane Murfin (uncredited)
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Costume Design: Irene
Film Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Original Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cast: Margaret Sullavan (Lt. Mary Smith), Ann Sothern (Pat Conlin), Joan Blondell (Grace Lambert), Fay Bainter (Capt. Alice Marsh), Marsha Hunt (Flo Norris), Ella Raines (Connie), Frances Gifford (Helen), Diana Lewis (Nydia), Heather Angel (Andra).
BW-98m. Closed captioning.

by Stephanie Thames



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