Cast & Crew
D. Ross Lederman
In order to guide shelling from a submarine off the coast of California, Axis agents Frederick Hoff and Yamanito plot with American Jerry Silva to plant a time bomb on a bus that travels past an oil field on its way to San Francisco. It is Silva's assignment to ensure that the bus is at the proper point when the bomb explodes, illuminating the target. At the bus station, while Silva waits to plant the bomb, the passengers begin to assemble. Among them are Marine Sergeant Ryan; Henry Dipper and his bossy wife, who are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary; lecherous salesman Nick Stoddard; and two old maids, who while away the time by clucking over attractive Reba Richards' attempts to borrow money for a bus ticket. Silva is also watching her efforts and offers Reba a bus ticket if she will agree to carry his briefcase, which, unknown to her, contains the bomb. Ryan is suspicious and asks to examine the briefcase, but Silva manages to switch the bomb to Reba's suitcase before the search. Danny, a young man eloping with Betty, sees the switch, and Silva knocks him unconscious. When Betty notices he is missing, she rouses the police and Danny is found. Meanwhile, the bus is held until all the bags are searched. Danny reveals what he saw, but once again, Silva removes the bomb. When he tries to hide it on the bus, he is seen by an undercover agent posing as a panhandler. The agent arrests Silva, but Hoff, who is observing Silva, knocks the agent unconscious and Silva enters the bus. While he is there, Reba gets on the bus to wait and Silva sneaks the bomb back in the briefcase. Nick has followed Reba to the bus and when he makes a pass at her, she slaps him and leaves. Silva kills Nick and leaves the bus unseen by Reba, who has been flirting with Ryan. After the body is found, all the suitcases are transferred to another bus. During the transfer, Silva sneaks the bomb into a box of oranges that Henry brings inside the bus and they finally depart. When the injured agent is discovered, he tells Quinn, the station policeman, what he witnessed. Meanwhile, a blackout is announced and the bus stops to wait for its conclusion. Because of the blackout, the bus cannot be contacted by radio, so Eddie Sloan, an off-duty bus driver, offers to try and reach it in the dark. The saboteurs also realize that the bus will stop and so will not be in the proper place when the bomb explodes. They reach the bus before the others and hijack it. A chase ensues. Silva cuts the brakes and sets the bus rolling downhill toward the fields. Reba grabs the wheel and tries her best to guide the runaway bus. As they careen down the hill, the bomb breaks loose from the orange crate. In the meantime, Eddie and Quinn have captured the saboteurs and they hurry after the bus. When they arrive, they find that the passengers have managed to stop the bus and henpecked Henry has defused the bomb. Reba and Ryan celebrate with a kiss.
D. Ross Lederman
Harry C. Bradley
George R. Bilson
Edwin A. Dupar
Francis J. Scheid
James Van Trees
Most of the action takes place in a bus station, with different stories revolving around the various passengers like a Marine, played by Richard Travis, and Julie Bishop, a traveler who will inadvertently carry the bomb on board the bus. The Japanese spies responsible for the bomb have placed it there with the timer set to detonate when the bus stops at an oil field, and the explosion will act as a beacon to show a submarine crew where to bomb.
Also in the cast was twenty-year-old Eleanor Parker, who had been approached by Warner Bros. while performing at the famed Pasadena Playhouse. It was not the first time a studio had tried to sign her; she had been wooed by 20th Century-Fox while still in high school, but she preferred to finish her education, first. When Warners came calling, she asked them to wait until she finished her first year at the Playhouse. When the year was up, Parker phoned the studio in June, 1941 and was signed. Busses Roar has been noted as Parker's feature film debut, but that is a technicality. She had already filmed scenes for They Died with Their Boots On (1941), but the film ran too long and those scenes were cut. Because the studio was paying Parker without a project lined up, they made her act in screen tests for other actors until Busses Roar was ready to go into production.
The film went through several working titles, including Busses Roar at Midnight, Busses Roar at Night and screenwriter Anthony Coldeway's original story, The Busses Roar, before the final release title was decided. It was directed by D. Ross Lederman, with a script by Coldeway and George Bilson, and was decidedly a "B" picture, playing at the bottom of the bill with films like The Major and the Minor (1942) among others, after it premiered at The Palace on September 24, 1942.
Most of the critics praised the action and the fast pace of the film, but "T.V.P.," writing for The New York Times wrote a scathing review in which he declared that the "[s]uspense hinges on whether the saboteur will succeed in completing his evil deed, but he is such a bungling fellow that there is no doubt after the second reel about the outcome of it all. The Warners should have thought twice before letting this number past the studio gates."
Some of the newspapers were careful to note in their reviews that "Chester Gan, Chinese actor, plays a Japanese part." Busses Roar was shot during the time in which Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans were rounded up and forced into relocation camps. As a result, there were no Japanese actors left in Hollywood, although there were many films featuring Japanese characters during the war. Their parts would be played by Chinese-American and other Asian actors.
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T.V.P. "At the Palace: Busses Roar" The New York Times 25 Sep 42
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Film debut of 'Eleanor Parker' .
The film's working title was Busses Roar by Night. Early in 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled the California coast near Santa Barbara, but little damage was reported. Eleanor Parker received her first screen credit in this film. Some modern sources say that she played a bit part in the 1942 Warner Bros. production They Died With Their Boots On.