Cast & Crew
Joe Rossi is chief executive officer on the Merchant Marine vessel captained by Steve Jarvis. When their ship is torpedoed by the Germans while traveling in the North Atlantic, Steve vows retribution. After Joe, Steve and the other survivors are rescued, they return home to wait for assignment to another ship. Steve's wife Sarah is glad to have him back, although she knows that waiting and worrying are part of being married to a seaman. Joe heads for his favorite bar, where he meets singer Pearl O'Neill, whom he marries shortly before he is recalled to sea. The men learn that their new ship, the Sea Witch , is to be part of an international convoy bringing supplies to Murmansk in the Soviet Union. As the convoy heads into the open sea, it is attacked by several German submarines. United States naval destroyers engage the submarines in battle, but one singles out the Sea Witch . Steve orders his men to lure the submarine away from the convoy. The submarine follows the Sea Witch just out of range of its guns, waiting for its chance to attack. Joe suggests that they cut the engines and maintain complete silence, hoping that the submarine's sound sensors will not be able to track them. The ruse works, but the captain of the submarine is able to determine where the ship is headed and radios a request for airborne bombers. The airplanes and the ship engage in a battle, during which Steve is seriously wounded and several other sailors are killed. When the submarine torpedoes the ship, Joe, who has been named acting captain, orders the men to start a fire, hoping to lure the submarine to the surface, where the ship's guns can hit them. After the submarine surfaces, Joe orders the ship to ram it, and the submarine is destroyed just before Russian airplanes appear overhead to welcome the Sea Witch and her crew.
J. M. Kerrigan
George Offerman Jr.
Jean Del Val
Daniel De Jonghe
Peter Van Eyck
Hans Von Morhart
Joe Allen Jr.
Victor Kilian Jr.
A. I. Bezzerides
W. R. Burnett
Edwin B. Du Par
Leo F. Forbstein
John Howard Lawson
C. A. Riggs
Jack L. Warner
Best Writing, Screenplay
Action in the North Atlantic
Warner Bros. veteran Lloyd Bacon was assigned as director and the whole film was shot on a Warner sound stage. The film required a great deal of elaborate special effects that needed to be housed in a controlled environment that only a sound stage could provide. The old freighter that is destroyed in the film burned brightly for several days before sinking, all in a tank on the studio's "Stage Nine." The effect of the burning ships was achieved by dozens of gas jets controlled at a set of valves that looked like an organ console. This was operated by a "smoke bum" who played the valves with such precision that the actors appeared to be walking through flames. But others on the set got closer to the flames than comfort and safety would allow. Director Lloyd Bacon and his assistant often had to don masks because of the intense heat and smoke emanating from the arc lights and special effects fires and on one occasion Bacon almost choked to death from smoke inhalation. It's no wonder the special effects frightened many in the cast and crew and forced them to stay on their toes.
The production eventually went 45 days over schedule. Jerry Wald, completing his last movie before going into the service, produced a few ulcers as well. Some speculated whether it was the fear of military service that gave him ulcers, or the protracted production of Action in the North Atlantic. At the New York premiere, more than a dozen merchant mariners and several hundred U.S. sailors presented Jack Warner with the Merchant Marine Victory Flag. Henry J. Kaiser, the ship-building magnate, thought the film was such a morale booster that he wanted it shown to all his war builders.
Despite the undeniable patriotic fervor on display in Action in the North Atlantic, there was a politically combustible side to John Howard Lawson's screen story. Appearing in 1943 when America and Russia were still friendly allies, the film occasionally focused on our ties with the Soviet Union. But in the postwar era of chilly American-Russian relations, parts of the film would prove to be an embarrassment to Warner Brothers, namely the climactic "tovarich" (comrade) scene, in which the heroic Bogart and his men are greeted by Russians cheering wildly. Bogart does not return in kind, prompting a crewman to ask why he remains silent. Bogart says, "I'm just thinking about the trip back." That line served a dual purpose. Indeed, the trip back home would be rough going, but it also implied that the comrade stuff is acceptable up to a certain point. The Cold War validated the line's prescience. In fact, the line was often omitted from Action in the North Atlantic when it used to play on broadcast television.
But the Cold War's worst effect was not on a single line of dialogue in a wartime picture. It was its impact on the lives of filmmakers like John Howard Lawson whose career came to abrupt end in 1948 when, as one of the Hollywood Ten, he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Blacklisted by the film industry, Lawson continued to work while in self-exile in Mexico and authored several books on drama and cinema including Film: The Creative Process (1964).
Director: Lloyd Bacon, Byron Haskin (uncredited), Raoul Walsh (uncredited)
Producer: Jerry Wald, Jack L. Warner
Screenplay: A.I. Bezzerides, W.R. Burnett, Guy Gilpatric (story), John Howard Lawson
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Music: Adolph Deutsch, William Lava (uncredited)
Art Direction: Ted Smith
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Lieutenant Joe Rossi), Raymond Massey (Captain Steve Jarvis), Alan Hale (Boot O'Hara), Julie Bishop (Pearl), Ruth Gordon (Mrs. Jarvis), Sam Levene (Chips Abrams).
BW-128m. Closed captioning.
by Scott McGee
Action in the North Atlantic
Director Lloyd Bacon's contract with Warner Bros. expired during production. Jack Warner told him, "finish the picture and we'll talk about it," but Bacon wasn't willing to continue without a contract. Warner fired him and brought in Byron Haskin to finish the film.
The film's working title was Heroes Without Uniforms. An undated press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library notes that twenty-three-year-old technical advisor Richard Sullivan was one of two cadets to survive a U-Boat attack on his Merchant Marine vessel. Another press release announced that Edward G. Robinson and George Raft were to star in the picture. According to a June 24, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, this film was used in Merchant Marine schools as a part of their training sessions, because the War Shipping Administration believed that the film contained technical and educational material that would "aid considerably the training program." The studio donated three prints for official use at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY and at cadet basic schools in San Mateo, CA and Pass Christians, MI. According to a September 26, 1942 article in the Pittsburgh Courier, Humphrey Bogart wanted to include a black Merchant Marine captain in the film, stating: "In the world of the theatre or any other phase of American life, the color of a man's skin should have nothing to do with his rights in a land built upon the self-evident fact that all men are created equal." This character did not appear in the film, however. Writer Guy Gilpatric was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. had originally intended to make a two-reel documentary about the Merchant Marine, but this idea was discarded as the war progressed, providing more opportunities for dramatic action footage. The film was shot entirely on the Warner Bros. backlot using special effects to provide the maritime atmosphere. Raymond Massey and Julie Bishop reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on May 15, 1944, co-starring George Raft.
Released in United States 1943
Tony Gaudio replaced Ted McCord after the latter left production to join the Army.
Released in United States 1943