Cast & Crew
On the home front during World War II, advertising art director Susan Cahill, put off by her boss and fiancé Paul Clemson's flirtation with a potential client's daughter to assure that he secures a contract, accepts agency artist Alexander "Alec" Austen's dinner invitation one night. Afterward at Alec's home, Susan is disturbed to discover an emotionally revealing portrait of herself drawn by Alec and abruptly ends the romantic evening, but agrees to a date the next day. After she leaves, Alec finds a telegram to report for active naval duty and decides not to tell Susan as they continue to date. Several weeks later, Alec takes Susan to meet his mother, a Quaker, and announces that he and Susan are to marry and that he will soon be leaving for active duty. His mother is shocked to learn that Alec has secretly been serving as a lieutenant in the reserves and laments that he has chosen a path so contrary to Quaker pacifist principles. Susan admits that although she loves Alec, she is betrothed to Paul and will not break the engagement because she is indebted to the executive for her career. Boarding the U.S.S. Poe at the Brooklyn Navy Yard days later, Alec meets the other officers aboard: commander of the ship, Cmdr. Warren Meredith; Alec's bunk mate and the ship's doctor, Lt. Blanchard and Alec's immediate commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. Mike Edge, a short-tempered war veteran who berates him for being a Quaker. As the ship makes its way to the Aleutians, Alec befriends the men in his regiment, gunnery mates who entertain themselves with gambling and thoughts of women. During an operation to collect survivors from a sunken German submarine, Edge vengefully refuses the prisoners food and then confronts Alec about his politics, but Alec assures him that he can "hate" like the rest of the men. Later, when Blanchard finds the drawing of Susan, Alec sadly admits his heartbreak over her refusal to marry him. Days later, while the ship is being refitted at a San Francisco shipyard, Alec's regiment goes to an Armenian bar, where Pvt. Aaron Slobodjian introduces his comrades as his cousins to the lonely Armenian women customers, who dance and dine with the men. Meanwhile, Alec remains at the dock drawing a portrait of his friend and regiment lieutenant, "Frenchy" Shapiro, who explains that the portrait is for his estranged daughter to remember him by. Soon after, Susan finds Alec on the docks, having prearranged the meeting with Blanchard's help, and announces that she has broken her engagement to Paul, found a new job and eagerly wishes to marry Alec. With plans to marry during his leave, the couple meets Susan's sister Claire Innes and her two boys in Pebble Beach, California. While visiting, Claire receives word that her husband has been killed in action. Watching the sisters weep, Alec decides that he cannot risk Susan becoming a widow as well and promises to marry her only upon his return from duty. Days later at sea, when an aircraft is spotted on the radar, sailors await Alec's orders to fire, but he freezes. As the American fighter comes into view, all are relieved by Alec's "decision," but that night Alec admits to Meredith that only fear, not knowledge of the plane's identity, prevented him from giving the command. After Meredith transfers Alec to damage control and Edge condemns him, all but Frenchy lose faith in Alec. Weeks later during an enemy attack, a bomb crashes through the deck without exploding. With Frenchy's help, Alec dislodges the bomb then throws the live explosive overboard, where it explodes. During a funeral service for Aaron and another man, who were killed in the attack, Edge, who has hidden his addiction to morphine, panics at the memory of others lost in battle and raids the ship's medicine cabinet for the drug. Meanwhile, Meredith, aware of the animosity towards Alec, reminds the men that they all might have died without Alec and Frenchy's bravery. While docked at Dutch Harbor, Alec punches a marine in a squabble over a jukebox, prompting a brawl. Victorious, the navy men carry the jukebox and an unconscious Alec back to the ship. When he comes to, Alec admits to Blanchard that he felt the need to kill, but Blanchard reassures him that his aggression was natural. Later, as the men solemnly listen to one of Aaron's Armenian folk records on the jukebox, a disapproving Meredith signals his acceptance of the confiscated jukebox by insisting that the men paint it gray, the color of all Navy, not Marine, property. Later, Alec and his men volunteer for a dangerous assignment retrieving stranded soldiers and critical photos of enemy territory from a Japanese-held island. Soon after, Blanchard catches Edge stealing morphine and isolates him in doctor's quarters, where he deliriously rants about Alec putting his men in danger by volunteering to take command of the mission. However, Alec and his men have already reached shore in two rubber boats and make their way up the rocky coast, where they spot the stranded soldiers. Boxed in by Japanese soldiers at the shoreline, Alec orders his men to open fire and signals the ship to bomb the coastline. Dozens of enemy soldiers are killed, but Alec cannot bring himself to fire one shot. As Frenchy and Alec cover the men making their way back to the boats, a wounded Japanese soldier limps toward them with his gun drawn, but Alec still cannot shoot. After killing the soldier, Frenchy openly pities his friend for not being able to fire. When watching four enemy soldiers suddenly attack and wound Frenchy, Alec kills them to protect his friend, but Frenchy dies before they make it back to the ship. Soon after, an injured Alec is discharged and returns to Susan's welcome arms with plans to marry her and deliver Frenchy's portrait to his daughter.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
The Officers And Men Of The U.s.s. Stephen Potter
George C. Bertholon
Commander Alan Brown Usnr
Leo K. Kuter
Maurice De Packh
Francis E. Stahl
The Deep Six
Hypnotic beauty, wit, identifiability, trustworthiness, grace, an explosion of personality - stardom has a volatile cocktail of fuel sources. But as it happens, fathoming the dynamic is sometimes difficult, and movie history is full of inexplicable mysteries. Decades hence, for example, cinephiles will probably furrow their brows over the new-millennium interest in Robert Pattinson. It's almost universally agreed now that Dan Aykroyd's film career was a complete mistake, and I don't think anyone has a good theory as to why Peter Lawford or Sonja Henie ever became stars.
There's plenty of room for subjective disagreement, and lots of gray between the inevitable movie icon and the stupefying head-scratcher, and it's into this no man's land we find Alan Ladd, a major Hollywood movie star of the middle century who's as hard to read, in terms of being a historical and cultural phenomenon, as a Sphinx. Very, very few of us, however impassioned we may be about movies from Griffith to the present, have many hosannas to toss toward Ladd's memory, and besides George Stevens's distinctive, totemic western Shane (1953), none of his films are remembered with much fondness or energy. Who was this short, bland-faced, blond-locked Midwestern guy, and why was he a name above the marquee title for twenty years?
Watching The Deep Six (1958), an earnest, boisterous WWII naval drama Ladd made with his own production company six years before he died, you can feel the question become too large to answer. Ladd became famous in This Gun for Hire (1942), for essentially inventing the granite-faced, ultra-calm man of violence, and his acting style thereafter ran the gamut from implacable to sleepy. By the late '50s, Ladd was trying to flex his muscles a bit, and in The Deep Six we're witness to him as a playboy artist, complete with snappy repartee. Directed quickly by Rudolph Mate (a veteran cinematographer who shot Carl Dreyer's best films, but whose directorial docket is mostly taken up with low-budget, double-bill fare of often bizarre pedigree), the film is an ungainly dance between formula and social issues, as Ladd's puffy, aging bachelor woos his sexy art director boss (Dianne Foster) with his Long Island beach house and local Basque restaurant (!).
Until, that is, the letter comes from the Dept. of Defense, at which point we realize what we thought was the '50s is actually 1942, and we learn that Ladd's semi-laconic swinger is both in the Navy reserves and a Quaker! He proposes marriage anyway, and goes off to his battleship, reflexively inhabited as it is by wisecracking, ethnically diverse enlisted men (naturally including a Borscht Belt comedian, Joey Bishop), a crusty captain (James Whitmore), and, for good measure, a bullet-headed officer (Keenan Wynn) who believes in summary executions and doesn't trust his new gunnery lieutenant's Quaker pacifism.
Conflict with the Japanese in the Pacific is decidedly besides the point; after a bajillion WWII movies already by the late '50s, the strategy here focuses on the shipmates' interactions through the prism of a relatively exclusive concern, Quakerism, which enables Ladd to feign pacifistic cowardice and then, on a number of set-piece occasions, prove everyone's suspicions wrong by stepping up and responding to the needs of battle.
The raft of supporting eccentricity is plenty juicy - particularly William Bendix as a Brooklyn-Jewish mess sergeant full of Yiddishisms (his "zaftig" wife wouldn't stop "hocking" him, etc.) But the strange, haunted soul of the movie is Ladd himself, and not merely because his stardom seems puzzling from this remove...Which it definitely does: few major leads from the Golden Age seem to be simply play-acting as baldly as Ladd, and none seemed as quietly consumed with self-loathing for doing it. Ladd's real-life story keeps peeking through the cracks of his acting - namely, the codependent crises of his epochal alcoholism and his apparent closeted homosexuality, which together compelled him to shoot himself in the chest, in 1962, and, just over a year later, kill himself finally via a heavy-duty OD of booze and dope.
Our culture has exhibited unlimited fascination with famous Hollywood suicides and tragic deaths, particularly when they intersect with sexual secrets and "outsider" identities, but even in this realm Ladd is hardly remembered, and much of his story remains undisclosed. Therein might lie the man's most bedeviling legacy. When we consider James Dean, we ponder a fiery career far too short; Marilyn Monroe, a victim of fame. Other Hollywood Babylon deaths have become legend, and other hidden sexualities (Rock Hudson's, for instance) have become a lens in which to see the individual's struggle in the merciless eye of modern media. But Ladd hasn't yet been rescued from obscurity, despite the seductive fact that his acting now seems like an extended and heartbreaking attempt to contain secrets, secrets that have still to see the light of day.
Producer: Martin Rackin
Director: Rudolph Maté
Screenplay: Harry Brown, Martin Rackin, John Twist (writer); Martin Dibner (novel)
Cinematography: John F. Seitz
Art Direction: Leo K. Kuter
Music: David Buttolph
Film Editing: Roland Gross
Cast: Alan Ladd (Alexander 'Alec' Austen), Dianne Foster (Susan Cahill), William Bendix ('Frenchy' Shapiro), Keenan Wynn (Lt. Comm. Mike Edge), James Whitmore (Commander Warren Meredith), Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Lt. Blanchard), Joey Bishop (Ski Krokowski), Barbara Eiler (Claire Innes), Ross Bagdasarian (Pvt. Aaron Slobodjian), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Austen).
by Michael Atkinson
The Deep Six
Following the film's closing credits, there appears a written acknowledgment to the Navy and Defense Departments and dedication to the Destroyer Forces of the United States Navy. The Deep Six was produced by actor and producer Alan Ladd's company, Jaguar Productions, Inc. According to a July 7, 1957 Los Angeles Examiner article, Cmdr. Eldon Edwards, USN, commanded the U.S.S. Stephen Potter, a Fletcher Class destroyer chosen to represent the "U.S.S. Poe" because of its use in World War II. Improvements to the ship made after the war were removed to make the ship resemble the original, and period gun mounts were added.
Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast; however their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Robert Levin, Jack Mann and Alana Ladd, daughter of Alan and Sue Carol Ladd. According to a July 7, 1957 New York Times article, George A. Smith and Albert D. Peters, members of the U.S.S. Potter crew, also had roles in the film. Location shooting took place at the Long Beach Harbor, Carmel and San Francisco, CA. The Deep Six marked the feature film debut of comedian Joey Bishop.
Released in United States December 19, 1957
Released in United States Winter December 19, 1957
Released wide in the USA January, 1958.
Released in United States December 19, 1957 (New York City)
Released in United States Winter December 19, 1957