Cast & Crew
During a fierce storm at sea, Lieutenant Raymond Dower courageously rescues the crew of a sinking ship, including the captain, Tobias Bliss. The injured Tobias is picked up by a seaplane commanded by Ray's roommate, Speed Bradshaw. Speed is a boisterous Coast Guard pilot with a talent for charming the ladies with tales of his heroic deeds, and his co-pilot, O'Hara, envies him. While Speed pursues a nurse, Ray visits Tobias in the hospital and meets his lovely granddaughter Nancy. Ray falls in love with Nancy, but Speed advises that his gentlemanly technique is wrong. When Ray is sent on an emergency call to aid survivors of a sudden flood, Speed is left alone with Nancy and soon falls in love with her. Speed promises to end his philandering, and the couple are married. When Ray calls on them one evening however, he finds that Speed has disappeared for an evening with friends, leaving Nancy behind. After enduring many lonely nights, Nancy finally leaves Speed, much to his chagrin. Sent on an assignment, Speed performs stunts while flying over her house and crashes the airplane. Although unhurt, Speed is grounded. Meanwhile, Ray is dispatched in an ice-breaker to rescue some stranded whalers. In the Arctic, an Eskimo guide leads Ray and a dog sled team carrying a wounded whaler back to the ship. Ray becomes lost, and after an unsuccessful search by the Coast Guard, Nancy pleads with Speed to help find Ray. Speed, who is experienced in Arctic flying, receives permission to look for his friend. After spotting Ray from the air, Speed and O'Hara crash into the snow. In a miraculous takeoff, they manage to start the plane by sliding down a mountain and turning on the engine while the aircraft soars through the air. Speed returns home to find Nancy waiting for him, pleased that he stood by his friend.
J. Farrell Macdonald
Donald W. Starling
M. W. Stoloff
Frances Dee (1907-2004)
She was born Jane Dee, on November 26, 1907 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of an Army officer who grew up in Chicago after her father was transferred there when she was still a toddler. After he was re-stationed to Los Angeles in the late '20s, Jane accompanied him back.
Although she didn't harbor any serious intentions of becoming a star, Dee, almost out of curiosity, found work in Hollywood as an extra. With bit parts in small features in the films Words and Music (1929), True to the Navy, and Monte Carlo (both 1930), it didn't take long for studio executives to take notice of the sleek, stylish brunette. They changed her first name to Francis, and gave her a prominent role opposite Maurice Chevalier in one of the first all-talking musicals, The Playboy of Paris (1930).
She proved she could handle drama in her next big hit, An American Tragedy (1931) as Sondra Finchley, the role played by Elizabeth Taylor in the George Stevens' remake A Place in the Sun (1951). She met her husband Joel McCrea while filming The Silver Cord (1933), and after a romantic courtship, were married that same year in Rye, New York. It was well-known within film industry circles that their 57-year marriage (ending in 1990 when McCrea passed away) was one of the most successful among Hollywood stars.
From there, Dee played important leads in several fine motion pictures thoughout the decade: Little Women (1933), starring Katharine Hepburn; Blood Money (also 1933), where she was cast thrillingly against type as a sex-hungry socialite whose taste for masochistic boyfriends leads to harrowing results; Of Human Bondage (1934), in which she played Leslie Howard's devoted girlfriend; The Gay Deception (1935), a charming romantic comedy co-starring Frances Lederer; Wells Fargo (1937) a broad sweeping Western where she again teamed up with her husband McCrea; and the classic period epic If I Were King (1938) making a marvelous match for Ronald Colman.
Dee's film career slowed considerably in the '40s, as she honorably spent more time raising her family. Still, she was featured in two fine films: the profound, moving anti-Nazi drama So Ends Our Night (1941) with Fredric March; and Val Lewton's terrific cult hit I Walked with a Zombie (1943), portraying the inquisitive nurse trying to unravel the mystery of voodoo occurrences on a West Indian plantation. Dee officially retired after starring in the family film Gypsy Colt (1954) to commit herself full-time to her children and her husband.
For those so inclined, you might want to check out Complicated Women (2003), a tight documentary regarding the racy Pre-Code films that represented a realistic depiction of the Depression-era morality before the Hays code took over Hollywood in 1934. Frances Dee, although well in her nineties, offers some lucid insight into her performance in Blood Money, and clearly demonstrates an actor's process of thought and understanding in role development.
She is survived by three sons including the actor Jody McCrea, who found fame as "Bonehead" in the AIP Beach Party films of the '60s, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Frances Dee (1907-2004)
According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Frances Dee replaced Gene Tierney in the role of "Nancy Bliss." Coast Guard was the first film of actor Michael Gale, who changed his name to Craig Stevens in 1941.