Cast & Crew
Frank R. Capra
Jack Dorgan, the premiere deep-sea diver in the Navy, and his best friend, sailor Bob Mason, are split up when Jack is sent home to California while Bob stays behind with the Pacific fleet. Before leaving, Jack jokes about Bob always stealing his girls, and Bob warns Jack to stay away from women wearing dice-patterned garters, his trademark. In San Diego, nearly a year later, Jack meets Bessie at the Palais Ballroom and immediately proposes. Three months later, Bessie, longing for the lush life, has grown bored with her marriage and looks forward to her husband's week-long absence. After Jack ships out, Bob, on leave in San Diego, goes to the Palais Ballroom, where he meets the unescorted Bessie. She accepts his invitation to dance, and after noticing her ringless wedding finger, Bob spends his leave with her. A week later, Bob is at the docks, preparing to return to sea when he encounters Jack, who invites him to meet his new wife. Introduced to Bessie, Bob is horrified, but after the unsuspecting Jack is called away by his superior to file a report of his mission, Bessie flirts with Bob, who begins to succumb to her advances. As that moment, Jack returns and knocks his pal to the floor, and after mumbling apologies, Bob hastily departs. While on maneuvers, Bob's submarine collides with a destroyer and sinks to the ocean floor, entombing the crew alive, but with little oxygen. As diver after diver fails to reach the crew, Navy officials summon Jack. Jack hesitates to come to Bob's aid until he discovers that Bessie owns a pair of dice-patterned garters. He then hastens to rescue the crew, while below, at the bottom of the sea, the men wait, primed for death. Just as they have given up all hope, salvation comes as Jack lowers an air line to the submarine. As Bessie sits at the table at the Palais Ballroom with a new sailor, Jack and Bob land onshore in a dinghy and walk away together, their friendship reaffirmed.
Frank R. Capra
The first film released by Columbia Pictures to include sound effects.
According to reviews, the picture was inspired by two submarine disasters, one off each U.S. coast. The U.S. Navy served as consultant on the film, and Film Daily noted in a news item that a special showing of the film was given to the men of the U.S.S. Utah. Modern sources note that this was Capra's first big-budget film and one of Columbia's first "A" pictures, budgeted at $250,000. According to Capra's autobiography, Harry Cohn asked him to replace the noted director Irvin Willat on the production, despite the fact that Capra's record at Columbia only extended to five low-budget productions. Willat hoped to be able to complete the underwater scenes, but Cohn had Capra replace him on a few hours' notice, beginning on location in San Pedro with one hundred extras on call, as well as a number of Navy men. Although Willat had been shooting for three weeks, Capra insisted on starting over and re-shooting all that Willat had shot. The final scene of the rescue was shot in slow motion, with a toy submarine and a diver in a glass aquarium. The financial success of the picture helped to double the value of Columbia's stock. Columbia remade Submarine, again starring Jack Holt, in 1931 as Fifty Fathoms Deep, with Roy William Neill directing, and in 1937 as The Depths Below, starring Richard Dix, with Erle Kenton directing.