Action in the North Atlantic (Warner 1943, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Hale)

Action in the North Atlantic

Exciting and unsentimental Warner Bros Second World War action drama Action in the North Atlantic rates as one of the most rousing of Hollywood’s ’40s propaganda pictures and was described by the New Statesman as “The American equivalent of our war documentary… tough, exciting, with no concessions to the flim-flam.”

The film, produced as a tribute to the men of the wartime Merchant Marine, focuses on the Liberty ship Sea Witch as it makes its perilous journey in a convoy to Murmansk, under attack from German submarines and aircraft. Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey took the leading roles, respectively as the executive officer and captain of the ship. Variety said “Bogart provides a sterling performance as the first mate, getting maximum results from the rough and ready role, while Massey is neatly cast as the skipper.”

During the making of the film, the two got into an argument as to whose stand-in was the tougher. To settle it (much to the dismay of director Lloyd Bacon) the actors dismissed their stand-ins and jumped into the fire-covered water from the bridge of the burning ship.

Lloyd Bacon’s strong direction made the most of the script and excellent supporting cast and the Evening Standard described it as: “A story of war as it should be presented, with human feeling, spectacle and strength of purpose… I cannot think I have ever seen more realistic battles, or lived so intimately with the characters who comprise the crew.”

USA / Warner / 127 minutes / 1943 filmed in black and white

Writer: John Howard Lawson, based a story by Guy Gilpatric / Music: Adolph Deutsch / Cinematography: Ted McCord / Producer: Jerry Wald / Director: Lloyd Bacon

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Dane Clark