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



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.’

production details
USA | Warner | 126 minutes | 1943

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

Humphrey Bogart as Lt. Joe Rossi
Peter Whitney as Whitey Lara
Irving Bacon as Bartender (uncredited)
William Hopper as Canadian Soldier (uncredited)
Peter van Eyck as German Ensign (uncredited)
Eddie Hall as Casino Club Patron at Loudmouth’s Table (uncredited)
Raymond Massey as Capt. Steve Jarvis
Alan Hale as Boats O’Hara
Julie Bishop as Pearl O’Neill
Ruth Gordon as Mrs. Sarah Jarvis
Sam Levene as Abel ‘Chips’ Abrams
Dane Clark as Johnnie Pulaski
Dick Hogan as Cadet Robert Parker
Iris Adrian as Jenny O’Hara (uncredited)

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