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Cruel Sea, The (1953, Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden)

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This was one of Ealing Studio’s most financially successful productions and it consolidated Jack Hawkins’ star status, which he had established with his strong performance the previous year in Ealing’s Mandy.

Nicholas Monsarrat was then a part-time writer, working as a government officer at the time of his novel’s runaway success, and had wanted the rights to The Cruel Sea to go to a British production company. Monsarrat and director Charles Frend, brought together by Ealing’s Michael Balcon, got on excellently and Eric Ambler wrote a superb screen adaptation of the 416-page novel, brilliantly condensing its plethora of incident into a compact screenplay without losing the force and atmosphere of the original.

The story, which takes place during the Battle of the Atlantic, largely centres on the corvette ‘Compass Rose’ and the wartime experiences of its commander, Ericson (Hawkins), and her crew. Ericson, the only experienced sailor on board, suffers an emotional crisis arising from his decision to run down survivors of a torpedoed ship in order to attack a suspected lurking submarine, but ‘Compass Rose’ is later more successful in action and executive officer Lieutenant Lockhart (Donald Sinden) learns about the horrors of war at first hand. During a refit, Lockhart falls for Wren officer Julie Hallam (Virginia McKenna) and Sub-Lieutenant Morrel (Denholm Elliott) discovers his actress wife Elaine (Moira Lister) has been unfaithful.

production details
UK | Ealing Studios | 126 minutes | 1953

Writer: Eric Ambler, from the novel by Nicholas Monsarrat
Director: Charles Frend

cast
Virginia McKenna as Julie Hallam
Megs Jenkins as Tallow’s Sister
Bruce Seton as Tallow
Meredith Edwards as
Stanley Baker as Bennett
Jack Hawkins as Ericson
Denholm Elliott as Morell
Gerik Schjelderup as Norwegian Captain
Johnny Singer as Gray
Donald Sinden as Lockhart
John Stratton as Ferraby
John Warner as Baker
Liam Redmond as Watts
Moira Lister as Elaine Morell
June Thorburn as Doris Ferraby
Alec McCowen as Tonbridge
Glyn Houston as Phillips
Gerard Heinz as Polish Captain
Barry Steele as Broughton
Sam Kydd as Carslake
Laurence Hardy as Sellars
Fred Griffiths as Gracey
Dafydd Havard as Signalman Rose
Leo Phillips as Wainwright
Gaston Richer as French Captain
Andrew Cruickshank as Scott Brown
Barry Letts as Raikes
Kenn Kennedy as Allingham
Harold Goodwin as ASDIC Operator
George Curzon as Admiral at Party
Anthony Snell as R.N. Lieutenant
Ronald Simpson as R.N. Captain
Don Sharp as Lieutenant-Commander
Herbert C. Walton as The Waiter
Jack Howard as A Survivor
Russell Waters as A.R.P. Warden
Harold Jamieson as A.R.P. Warden
Warwick Ashton as Petty Officer Instructor
Walter Fitzgerald as Warden (uncredited)
Paddy Joyce as Sonar Operator (uncredited)
Richard Leech as Sailor (uncredited)
Aileen Lewis as Lady at Party (uncredited)
Jim O’Brady as Sailor in Water
Alan Webb as Admiral Murray-Forbes (uncredited)

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