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DESTROYER (director: William A. Seiter; screenwriters: Borden Chase/Lewis Meltzer/Frank Wead/from a story by Frank Wead; cinematographer: Franz F. Planer; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Anthony Collins; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Steve Boleslavski), Glenn Ford (Mickey Donohue), Marguerite Chapman (Mary Boleslavski), Edgar Buchanan (Kansas Jackson), Leo Gorcey (Sarecky), Regis Toomey (Lt. Cmdr. Clark), Ed Brophy (Casey), Warren Ashe (Lt. Marton); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis F. Edelman; Columbia Pictures; 1943)
“Though it offers no surprises, it’s still well-done and mildly entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Patriotic wartime drama that is formulaic and predictable, but it’s not a total loss as Edward G. Robinson as an old sea dog goes to war with Glenn Ford as his young sea pup rival and the two fine actors give the film some spark. Director William A. Seiter (“The Lady Wants Mink”/”Borderline”/”Dear Brat”) does a workmanlike job with former naval officer Frank Weads’s propaganda story.

After the Navy destroyer the S. S. John Paul Jones is torpedoed in the South Pacific during World War II, the Navy commissions a new destroyer to carry on her name and tradition. Two of the workers building the ship are middle-aged perfectionist Steve “Boley” Boleslavski (Edward G. Robinson) and his pal Kansas Jackson (Edgar Buchanan), both veterans of WW I who served on the Jones. Boley learns that his former shipmate Clark (Regis Toomey) is the commander of the new Jones and requests permission to serve during his re-enlistment on the Jones. The brass denies this request and instead he’s assigned to train recruits in San Diego. Boley asks Clark to appoint him chief bosun’s mate of the ship. Although Clark has already assigned Mickey Donohue (Glenn Ford) to the position, he agrees to honor Boley’s request. Boley’s appointment transforms him into a martinet, and he soon earns the animosity of the entire crew including Donohue, who has been re-assigned as gunner’s mate. Boley is considered a dinosaur who is unfamiliar with how the newer destroyer functions and angers the crew with his rigidity and despotic attitude.

Clark intervenes by having Boley’s pretty daughter Mary (Marguerite Chapman), a USO hostess, dance with and woo Mickey, in the hopes that Mary could bring the two adversaries together. When the ship fails an inspection and is taken off combat duty to mail duty, Boley is demoted and the crew think that he’s a jinx and request transfers. Donahue allows Boley to be his mate, as he does so to please Mary. Mickey secretly marries Mary, but the couple decide not to tell her dad. When Japanese bombers begin attacking American ships, the Jones is ordered into battle and are attacked by Japanese planes. You just know that both Boley and the Jones redeem themselves, Boley with acts of heroism and the ship proves to be a first-class destroyer

Though it offers no surprises, it’s still well-done and mildly entertaining.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”