HELLCATS OF THE NAVY (director: Nathan Juran; screenwriters: Raymond Marcus/David Lang/story by Lang/the book Hellcats of the Sea” by Vice-Admiral Charles A. Lockwood Vice-Admiral USN Ret., Col. Hans Christian Adamson USAF Ret.; cinematographer: Irving Lippman; editor: Jerome Thoms; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Ronald Reagan (Cmdr. Casey Abbott – Captain of USS Starfish), Nancy Davis (Nurse Lt. Helen Blair), Arthur Franz (Lt. Cmdr. Don Landon – XO of USS Starfish), Robert Arthur (Freddy Warren), Harry Lauter (Wes Barton), William Leslie (Lt. Paul Prentice), William Phillips (Carroll), Selmer Jackson (Fleet Admiral Nimitz); Runtime: 81 MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles H. Schneer; Columbia; 1957)
“This was the only film the future president Ronald Reagan appeared together with Nancy Reagan.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was the only film the future president Ronald Reagan appeared together with Nancy Reagan. It was Reagan’s next-to-last film role, and Nancy’s last. They were wed in 1952. Hellcats was a routine jingoistic submarine action picture from WW II, that’s based on a real combat story. Writers Raymond Marcus (Bernard Gordon) and David Lang adapted it from a book by admirals Charles A. Lockwood and Hans Christian Adamson. The screenwriter Marcus was ironically the blacklisted Bernard Gordon. Veteran filmmaker Nathan Juran (“Land Raiders”/”East of Sudan”) tells the claustrophobic story in too dry a manner, as if a military briefing.Reagan plays Casey Abbott, the hard-nosed commander of the USS Starfish, a WW2 submarine. Nancy Davis portrays the sweet but wooden navy nurse Helen Blair, who bounces from dating Abbott to dating Lt. Wes Barton (Harry Lauter). The Starfish is on a mission to locate the minefields in the Japanese Straits. Barton goes diving with a crew for the mines and remains down too long when the other divers surface. A Japanese destroyer is located and Abbott decides to flee and sacrifice Barton. Barton’s best pal, Lt. Cmdr. Don Landon (Arthur Franz), privately calls out Abbott for the decision. It leads to Ronnie dating again the navy nurse Nancy, and on another minefield mission Landon learning that the captain must make painful decisions that are not based on personal matters but on the best interest of all under his command. The acting was weak, the story trite and the romance was tepid. Nevertheless the cliched undersea pic could be entertaining in a mediocre way for those who enjoy uncomplicated patriotic war films. Fleet Admiral Nimitz appears as himself to introduce the film.
REVIEWED ON 10/21/2016 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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