Otto Preminger's sprawling World War II drama packs a lot into its 165 minutes, beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor (which Preminger re-creates in amazing detail) and ending a couple of years later with America's ret... more »urn to the South Pacific in force. John Wayne and Kirk Douglas star as a career naval captain and his self-pitying commander in the peacetime navy who are thrust into battle when Pearl Harbor is bombed while they are on maneuvers. Minutes into WWII, they are already scapegoated and demoted by the embarrassed military brass. Wayne romances a WAVE nurse (Patricia Neal) and attempts a reconciliation with his estranged, spoiled son (Brandon de Wilde) while Douglas sinks into the bottle after the death of his cheating wife until the American fleet rebuilds and calls upon Wayne to lead one of the initial invasion forces. Henry Fonda makes a brief but commanding appearance as the fleet admiral. Burgess Meredith is a former writer turned witty commander, Dana Andrews a showy but indecisive admiral, and Stanley Holloway a genial Australian scout working with the American invasion forces. Tom Tryon and Paula Prentiss play newlyweds torn apart by the war, and also appearing are Franchot Tone, Carroll O'Conner, Slim Pickens, George Kennedy, Bruce Cabot, and Larry Hagman, among many, many more. Loyal Griggs's handsome black-and-white photography is topped only by Saul Bass's impressive closing credits sequence, a rising cascade of crashing waves and rough surf reportedly paced to mirror the dramatic rhythm of the film. --Sean Axmaker« less
"It always seems that WWI movies covered the European Theater more, as far as Blockbusters are concerned... "Longest Day", "Bridge to Far", "Patton", "Guns of Navarone", "Saving Private Ryan". Sure the Pacific had the multitude of John Wayne Movies, but true epics either dealt with Pearl Harbor or Midway, nothing else existed it seems.Then I see "In Harms Way" . This movie is a true classic, with a superb cast including Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Dana Andrews, Patricia Neal (may be one of her best), Henry Fonda, Burgess Merredith and many more.This a "true grit" battle of the Pacific tale which we need more of. Its description of sea battles both before and after are classic, and the movies lenght is not noticed since you are continually involved in it. Yes, the movie is in black and white, but it seems its supposed to be. The filming and actions sequences for its day are outstanding, and watch you bass speakers or you will lose some china! Seeing this movie on REGULAR TV is not a good idea. They cut more than 20 minutes from it, ruin its continuity, and it is NOT the same movie. networks would rather sell than eep the movie intact.WATCH THE FULL LENGTH VERSION! Is like seeing a new movie! A give this movie a standing thumbs up. This is one of the Dukes BEST."
A Great War Movie Despite Ho-Hum Special Effects
John G. Gleeson Sr. | Frederic, Mi USA | 08/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why do I like this movie so much? It's an good story with a good cast, an OK love story and ... special effects. I like "The Duke", Partricia Neal and Kirk Douglas, but so? The answer is that I think that "In Harm's Way" captures the spirit of the American Navy in World War II in a near perfect way; it shows flawed men and women trying to do their best under appalling conditions. It also shows the backstabbing and deceit that occasionally marked the rivalry between some commanders. Some parts drag a bit, but the overall effect, for me, is a movie that I have (and will) watch over and over. Despite its age, it spins a good yarn; the characters are believeable and interesting. Wayne has delivered many fine performances (think "The Quiet Man", "The Searchers" and John Ford's cavalry trilogy) and his portrayal of Admiral Rockwell Torrey is one of them. In his committment to the Navy, his growing love for Nurse Maggir Haynes, and his conflict with his son, Wayne is at his top form. Neal, in her post stroke first appearance is equally good. OK, the use of poor models to represent naval ships is off-putting, but it's the characters and the story that captures the viewer. The DVD is all that could be asked for short of a re-make of the film. It remains one of my favorites."
In Harm's Way a Winner!
James D. Eret | San Diego | 01/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"So many movies have been made about the land war in WWII. What about the US Navy? The only ones of any merit were made during the war or in its aftermath and most were unbalanced, showing the Japanese as the "yellow peril," etc. I was raised on these movies and some of our best directors cranked them out (John Ford and many others) and few stand up well the test of time. Quite by accident I caught up to this fine film on TV and then on this fine double video. The performances by the actors are excellent. John Wayne shows facets of his character that I never saw before, a vulnerabilty rarely seen other than the classic western "The Searchers," probably his best career performance. Kirk Douglas delivers a great performance of a naval officer with an underlining violence of character, which proves fatal to him. A fine supporting cast headed up by Patricia O'Neil, Burgess Meredith, Tom Tryon and others fills out the story, spread on a broad canvas by Otto Preminger. I was flat out surprised by this excellent work, full of details, character developement, and action. This really is'nt an action picture, with high heroics and flag waving. By subduing these elements, a temptation for any director to boost box office, Preminger achieves effects not seen in most big-budget productions. The story is somewhat slow but rarely boring. The B&W photography posed no problem for me,for most of the war movies I saw as a child were filmed in B&W and it somewhat adds to the documentary look of the movie. Almost all war movies use "stock" footage of ships and battles and this movie is no different. The use of models in the climactic battle is not very convincing; I read that Kirk Douglas said that he liked the movie but seeing all those models with no crewmen standing on deck bothered him, detracked from the power of the film. Jerry Goldsmith's score is rousing without being bombastic, similar to his great "Patton" score, another movie with some action but has great emphasis on character. I would recommend this to all of John Wayne's fans. Watch carefully; the Duke is showing some real acting talent here, restrained for an officer named "Rockwell." With so many epics going for the blood and guts approach, "In Harm's Way" comes sailing past with a more balanced picture, that the war was harsh, fought by men, lower to upper ranks, but just men of flesh and blood, caught up in the defining event of the twentieth century."
In Harm's Way -- More depth than you think
Ralph Couey | Somerset, PA | 09/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a Navy veteran, I have little tolerance for movies that don't take the time to be accurate in their depictions of military life in both peacetime and war. Premminger took the time to get things right, which makes this movie an enjoyable tale.
Some reviewers declaim Wayne's portrayal of Admiral Torrey as stiff and without personality. I disagree. Captains and Admirals are by necessity stiff and formal, as is required by the tremendous responsibilities of their positions. Shipboard friendships are rare because those friendships can interfere with the exercise of command, in particular, discipline. Torrey demands, and gets the best from his subordinates. But he has a soft spot for his friend, Eddington. A tragic character with an alcohol problem, he would have been better served if Torrey had handled his second in command far more sternly. Eddington respects Torrey in a way that he obviously respects no one else, especially himself. He would have heeded that approach. In many ways, Eddington represents the hopelessness of many career military officers in the peacetime of the 30's. There were thousands of otherwise deserving officers who literally stayed the same rank for as long as 10 years.
The movie demonstrates the difference between capable managers in peacetime and battle-worthy leaders in war. The U.S. was caught in that trap in the first year of World War II. Unfortunately, a lot of ships were lost and a lot of sailors died while the bureaucrats were weeded out and replaced with warriors.
When in command of a ship or a task force in battle, the commander has to function with his intellect, not with emotions. Keeping track of the conduct of a battle, when in the middle of that battle, requires a balance between detaching from the immediate surroundings and concentrating on the bigger picture. Knowing what orders to give to the battle group while the flagship is being ripped to shreds around him is what determines who wins battles at sea.
Premminger really did his homework in establishing the environment. Of particular note was the use of radio-controlled ship models during the battle sequences. He didn't just use generic models, but was extremely accurate as to ship type and class. For example, in one scene, a Japanese ship with three turrets forward and two aft is torpedoed by PT boats. Flag Plot gets the report that a "Mogami-class cruiser" was hit. Checking photo archives of World War II ships shows that the Mogami class was in fact designed in this way, in fact the only ship ever to have her main battery arrayed in that manner. Also, the battleship Yamato is actually a model of the Yamato, accurate in every detail. The main battery loading sequence on board Torry's cruiser is exactly what it should have been. This reality is enhanced by Premminger's use of actual Navy sailors as extras. The actors even have Navy-regulation haircuts.
Yes, there are a multitude of sub-plots. But I found them to be tasteful and reflective of what American culture was at that time. I knew of many couples who talked about how important it was for that pregnancy to happen before the husband shipped off to war. It was a time of great uncertainty, punctuated by the arrival of far too many of those "damn yellow telegrams." Others who, in peacetime, might have been content to remain single, reached out to each other as a way of providing a buffer against an all-too-often brutal and fearful future. And in one particularly important moment, a father and son reconcile a lifetime of bitterness and anger; a healing of deep emotional wounds.
In the end, Torrey is a man wracked by the loss of a son, close friends, and (he thinks) an important and pivotal battle. CINCPAC II (as described in the credits) returns to Torrey his pride and self-esteem, and more importantly, a way to give meaning to his losses.
Any student of World War II will recognize the characterizations in this movie. Franchot Tone, in the role of Husband E. Kimmel; Henry Fonda as Chester Nimitz; Wayne is probably William F. Halsey; Admiral Broderick represents Robert F. Ghormly. Operation Skyhook represents Operation Watchtower, the drive to recover the Solomon Islands. The Battle of Pala Passage is in excellent representation of the second day of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, when Admirals Scott and Calahagn blocked a far superior Japanese force on its way to deliver the death knell to U.S. forces on the island. There actually was a destroyer that got underway and escaped the destruction inside Pearl Harbor, under the command of a Lieutenant Junior Grade, who also left his Commanding Officer behind in a small boat.
I have seen a lot (perhaps way too many) fictional movies using the Navy as the backdrop. "In Harm's Way" is my favorite, mainly because the details are correct. And it is the details that give the story context and believability. The characters and performances are mostly accurate to the period. The action sequences, somewhat hamstrung by the special effects technology of the time, is grimly accurate to the desperate sea battles that marked the Solomons Campaign. Wayne is the quintessential Admiral, a man with partially-hidden flaws and weaknesses who nonetheless shines brightly when the day is darkest.
In the opinion of this Old Salt, there's no better movie around that tells the story of war and the people who fought in them.
The Best War Movie ever made!
RoadGoat | Dallas, TX | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I was in Viet nam, Navy in 1967, this is the only movie we had fro 38 days. We watched it every night for 38 days. I have since watched it over 100 times. If it were on TV tonight, I would watch every second."