In Harm's Way
Drama / War
Directed by Otto Preminger
Cast: John Wayne as Captain Rockwell 'Rock' Torrey
Kirk Douglas as Commander Paul Eddington
Patricia Neal as Lieutenant Maggie Haynes
Tom Tryon as Lieutenant William 'Mac' McConnel
Paula Prentiss as Bev McConnel
Brandon de Wilde as Ensign Jeremiah 'Jere' Torrey
Jill Haworth as Ensign Annalee Dorne
Dana Andrews as Admiral 'Blackjack' Broderick
Stanley Holloway as Clayton Canfil
Burgess Meredith as Commander Egan Powell
Franchot Tone as CINCPAC I Admiral
Henry Fonda as CINCPAC II Admiral
George Kennedy as Colonel Gregory
James Mitchum as Ensign Griggs
Carroll O'Connor as Lieutenant Commander Burke
Larry Hagman as Lieutenant J. G. Cline
After leading a disastrous retaliatory strike on the Japanese navy in response to the Pearl Harbor invasion, Capt. Rockwell Torrey is demoted and assigned to a desk job. There he develops a relationship with Nurse Maggie Haynes and learns that his estranged son, Jere, is on the island as an Ensign. Jere is a hot-headed youth and does not know or respect his father because of his constant absence when he was growing up. In addition to his domestic issues, Torrey also has problems with his executive officer Eddington, who is distressed to learn that his wife was both being unfaithful and killed in a car crash.
As operations in the Pacific intensify, Torrey is promoted and given orders to capture key islands held by the Japanese, a task that the previous Admiral, Broderick, was unable to achieve. Torrey leads his forces to victory on Gavabutu Island, and in so doing wins the respect of his son as a military leader, as well as increasing the morale of the unit as a whole.
In the ensuing celebration, the troubled Eddington gets severely drunk and rapes Jere’s girlfriend Annalee, who commits suicide over the incident. It falls to Torrey to inform his son of the tragic events, and Jere finally accepts Torrey as a father figure. Eddington, realizing the atrocities he’s committed, takes it upon himself to fly an unauthorized suicide mission over the Japanese fleet and report its size and location before he is shot down. In the ensuing final battle much of the American fleet is damaged or destroyed, but is able to route the Japanese fleet. Jere is killed in action, and Torrey is badly wounded, but is treated by his love, Maggie.
John Wayne was ill with lung cancer during the filming of In Harm's Way. Shortly after production ended Wayne was diagnosed and underwent surgery one month later, removing his left lung along with two ribs.
Although the film received accolades for its gritty portrayal of life in the Navy, it also made numerous errors in maintaining continuity with 1943 era military technology. For example, the M151 MUTT light utility vehicle is seen throughout the film. The M151 did not enter production until 1959. To remain true the film should have utilized either the Willys MB or Ford GPW. Also, much of the civilian clothes worn in the movie are much more in line with the 1960’s than the 40’s when the film takes place.
The climactic final battle of the film was shot mainly with models, to which Kirk Douglas objected. He felt the special effects were inadequate for the film and complained both to director Otto Preminger and to Paramount Studios about the issue.
In Harm’s Way was nominated for an Academy Award in 1965 for Best Black and White Cinematography due to the work of Loyal Griggs.
Henry Fonda makes a brief appearance as Admiral Chester Nimitz, listed in the credits as CINCPAC II Admiral. He would return to play the role of Admiral Nimitz in the film Midway. Henry Fonda was no stranger to the Navy, having served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade during World War II in the Pacific theater of operations. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the fourth highest award given for bravery or meritorious service in conflict with the enemy.