“The more we quarrel and criticize and misunderstand each other, the bigger the ocean gets, and the smaller the boat.”
A disparate group of survivors from a torpedoed ship — including a journalist (Tallulah Bankhead), a tycoon (Henry Hull), a seaman (John Hodiak), a wounded stoker (William Bendix), a radio operator (Hume Cronyn), a nurse (Mary Anderson), a shell-shocked mother (Heather Angel), and a steward (Canada Lee) — allow a German U-Boat survivor (Walter Slezak) on board their lifeboat, but are never quite sure how much they can trust him.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- At Sea
- Hitchcock Films
- Hume Cronyn Films
- Ensemble Cast
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Tallulah Bankhead Films
- World War Two
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this cleverly conceived “character-propaganda piece” as “flawed but enjoyable”, arguing that director Hitchcock “does wonders with his challenging set, never moving his camera outside the lifeboat”. Indeed, it’s remarkable to realize that, as noted by critic Dave Kehr, “the drama is developed without recourse to flashbacks or cutaways” — yet our attention never flags. While John Steinbeck and Jo Swerling’s script is perhaps a bit “obvious and too didactic”, the performances by the motley cast members are strong enough to carry the film and hold our interest throughout. Especially memorable is Tallulah Bankhead, giving “bite to her every line” in a rare film appearance as a socialite reporter who is gradually forced to give up all physical remnants of her prestige; Hitchcock apparently cast her because he wanted “the most oblique, incongruous person imaginable in such a situation”. Equally impressive is Walter Slezak as “the German”, a “great villain whose cunning is revealed a little at a time” — he’s a genuinely menacing presence on board the tiny ship.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Tallulah Bankhead as Connie Porter
- Walter Slezak as Willy
- Fine direction in a decidedly cramped shooting location
- A compelling tale of survival
Yes, as a fine Hitchcock drama.