Hellcats of the Navy (1957)

Hellcats of the Navy (1957)

“It’s a question of your confidence in my judgment.”

When a submarine commander (Ronald Reagan) makes a tough call in allowing an officer to die rather than subjecting his entire crew to danger, his colleague (Arthur Franz) believes Reagan was motivated by the officer’s dalliance with his fiancee (Nancy Davis).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Military
  • Ronald Reagan Films
  • World War II

Peary cites this “curio’s selling point — Ronald Reagan romances Nancy Davis” — as a “major reason why it is so dull”, noting that if “Reagan weren’t president and Nancy his First Lady, [the] film would have been forgotten”.

He argues that it’s a “terrible movie, but it is interesting because it stars Reagan and explores the nature of command.” He adds that “Nancy Reagan haters will enjoy the sailors passing around her 8-by-10 glossy (she looks sixty and shriveled) and getting all hot and bothered”.

Clearly, Peary’s comments are biased by the era when GFTFF was published (smack dab in the middle of Reagan’s 8-year presidency); it’s a bit easier these days to separate the actor from the politician, and to that end, Reagan is actually quite credible (if unexceptional). The storyline is standard Hollywoodized fare, exploring leadership and trust issues in times of heightened tension and combat.

It’s not by any means must-see, but might be of minor interest to fans of submarine warfare.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Irving Lippman’s cinematography

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one unless you’re curious.


One thought on “Hellcats of the Navy (1957)

  1. First viewing, not must-see – though it isn’t bad for a film of its type and may hold interest for fans of WWII pics.

    I knew before going in that I would have to put aside my prejudice against the Reagans – who were such an embarrassment and a horror for Americans. So… I tried.

    Ronnie is his stoic self; Nancy is… quite meh. (Even if Peary is a little harsh in his own judgment of her, it is amusing to see her photograph being held so near and dear.)

    In the main supporting role, Franz walks away with the picture with his subtle performance in a role that didn’t particularly require rich subtext – but he seems to give it anyway. (Franz had a surprisingly long career and always seemed dependable – whether he was appearing in solid dramas like ‘The Sniper’ and ‘The Member of the Wedding’ or nonsense like ‘Monster on the Campus’.)

    ‘Hellcats…’ does have something interesting and even somewhat compelling to say about how leadership is defined, challenged and recognized. It’s not the “terrible” movie that Peary thinks it is – and Nathan Juran’s direction is more or less solid.

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