Across the Pacific (1942)

Across the Pacific (1942)

“Everybody has bad luck with me.”

A cashiered army captain (Humphrey Bogart) books a ticket on a steamer headed to Japan, where he meets a beautiful woman (Mary Astor) and a rotund, Japanophilic sociology professor dressed in white (Sydney Greenstreet). Soon it turns out that few of these characters are who they appear to be, and Bogart is caught up in a dangerous mission to prevent sabotage.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Humphrey Bogart Films
  • John Huston Films
  • Mary Astor Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Spies
  • Sydney Greenstreet Films

Following the success of The Maltese Falcon (1941), director John Huston was reteamed with three of that film’s stars (Bogart, Astor, and Greenstreet) for what was originally hoped to be a sequel, but instead turned into this atmospheric albeit less memorable espionage thriller.

Interestingly, it was one of the few films of the time whose narrative was shifted to be less similar to current day events, as the bombing of Pearl Harbor (which occurred during pre-production) hit way too close to home with the source material (a story published in The Saturday Evening Post called “Aloha Means Goodbye”). The original movie title was retained despite the location being shifted far away from the Pacific (!), perhaps because the primary focus is still on individuals (Japanese) from the Pacific arena. To that end, unfortunate racist stereotypes abound, with one character in particular — hipster Nisei Joe Totsuiko, with coke bottle glasses — mouthing line after line of intentionally “I’M REALLY AMERICAN” dialogue.

His first full sentence is, “I’m sure glad there’s someone around that speaks my language,” followed later by jargon-filled comments like these:

“I’m rooming with a dope.”
“He’s got his lip buttoned up for good, as far as I can figure out.”
“Say, I wonder if those Panamanian mamas are all they’re cracked up to be.”
“Take me for instance, kid. I’m a live wire.”
“Anybody wanna play shuffleboard?”
“Boy, let me at them pasteboards.”

It’s impossible not to guess something is up with this awkwardly speaking dude. Meanwhile, Bogart and Astor have plenty of fun banter together:

… and Arthur Edeson’s cinematography is as atmospheric as all get out:

However, the mistaken-identity storyline ultimately isn’t as compelling as one might hope, making this a curiosity rather than a must-see. It will likely always be viewed as the film “between” The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942), especially given that Bogart’s character in both this and the latter is named Rick.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Arthur Edeson’s cinematography
  • Some clever dialogue: “Patience is a game one plays only out of boredom.”

Must See?
No, though of course John Huston fans will be curious to check it out.


One thought on “Across the Pacific (1942)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see; mainly for Bogart fans and Huston completists (even though Huston himself did not complete the film*).

    Reasonably intriguing / engaging spy flick (with snippets of humor throughout the Bogart / Astor romance). I do like the fact that the first 3rd of the film throws us off the way it does. Most of what follows is generally gripping-enough but the final scenes (through no fault of Sherman taking over for Huston) somehow have less impact – with a few characters having to suddenly explain certain machinations of the plot.

    For the most part (except for the Japanese film being shown in the movie theater), the Japanese spoken by various people in the film sounds as though the lines were learned phonetically. (Wikipedia:) Mary Astor later recalled that the constantly expanding internment of Japanese Americans ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 3, 1942, deprived Japanese actors of their jobs on the film. The file on ‘Across the Pacific’ in the USC Cinema-Television Library shows that ethnically Chinese actors were cast as the Japanese characters from the beginning. Aside from Technical Advisor Dan Fujiwara and “a few bit players”, there were no ethnically Japanese participants in ‘Across the Pacific’.

    *I’ve always enjoyed this story (here repeated from IMDb) about the filming:
    [Director John Huston went off to join the war effort before the film was finished, and Vincent Sherman directed the final scenes. Sherman met with John Huston just before Huston left the project to join the Army Signal Corps and shoot documentaries for the war effort. The two directors conferred just before they were about to shoot the scene in which Leland is trapped in the movie theatre and three assassins are trying to kill him. “How does he get out?” Sherman asked. Huston replied, “That’s your problem! I’m off to the war!”]

Leave a Reply