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Action in the North Atlantic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Action in the North Atlantic
Action in the North Atlantic - 1943 - poster.png
Theatrical release half-sheet display poster
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Written by
Produced byJerry Wald[1]
CinematographyTed D. McCord
Edited byGeorge Amy
Music by
  • Adolph Deutsch
  • George Lipschultz (uncredited)
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • May 21, 1943 (1943-05-21)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,460,000[2][3][4]

Action in the North Atlantic (also known as Heroes Without Uniforms) is a 1943 American black-and-white war film from Warner Bros. Pictures, produced by Jerry Wald, directed by Lloyd Bacon, that stars Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey as officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.[1] Typical of other films in the era, Action in the North Atlantic was created as a morale-boosting film during this world war and a film that told the story of unsung heroes.[5] As noted by film critic Bosley Crowther, "... it's a good thing to have a picture which waves the flag for the merchant marine. Those boys are going through hell-and-high-water, as 'Action in the North Atlantic' shows."[6]


An American oil tanker, the SS Northern Star, commanded by Captain Steve Jarvis, is sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean by a German U-boat. Along with First Officer Joe Rossi, Jarvis boards a lifeboat with other crewmen and are finally rescued after 11 days adrift. During their brief liberty, Steve spends time with his wife Sarah, while Joe meets and marries singer Pearl O'Neill. At the maritime union hall, the Northern Star survivors await assignment to a new ship, which turns out to be a Liberty ship, the SS Seawitch, commanded by Jarvis, with Rossi once again his executive.

The Seawitch, armed with anti-aircraft guns manned by trained Naval personnel, embarks with a convoy carrying vital war supplies to the Soviet port of Murmansk. However, the convoy is forced to disperse when a wolfpack of U-boats torpedoes them one by one. The Seawitch, now on its own, takes successful evasive action, but the Luftwaffe is called in on a bomb-and-strafe mission. In the ensuing action, Jarvis is seriously wounded, and it is up to Rossi and surviving members of the Seawitch's crew to sail on to Murmansk -- which they do, thanks to a squadron of Russian fliers. In the end, Rossi, peering out at the rest of the convoy, worries about what challenges await them on their return trip.


Uncredited roles


Warner Brothers' working title for the film was Heroes Without Uniforms, intended to be a two-reel documentary about the Merchant Marine. As the war continued, much combat action footage became available and the project was changed to a feature film with Edward G. Robinson and George Raft initially cast in the starring roles. Technical adviser Richard Sullivan was a 23-year-old Merchant Marine cadet who survived the sinking of his ship by a U-boat.[7]

Eventually Robinson had to drop out to do Destroyer at Columbia and was replaced by Raymond Massey. Raft was put into Background to Danger and was replaced by Humphrey Bogart.[8]

Because war restrictions did not permit filming at sea, the film was shot entirely on Warner Brothers studio sound stages and back lots. According to Bill Collins Presents the Golden Years of Hollywood, the ships sets were built in halves on two sound stages, with the tanker sinking sequence shot first on the studio's "Stage Nine".[9]

Director Lloyd Bacon's contract with Warner Brothers expired during production. Jack L. Warner wanted to wait until the film was finished before entering discussions about a new contract, but Bacon was not willing to continue without one. Warner fired him and brought in Byron Haskin to complete filming, which ran 45 days over schedule.[10]

An anecdote about Action in the North Atlantic claims Bogart and Massey, off-duty and somewhat intoxicated, were watching their stunt men performing a dive off a burning ship. The two actors started making bets on which stunt man was braver, and eventually the stars themselves made the dive.[citation needed]

Authentic models of German and Soviet aircraft were used in the film, and all dialogue involving non-Americans was in the native tongue of the speaker, without subtitles, both rarities in films of this era.

The journalist Helen Lawrenson was paid compensation by Warners because dialogue was plagiarised from articles she had written about U.S Merchant Mariners ("Damn the Torpedoes", Harpers, July 1942, and "They Keep 'Em Sailing", Colliers, 8 August 1942).[11]


When Action in the North Atlantic was premiered in New York City, more than a dozen Merchant Mariners and several hundred U.S. sailors presented Jack Warner with the Merchant Marine Victory Flag. Henry J. Kaiser, the ship-building magnate, thought the film was such a morale booster that he wanted it shown to all his employees.[9]

According to a news item in The Hollywood Reporter on June 24, 1943, copies of Action in the North Atlantic were provided to the Merchant Marine schools for use in training when the War Shipping Administration judged that technical and educational material in the film would "aid considerably the training program". The studio donated three prints for official use at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, at cadet basic schools in San Mateo, California, and Pass Christian, Mississippi.[7]

Film critic Bosley Crowther reviewed the film for The New York Times, stating, "... tingling, informative picture which thoroughly lives up to its tag of "Action in the North Atlantic' ... some excellent performances help to hold the film together all the way. Raymond Massey and Humphrey Bogart are good and tough as the captain and first mate ..."[6]

In a one-hour Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on May 15, 1944, Raymond Massey and Julie Bishop reprised their roles while George Raft co-starred, replacing Bogart.[7]

Box office

According to Warner Bros records, the film earned $2,144,000 domestically and $1,316,000 abroad.[2]


Action in the North Atlantic received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing (Best Original Story) for Guy Gilpatric.[12]



  1. ^ a b Walker 1994, p. 7.
  2. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 23 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. ^ Schatz 1999, p. 218.
  4. ^ "Top grossers of the season." Variety, January 5, 1944, p. 54
  5. ^ Higham and Greenberg 1968, p. 96.
  6. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: The screen; 'Action in the North Atlantic,' thrilling film of Merchant Marine, starring Humphrey Bogart, opens at the Strand." The New York Times, May 22, 1943.
  7. ^ a b c "Notes: 'Action in the North Atlantic'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: July 3, 2016.
  8. ^ SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times ]11 Aug 1942: 15.
  9. ^ a b McGee, Scott. "Articles: 'Action in the North Atlantic'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: July 3, 2016.
  10. ^ "Trivia: 'Action in the North Atlantic'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: July 3, 2016.
  11. ^ Helen Lawrenson, Stranger at the Party, 1975, pp.228-229
  12. ^ "The 16th Academy Awards, 1944." Archived 2015-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: July 3, 2016.


  • Higham, Charles and Joel Greenberg, Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited, 1968. ISBN 978-0-498-06928-4.
  • Morella, Edward and Edward Z. Epstein and John Griggs. The Films of World War II. Secaucus, New Jersey: The Citadel Press, 1973. ISBN 0-8065-0365-3.
  • Schatz, Thomas. Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-5202-2130-7.
  • Walker, John ed. Halliwell's Film Guide (10th edition). New York: Harper Collins, 1994. ISBN 978-0-0025-5349-0.

External links

This page was last edited on 18 October 2021, at 21:51
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