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The Sea Chase

The Sea Chase
Directed by John Farrow
Produced by John Farrow
Screenplay by James Warner Bellah
John Twist
Based on The Sea Chase 
by Andrew Geer
Starring
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography William Clothier
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • June 4, 1955 (1955-06-04)
Running time
117 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $6 million (US)[1]

The Sea Chase is a 1955 World War II drama film starring John Wayne and Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, and Tab Hunter. It was directed by John Farrow from a screenplay by James Warner Bellah and John Twist based on the novel of the same name by Andrew Geer. The plot is a nautical cat and mouse game, with Wayne determined to get his German freighter home during the first few months of the war, all the while being chased by British and Australian naval ships.

Contents

  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Factual basis 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Plot

Captain Karl Ehrlich (John Wayne) is the master of the elderly German steam freighter Ergenstrasse, in port at Sydney, Australia on the eve of the Second World War. Ehrlich is depicted as a patriot, a former career naval officer who lost his rank and position after falling out of favour with the current regime and refusing to support the Nazi Party. As his ship prepares for sea (or to be interned if war is declared) he meets with an old friend, British Commander Jeff Napier (David Farrar) and his fiancée Elsa Keller (Lana Turner).

Germany has invaded Poland, and war is imminent. As his ship prepares to slip away, Ehrlich receives a visit from the German Consul-General, who asks him to take with him a spy to prevent the spy's capture. It is only after the Ergenstrasse slips out of harbour in thick fog that Ehrlich discovers the spy is in fact Keller.

Old, slow, short on coal, the Ergenstrasse is seen as easy prey by the Australian Navy, and by Napier in particular, who understandably holds a grudge. But Napier is the only man who does not underestimate Ehrlich as the wily Captain leads his enemies on a chase across the Pacific Ocean, beginning with a run to the south to throw off pursuit, and pausing for supplies at an unmanned rescue station on Auckland Island. While there, Ehrlich's first officer, the pro-Nazi Kirchner (Lyle Bettger), murders three marooned seamen but does not tell the captain about it. Napier discovers the bodies while in pursuit and believes his old friend is responsible. He vows to bring the German to justice as a war criminal.

Ehrlich burns the ship's lifeboats for fuel, upsetting the crew, then stops for wood at the fictitious Pom Pom Galli Atoll in mid-Pacific.[2] While there Ehrlich discovers that Kirchner murdered the fishermen and forces him to sign an account of his actions in the ship's log. The ship arrives at Valparaíso in neutral Chile, and Ehrlich encounters Napier, as his ship HMAS Rockhampton has pursued him from New Zealand.

Luck is with them as the Ergenstrasse, re-provisioned and fuelled, slips away in the darkness; the British forces waiting for them have been called away in support of the cruisers facing the German pocket battleship Graf Spee at Montevideo, Uruguay. Napier requests a transfer to the British Naval patrols in the North Sea, believing that Ehrlich must pass through the patrols in his attempt to reach Kiel.

For political reasons, German radio broadcasts a message from Lord Haw Haw that discloses the position of the Ergenstrasse as it passes Norway, thus giving up the ship and crew to the Royal Navy and to the waiting Napier, as his swifter passage home places the corvette under his command in Ehrlich's path. Napier tracks down Ehrlich's ship and sinks it in the North Sea, with Elsa and Ehrlich aboard, and with Kirchner as an unwilling participant in the short, one-sided battle. The ship's log is handed over to Napier by the survivors and proves Ehrlich innocent of the Auckland incident.[3]

Cast

It was originally announced that Australian actor Michael Pate would play the ship's radio operator, but he does not appear in the final film.[4]

Production

The novel was published in 1948.[5] Warner Bros bought the film rights. John Wayne was announced for the lead from June 1951 with Bolton Mallory reported as working on the script.[6] Soon after James Warner Bellah was announced as working on the script.[7]

Production of the film was delayed for a while. In August 1953 John Farrow, who had made Hondo with Wayne, signed as director.[8] Frank Nugent rewrote the script.[9]

Filming finally began in September 1954.

The fictional HMAS Rockhampton is played by HMCS New Glasgow, a River-class frigate built in Canada as a wartime emergency anti-submarine escort. She was placed in reserve in 1945, but in 1954 had recently been updated and recommissioned as a Prestonian-class frigate. This class has a classic wartime outline, similar to the Black Swan and Grimsby class sloops operated by the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy in 1939 including HMS Morecambe Bay and Wellington, which served in the Pacific, and is now a museum ship on the River Thames in London.

Factual basis

The script was adapted from a novel of the same name by Andrew Geer (1905–57), which in turn was based on an incident involving the 1929-built German Norddeutscher Lloyd steamer Erlangen (6101 tons). Under the captaincy of Alfred Grams, the freighter slipped out of Lyttelton Harbour (New Zealand) on 28 August 1939, on the very eve of war, ostensibly for Port Kembla, New South Wales, where she was to have filled her coal bunkers for the homeward passage to Europe.

She then headed for the subantarctic Auckland Islands, where she successfully evaded the cruiser HMNZS Leander and re-stocked with food and wood (cutting down large swathes of the Southern Rata forest). The freighter then made a desperate and successful escape, using jerry-rigged sails, to Valparaíso, Chile, in South America. She subsequently made her way into the South Atlantic, where, on 24 July 1941, she was intercepted off Montevideo by HMS Newcastle and scuttled by her crew.

Though using the same basic plot as the film, the book painted Kirchner as the hero and Ehrlich as the villain, essentially swapping their roles; the book portrays Kirchner and Keller as unintended victims of Erlich's obsession, though in both stories, the key characters all appear to go down with the ship at the climax.

A Bathurst-class corvette named HMAS Rockhampton was built by Walkers Limited in Queensland in 1942 for the Royal Australian Navy. She operated in Australian and New Guinea waters during the later years of the Second World War, three years after the events depicted in the film.

See also

References


-- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p
  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  2. ^ The island of Pom Pom Galli is mentioned again in the film La Classe américaine (1993).
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ THE SEA CHASE. By Andrew Geer. 274 pp. New York: Harper & Bros. $3. C. B. P.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 Nov 1948: BR30.
  6. ^ John Wayne Gets Top Role in 'The Sea Chase' at Warners: Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 13 July 1951: a6.
  7. ^ ROY ROGERS TESTS TV DEAL FOR FILMS: Suit in Los Angeles Court May Decide Issue of Sale of Movies for Use on Television Metro Plans Documentary By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 15 Sep 1951: 7.
  8. ^ Farrow Will Direct Wayne in 'Sea Chase' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Aug 1953: A6.
  9. ^ ROBBINS IS SUED ON BALLET RIGHTS: Associates in 'High Button Shoes' Assert His Claim to Ownership Delays Film By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 10 July 1954: 7.

External links

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