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Hellcats of the Navy

Hellcats of the Navy
Directed by Nathan Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by David Lang
Raymond Marcus
Bernard Gordon
Based on Hellcats of the Sea
1955 novel 
by Charles A. Lockwood
Hans Christian Adamson
Starring Ronald Reagan
Nancy Davis
Arthur Franz
William Leslie
William Phillips
Harry Lauter
Michael Garth
Joe Turkel
Don Keefer
Selmer Jackson
Maurice Manson
Robert Arthur
Max Showalter
Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Cinematography Irving Lipman
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Morningside Productions
Distributed by Columbia
Release dates
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Hellcats of the Navy (1957) is a World War II submarine movie starring the future US President Ronald Reagan and his wife, billed as Nancy Davis, her then professional name. Married since 1952, this was the only film in which they appeared together. The story of the film is based on the non-fiction book Hellcats of the Sea by Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood and Hans Christian Adamson.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • See also 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Commander Casey Abbott (Ronald Reagan), commander of the fictional submarine USS Starfish, is ordered to undertake a dangerous mission which sees him attempting to cut off the flow of supplies between China and Japan in the heavily mined waters off the Asiatic mainland. When a diver, who is Abbott's competitor for the affections of Nurse Lieutenant Helen Blair (Nancy Davis) back at home, gets into a dangerous situation, Abbott must struggle to keep his personal and professional lives separate in dealing with the crisis.

The results arouse ill feelings in the crew and especially Abbott's executive officer Lt. Commander Landon (Arthur Franz) who asks his captain to let him air his views in confidence. The results lead Abbott to write in Landon's efficiency report that he should never be given command of a naval vessel, resulting in further ill feeling between the two.



Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz endorses the film on screen at the start of the movie, and is also later played, as a character, by actor Selmer Jackson.[1] Reagan noted in his autobiography that he was disappointed in the film overall, having expected a result more like Destination Tokyo, a major Warner Bros. film of a decade previous. The diminishing status of the films he was offered led to his leaving the big screen.

The United States Navy provided extensive cooperation by allowing portions of the film to be shot at the Naval Base San Diego and aboard an actual submarine, possibly the USS Besugo. The executive officer of the submarine used was Lloyd Bucher who later commanded the USS Pueblo during its capture by North Korea in 1968.[2]

During the production of the film, as the USS Besugo was about to get underway, an argument ensued between one of the unions and the director. It must be noted that it was difficult for a submarine tied up in San Diego to get underway while a tide was running, so there was only a short window of opportunity to maneuver the boat away from the pier. Besugo was one of the first boats to get nylon lines, and when stretched, they can get about "as big around as a pencil" and become lethal if they break under strain. In the meantime, the order is given to the helmsman to answer all bells. Reagan took this opportunity to practice his lines on the deck of the boat hollering out, "Ahead one third, starboard back full... etc." About this time, the nylon lines were stretched to their breaking point where one of the officers gives the command, "All stop, ALL STOP, Goddammit, ALL STOP!" and Reagan, totally oblivious to what was going on, continued to practice his lines, rocking back and forth on his feet with his hands behind his back... as if nothing were wrong at all.


Glenn Erickson of DVD Talk reviewed the DVD release of Hellcats, and thought that although the direction was "competent", the script was "completely derivative and cornball". He went on to criticize the lack of realism in the supporting characters and the use of stock footage, especially where footage of a US Navy patrol boat was used as a Japanese ship. Overall, he described the film itself as "fair".[1] David Krauss of Digitally Obsessed described the production values as "bargain basement" and found the stiff performances of the cast alienated viewers. He gave the film a C for style and a B- for substance, although he also described the direction as "dry as a military briefing on CNN".[3]

Erick Harper at DVD Verdict thought that the movie followed a series of submarine war movie clichés, in the love triangle and the action sequences. Parts of the film were compared to Star Trek, in that it followed a standard Hollywood formula. He described Ronald Reagan as "comfortable" and "believable",[4] and said that the film was "worth checking out for the historical value, if nothing else".[4]

See also


  • carrier-based fighter aircraft. Grumman F6F Hellcat is a fictionalized filmed version. The book's title implicitly compares the submarines to the Hellcats of the air, the Hellcats of the Navy of which [5],World War Two, a non-fiction account of the U.S. Navy's Pacific submarine fleet's Operation Barney in  

See also


  1. ^ a b Erickson, Glenn (3 May 2003). "DVD Savant Review: Hellcats of the Navy". DVD Talk. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  2. ^ p.44 Skinner, Kiron K.; Anderson, Annelise & Anderson, Martin Reagan: A Life In Letters Simon and Schuster, 29/11/2004
  3. ^ Krauss, David (2 July 2003). "Hellcats of the Navy (1957)". Digitally Obsessed. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Harper, Erick (18 June 2003). "Hellcats of the Navy". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Hellcats of the Sea: Operation Barney and the Mission to the Sea of Japan, by Charles Lockwood, Hans Adamson".  

External links

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