Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1942. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by W.R. Burnett, Frank Butler. Cinematography by William C. Mellor, Theodor Sparkuhl. Produced by Joseph Sistrom. Music by David Buttolph. Production Design by Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick. Costume Design by John Morris Foster, Pat Williams. Film Editing by Frank Bracht, LeRoy Stone. Academy Awards 1942.
Fact-based account of the American servicemen stationed on Wake Island, a small oasis in the Pacific ocean. The soldiers are barely kept in line by their commander (Brian Donlevy) while a private contractor (Albert Dekker) ignores army protocol to carry out his building project, but all differences are put aside when the events of Pearl Harbour happen and the island’s inhabitants must prepare for attack. A devastating assault by air is followed by the approach of Japanese battleships and the brave American soldiers hold their ground as long as they can, with hope growing dimmer as the body count piles up and more buildigns are turned to rubble. John Farrow directed this efficient and intelligent war drama that features a wonderful cast (including a funny but not distracting William Bendix as the stock Brooklyn Joe type) and gorgeous tropical locales as background for the ugliness of battle. The enemy is, not surprisingly for a movie made so soon after the fact, presented with very little nuance; it would take until 1970’s Tora Tora Tora for anyone to look at the big picture in a major Hollywood film).