I can't (yes, I can) believe that nobody to date has noded the great Alfred Hitchcock
. Shot in 1944, the film
depicts the tale of a group of castaway
s from a shipping disaster
, a torpedoed
freighter in WWII
. Only one lifeboat
makes its way clear from the tragedy
by a group of the usual suspects
(long before Gilligan's Isle
). Among the survivor
s are a millionaire (played by Henry Hull
), a sailor (John Hodiniak
), a socialite (Mary Anderson
), a journalist (Tallulah Bankhead
), and a sailor from the U-Boat
, which was sunk by the freighter's guns before it itself went down (Walter Slezak
Spoilers! (Well, maybe only one.) Turn back now, while you still have a chance!!
It turns out that the sailor plucked from the drink is the submarine's captain, who feigns ignorance and a lack of knowledge of the situation and the sea about the survivors. In a bout of un-PC-ness, Hitchcock has the single black man aboard the lifeboat get tasked by his fellows to pick the sailor's pocket to see if he has a compass (which he does), with success. (A parallel can be drawn with the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance, where Samuel Jackson thinks that Bruce Willis' character assumes he can hot-wire a car because he is black.)
The survivors of the wreck face incredible hardships: lack of food, short water rations, and the strain between the personalities on board. their microcosm reflects the greater world about them, and Hitchcock demonstrates his mastery of storytelling.
The film is based upon a Steinbeck story and was filmed at the height of WWII. The lifeboat sat in a great water tank, and the actors suffered almost as much as if they were actually in the drink, for verisimilitude. Multiple costume changes were required, as many as six to eight per shooting session, as the actors were constantly falling out of the lifeboat into the tank that held it. Their angst during the ardurous filming makes it all the more real.
Of course, Hitchcock had his signature cameo, in a weight-loss ad in a newspaper read by one of the lifeboat occupants. He was the "before" picture, naturally.
kthejoker pointed out that Hitchcock was also the "after" picture - he had just gone on a diet and wanted to show it off to people. In addition, almost all of the actors caught pneumonia on the set, and interestingly, Talullah Bankhead refused to wear any underwear, probably due to comfort as they were always soaked. Some of the actors complained, and Hitch told them he didn't have any extra money for costumes, but maybe he could get a hairdresser.