Monday, May 21, 2018

Positive Propaganda

"Let me tell you something about my iron nerve, son. It's made of rubber, just like everybody else's, so it'll stretch when you need it. You know, people got a funny idea that being brave is not being scared. But I don't know. I always figured that if you weren't scared, there was nothing to be brave about. The trick is how much scaring you can take."

Humphrey Bogart

When one hears the word propaganda, the initial response tends to be negative, I suppose. But that really depends on which side of the fence you occupy.

In the case of "Action in the North Atlantic," which premiered on this day in 1943, it is a positive thing, telling the story of the Merchant Marines and their contribution to the Allied war effort during World War II.

In 1943, of course, the war was raging, and the outcome was far from inevitable.

First–time viewers may be startled by the realism of the movie, given the fact that it was made long before computer–generated graphics came along. The black–and–white photography is a giveaway, though.

The title was certainly no exaggeration with Humphrey Bogart's tanker being hit by a torpedo from an enemy sub in the first 15 minutes — and the action kept on coming.

Well, actually, it wasn't just Bogart's tanker. Bogie was the ship's first mate. Raymond Massey played its captain. Bogart, Massey and the other survivors bobbed around in the sea for 11 days before being rescued.

But the lure of the sea was too strong. The only home the seamen knew was their ship; when their ship was sunk, they felt compelled to find a new one, and before long they were on their way back to the North Atlantic.

Their ship was part of a convoy taking supplies to Russian allies. After it was attacked and essentially crushed by German submarines, Bogart played an important leadership role.

There were many movies made about World War II — and many were made while the war was still being fought.

As far as I am concerned, the best part of "Action in the North Atlantic" was that it premiered less than 1½ years after the U.S. entered the war — so its makers felt obliged to remind viewers why America was involved. It's a good history lesson — and a reminder of what America has fought for over the years.

At the Academy Awards, Guy Gilpatric, on whose novel the movie was based, was nominated for Best Original Motion Picture Story — but William Saroyan won the Oscar for "The Human Comedy."