In Harm's Way (1965) from Tuna

In Harm's Way is a 1965 Otto Preminger film starring every actor alive at the time:  John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Paula Prentiss, Jill Haworth, Dana Andrews, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone, Slim Pickins, James Mitchum, George Kennedy, Barbara Bouchet, Larry Hagman, Carroll O'Connor and Henry Fonda.

The film opens the evening of Decenber 6, 1941, at a dance in the officer's club at Pearl Harbor. We meet a few of the characters, most notably Barbara Bouchet, whose husband is aboard ship. She is a party girl, dances seductively, then leaves with another officer. The two go to the beach, she skinny dips, followed by a cut to them waking up under a blanket on the beach, with all the Zeros in the world descending on them. Wayne is the commander of a battle wagon, and one of the few to get his ship out of the harbor to relative safety, only to be hit by a torpedo.

The Duke's arm was broken in the raid but, more important, he deviated from standard procedure and was made to ride a desk as his penance. While doing so, he meets his son whom he has not seen since a divorce when the boy was a small child. The son is now a Jr. officer but, raised by his wealthy mother, is a snob and a politician, who wants to ride out the war as a journalist and a staff assistant to a congressman-turned-officer. The son is dating Jill Haworth, a young nurse, but his intentions are anything but honorable. The Duke himself meets Hayworth's roommate, Patricia Neal, and they start a romance. For the rest of the film, Wayne struggles to get a shipboard command back, which will then allow him to win WW II by himself.

While this was a late entry into the WW II genre, it was a good one. The story, based on the novel Harm's Way by James Basset, is far more complicated than my summary implies, and completely fills the 167 minutes of running time. The complex plot was very much in line with other WW II films, and Preminger's trademark epic scope was very much in evidence, as the entire film was shot on location, and battle scenes were filmed aboard genuine naval vessels. That was all fine but for me the real strength of the film was in developing characters and relationships, thus making it much more than a mere historical reenactment.



  • Original making-of In Harm's Way


Barbara Bouchet shows most of her breasts in the skinny dipping scene, and Jill Haworth has some good see-through action just before she is raped. Despite nudity, strong sexuality, war violence and a rape, this film was rated PG.

The Critics Vote ...

  • It was nominated for an Oscar for Black and White cinematography, and Patricia Neal won a best foreign actress BAFTA.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. Good WW2 film.

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