Friday, March 11, 2011
Ginger Rogers Film Review #7: Suicide Fleet
Run Time (approximate): 87 minutes.
Directed by: Albert S. Rogell.
Produced by: Charles R. Rogers.
Associate Producer: Harry Joe Brown.
Screenplay by: Lew Lipton.
From the story "Mystery Ship" by: Commander Herbert A. Jones, U.S.N.
Also Starring: Bill Boyd (as Baltimore), Robert Armstrong (as Dutch), James Gleason (as Skeets), Harry Bannister (as the Commander), Frank Reicher (as Holtzmann), Ben Alexander (as Kid), Henry Victor (as Captain Von Schlettow), Hans Joby (as Schwartz), Richard Alexander (as Crew Member (uncredited)), George Berliner (as Man (uncredited - unconfirmed)), Eddie Borden (as Man with 'WAR' Headline (uncredited)), James P. Burtis (as Cookie - Sailor (uncredited)), Yola d'Avril (as French Girl at Tangiers (uncredited)), Charles Delaney (as Sailor at Sally's (uncredited)), Joe Dominguez (as Havana Merchant (uncredited)), Nanette Faro (as French Girl at Tangiers (uncredited)), Tom Keene (as Lieutenant James Keene (uncredited)), John Kelly (as Sailor at Sally's (uncredited)), Max Lucke (as German Commander (uncredited)), Frank Mills (as Angry Townsman (uncredited)), James Pierce (as Recruit (uncredited)), Harry Semels (as Havana Merchant (uncredited)), Harry Strang (as Havana Shore Patrolman (uncredited)), Charles Sullivan (as Charlie Sullivan - Sailor in Bunk (uncredited)), Harry Tenbrook (as Jim - Tangiers Shore Patrolman (uncredited)), Max Wagner (as Radio Operator (uncredited)) .
Ginger's Character: "Sally"
Ginger 'Screen Time': Approx. 12 min, 18 sec. (14.2% of the film)
Ginger Tunes: "Dream Kisses, Only a Dime"
Gingery Goodness Factor (GGF) (1-10): (5.0) - Not too much in the way of 'spunkiness' with Ginger's role here. Sally has dudes falling all over her, which is believable; but she exhibits a very 'normal', even-keeled demeanor - even when war is declared and the dudes bug out, she is concerned, but not desperately so. The film ending gave short shrift to the romantic side of things, thus to Sally's character. Ginger is very pretty in this one, as usual, which bumps up the somewhat 'average' role to '5.0' as the GGF.
GingerFilm Ranking: #5 of (7) Reviewed
Film Quality (1-10): (8.5) - Warner Archive copy viewed - Overall pretty good, ALSO shown on TCM.
Available From: WB Archives, TCM
Huey's Review for Gingerology: The second venture for Ginger at RKO-Pathe was not as prolific as "The Tip-Off"; although she plays the love interest, after the first 15 minutes or so the dudes are off to sea and Ginger is seldom seen again, until just prior to the closing tune.
The story itself begins pretty simply, as three dudes working in and about Coney Island are all pining (i.e., suffering) for the same girl, candy store diva Sally (we don't even get a last name...usually a 'red flag' as to the depth of the character). In fact, the dudes are 'one name' as well - bus driver Skeets (James Gleason) (who, BTW, was 49 when this was filmed... and dude honestly looks 69...WAY too old to be even LOOKING at Ginger, MUCH less courting her...just an observation...), photographer Dutch (Robert Armstrong), and shooting gallery overseer Baltimore (Bill Boyd). They are all trying to upstage the others to win the hand of Sally, who, wouldn't ya know it, is truly in love with the one dude (Baltimore), who thinks he doesn't have a chance with her, or in life in general, for that matter. We learn a few things here and there about the dudes, and Sally as well, but not TOO much... as war is declared, the dudes all go to sign up, leaving Sally behind.
Baltimore has had military experience, so he ends up being in charge of the other dudes, which obviously becomes a 'sticking point' in their friendships. Prior to shoving off, Baltimore tells the other two to go to Sally's and tell her goodbye for him, as he is stuck on the boat getting ready...they go to Sally, but they don't mention Baltimore much... but she figures out he can't break away, and she runs down to see the boat off. A pretty cute scene is when she says 'I Love You' to Baltimore in semaphore - of course, every gob on the boat responds to that... BTW, what exactly IS a 'gob'? That term was used quite a bit (including by Ginger) when describing the sailor dudes in this film...
Well, as they get to sea, the story turns into a tale of covert operations in order to sucker the German U-boats into a trap so they can take them out... it's not all that bad a story, but honestly, I'm not going to delve into it here, since it does not involve Sally, except for the fact these dudes are trying to get back to her in one piece. They do, and who ultimately wins Sally's hand? Well, you'll have to see for yourself.
Favorite Ginger Line(s) / Moment(s): ...hmmm... an interesting scene is where they all order hamburgers, and Sally orders a beer (!) - probably a root beer, or perhaps a ...Ginger Ale? Otherwise, her singing the 'Dream Kisses' jingle is probably the cutest and most memorable moment for Ginger in this one, along with the semaphore scene.
...Ginger and the Three Gobs...
..."Ya know what I need to wash this burger down with, y'all?"...
...That's right, a little bubbly...non-alcoholic, of course...
...Baltimore breaks the news to Sally that the gobs (including himself) are in the Navy now, and shoving off ASAP...
...it's a downer for Sally, to be sure...
...Skeets (which is Chinese for 'old dude') proposes to Sally, which prompts her to say, "Well, I like you and all that, Skeets, but...wouldn't that be kind of like marrying my Grandfather? ...or at LEAST like marrying my older, balding uncle?"
..."Listen, I can't marry ANY of you dudes, until I get one thing straight...what in the Sam Hill is a 'gob'?"...
...Sally realizing that Baltimore is the big cheese on the boat, thus...
...she proceeds down to the dock to see him off...but has to throw some 'Gingerphore' at him to tell him how she feels about him...
...A pretty cool pic, although a bit fuzzy - when she is talking to the 'other sailor gob dudes', including the one dude that has candy crammed in his hat...
..."Hmmm...maybe 'gob' means 'candy stealing dudes'...
...Remember what you're fighting for, boys...
...Well, hopefully this won't spoil the ending, but...honestly, it's not too hard to deduct which gob gets Ging...good goobly goop...
Other Reviews: "Comedy-drama of surprisingly un-robust proportions... Bill Boyd maintains a wooden dignity in his part, giving a most uninspiring portrayal, while Ginger Rogers is cute enough in the few reels in which she appears." -Zit's Weekly
"Suicide Fleet tells a story of action at sea and love at home. The romantic element, while woven through the entire story, yet is incidental. Ginger Rogers was well received for her work." -Motion Picture Herald
"The story's about three gobs [there's that word again -Huey], who are all that way about the same girl, cute, pert little Ginger Rogers. While the film's not great, it fills in beautifully for an evening's entertainment." -Movie Mirror
From Ginger: My Story: "The second film for Pathe was Suicide Fleet, with Robert Armstrong again, James Gleason, and William Boyd, who was soon to be Hopalong Cassidy. It was a minor little film about ships at sea and three gobs [et tu, Ginger? - Huey] who like the same girl on shore. I provided the love interest - and the taffy. The song I sang was really like a commercial jingle, "Dream Kisses, Dream Kisses, Only a Dime." Musically, I was a long way from "Embraceable You."
--- Three divisions of the Navy were involved in the film, and provided all of the 'Navy extras'.
--- Actual Navy vessels were employed in the film, including the submarine cruiser "Argonaut" and the destroyer "U.S.S. Preble (345)".
--- The old sailing ships in the film, "Indiana" and "Bohemia", were actually old merchant ships built in the late 19th Century; "Bohemia" was the one actually sunk at sea for the production.
--- The Coney Island scenes were shot on location in New York, while the 'sea' scenes were shot at San Pedro, California, at the Navy Docks.
--- The scene where Skeets and Dutch are painting the side of the boat has them hanging onto the port side, but after they fall in the water, they are on the starboard side.
GingerFilm 'rankings' through SEVEN reviews:
#1: The Tip-Off;
#2: Queen High;
#3: Young Man of Manhattan;
#4: The Sap from Syracuse;
#5: Suicide Fleet;
#6: Follow The Leader;
#7: Honor Among Lovers.
Up Next: "Carnival Boat" - Ginger's Third and final RKO-Pathe film.... If memory serves, it falls somewhere between 'The Tip-Off' and 'Suicide Fleet', in terms of Gingery goodness... Bill Boyd stars again, this time as a lumberjack who falls for Ginger, who sings on the Riverboat that drops by the logging camp every now and then... his dad runs the camp, and wants him to take over...but fears that Ginger will get in the way.