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Tempered By War – Away All Boats (1956)


Away All Boats is the story of the Belinda and the men who sail her, a ship fresh off the line with a crew just as new. For Captain Jebediah Hawks, it is a bit of a headache, especially as he sees this command as a stepping stone to a better one and thus the need to whip everyone and everything into shape in order that they excel and exceed all expectations. In the case of Lieutenant Dave MacDougall, a captain in the Merchant Marines who took a demotion in order to join the Navy and this ship, it will be a learning experience that he will never forget nor the rest of the crew and by the end of it all, through practice and through battle, they will all come out better men for it.

When it comes to movies about the Second World War, this picture ranks near the top with its look at life upon a Navy vessel as it does so in a more realistic manner than some. Manoeuvres that were seen on the big screen would be familiar to many a seaman as they were based upon actual ones witnessed in cooperation with the Armed Services not to mention the special effects that were incredible at times especially given the year of release, one scene in particular that stands out is the Japanese pilot who would fly his plane right into the ship during the last act of the film. Even better though would be the actions of the men aboard the ship and the characterization given them by writer Ted Sherdeman. Most would go through a transformation and come out different from when they first went aboard the ship, a good captain and the time of war acting as agents of change and succeeding on a level where little else could. At times, belligerent, proud, scared and frightened, brave and heroic – the people on the Belinda from the lowliest garbage man to the Captain himself would encapsulate what it must have been like to be aboard a ship for so long during such trying times.

All of this was made possible with a top-notch cast that included Jeff Chandler in the lead as Captain Hawks, a man whose title would weigh heavily upon him and even more so as the war progressed and his men would grow weary of it. Following him would be George Nader as MacDougall and behind him Lex Barker as Commander Quigley. Keith Andes, Richard Boone, Charles McGraw, William Reynolds and even Julie Adams in a bit part would all feature into this epic tale and make it the extravaganza it was. Good to see in the crew were real emotions, the cast giving their all whether it was Chandler whose captain would feel the pangs of loneliness unlike any other and whose only thoughts were for its crew or Nader’s Lieut. MacDougall, taking it on the chin as it were while he tried to figure out not only his role in this war but that with the captain. While some of the characters in this film would start things off in an almost opposing manner to those in command, by the end of the movie, director Joseph Pevney would paint them as heroes and among the best the Navy had to offer.

All in all, Away All Boats is a war film through and through with nearly every scene taking place on or near the ship. There is a bit of drama with Adams and some letter-writing which did not add anything of value to the picture but neither did it take anything away though it would give the audience a breather from all the shipboard drama. In a nice twist, there is a happy ending where viewers might have thought for sure there would not be though at least one prominent cast member’s character would fail to make it dieing a hero instead. For a slightly more realistic take on the workings of a Navy ship and its crew or to simply watch a movie that gets more exciting as it goes along, this film will do the trick.

3.5 out of 5

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