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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The First Couple In A Movie Together


Reagan Bows Out Of Starring Features with Hellcats Of The Navy (1957)

Recalled, if at all, as Ronald Reagan's only feature appearance with wife Nancy. It looks like a war movie made during the war itself that got dredged up to release in 1957, as if someone had misplaced it for fifteen years. Cheapness is byword, this a second of properties Charles Schneer developed for Columbia release under his "Morningside" banner. Schneer had done sci-fi/fantasy (The Giant Ymir, which became Twenty Million Miles To Earth), but didn't want himself typed by the genre. Product needed to be cheap so as to play double features, often at lower position. You couldn't spend a million dollars and expect to get it back booking flat. Hellcats Of The Navy had every cooperation from that branch; Pacific Fleet Commander Chester Nimitz even did a prologue and participated by way of actor portrayal. A bigger star than Reagan and expanded budget might have gotten a good picture out of this ...




Sub dramas were popular; there'd been Submarine Command with William Holden, Run Silent, Run Deep and Torpedo Run to come ... all had, and needed, a strong name to lead. Reagan earlier cast lot with TV, folks understandably of opinion they should get him for free. In fact, this was a first lead he had in quite a while (also his last). Hellcats Of The Navy mooched off previous sailings, Crash Dive (1943) among recognizable oldies pillaged. Simple math dictated that if action highlights couldn't be got elsewhere, Hellcats would do without. There simply wasn't time or money to stage combat beyond most modest of scale. Music, too, was borrowed, main titles reusing The Caine Mutiny's principal theme by Max Steiner. A decade toward forgiveness put chill on "Jap" epithets --- they'd be "Japanese" in all but one line of dialogue, and that was probably a slip where resource was lacked to reshoot. Hellcats Of The Navy turns up on Sony's HD Movie Channel, looking better than you'd imagine it could, so, of course, that helps for getting through it. Toward satisfaction of curiosity and closure of Reagan watch lists, Hellcats Of The Navy gets by.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

Interesting to me that the Loew's circuit in NYC allowed me to see HELLCATS OF THE NAVY paired with THE GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT and the folks visiting the Columbia had to pay separate admission for two "B" movies.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Great post! Growing up as monster kid film geeks, most of us knew Charles H. Schneer as the other name on all those great Ray Haryhausen movies. His long time association with the fx wizard probably had nothing to do with an affinity for subject matter, but more about the simple fact Ray's one-man operation delivered a lot of spectacle for a short buck! Schneer's career seems to have been devoted to making movies that maximized b-budgets and exploitable elements to slip into the top-of-the-bill A category. For instance, having Admiral Nimitz involved in HELLCATS was clever (it's right there in the ad!) and certainly layered some class over those re-purposed sets and stock footage! Later in the era of historical epics and Broadway transplants, he'd produce quickly and cheaply in the UK things like SIEGE OF THE SAXONS and HALF A SIXPENCE, and have them promoted them cheek to jowl with actual roadshow attractions as if they were in the same budget league.

For more insight on the producer, check out Brian Trenchard-Smith's excellent commentary for Schneer's LAND RAIDERS promo on TRAILERS FROM HELL.

https://trailersfromhell.com/land-raiders/

9:30 AM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

I'm reminded of the old joke (Johnny Carson, IIRC): what are the two times President Reagan should be awakened?
One, if there's a call on the red phone;
Two, if HELLCATS OF THE NAVY is on the Late Show

10:42 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

During his one year as a principal cast member of Saturday Night Live during the Reagan presidency, Harry Shearer wrote a continuing series of skits called "Hellcats of the White House", which never made it to air.

6:00 PM  

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