Friday, May 21, 2021

Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, and Joan Blondell “Cry ‘Havoc’”

Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943) is an American World War II drama directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, and Joan Blondell. The film features a strong supporting cast that includes Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines, Frances Gifford, Connie Gilchrist, and Diana Lewis.

The film focuses on 13 American women, two Army nurses, and 11 civilians. The setting is a field hospital during the Battle of Bataan where the Japanese forces are bearing down on the Philippine peninsula. Lt. Mary “Smitty” Smith (Sullavan) and her superior officer, Capt. Alice Marsh (Bainter) struggle to tend to the wounded with meager supplies and limited staff. They manage to round up nine women civilian refugees fleeing Manila, all from various backgrounds. Pat Conlin (Sothern), a waitress, immediately takes a dislike to Lt. Smith. Grace Lambert (Blondell) is a burlesque queen who helps relieve the tension with her talent to entertain the group.

With hope dwindling and casualties mounting, the women do their best to keep things together emotionally while carrying out their duties.

As the Japanese get closer and closer to the field hospital, will the women be able to escape with the withdrawing American troops?

Publicity still featuring the main cast

Richard Thorpe (1896 - 1991) was an American film director who had a long career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he was under contract. He was the original director assigned to The Wizard of  Oz (1939) but was fired after two weeks of shooting. The studio didn’t think Thorpe captured the fantasy that they were looking for. Thorpe survived that unfortunate event and went on to direct most of the major stars under contract at M-G-M including Robert Taylor, Joan Crawford, Esther Williams, Hedy Lamar, Gene Kelly, Wallace Beery, William Powell, Jane Powell, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor. Some of Thorpe’s popular films include The Crowd Roars (1938), Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Thrill of Romance (1945), A Date with Judy (1948), Ivanhoe (1952), The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), and The Knights of the Round Table (1953). He also directed Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957) and Fun in Acapulco (1963).

Margaret Sullavan (1909 - 1960) was an American stage and film actress. Sullavan made only 16 movies but her place as a legend of classic Hollywood is secure. She starred in some of the most popular films of the 1930s and 1940s including Three Comrades (1938), The Mortal Storm (1940), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940). She was unhappy working in Hollywood and she retired from film in 1943. Other popular films starring Sullavan include The Good Fairy (1935), So Red the Rose (1935), The Shopworn Angel (1938), and Back Street (1941). Sullavan was married to the legendary director William Wyler (1934 - 1936) and screen legend Henry Fonda (1931 - 1933).

Ann Sothern and Margaret Sullavan

Ann Sothern (1909 - 2001) was an American actress who worked on the stage, radio, film, and television. Sothern’s most commercially successful film role was as Maisie Ravier in a series of films while she was at M-G-M. Maisie, a Brooklyn showgirl was based on the short stories by Nell Martin. Films in the series include Congo Maisie (1940), Gold Rush Maisie (1940), and Up Goes Maisie (1946). The character was so popular that Sothern played the character on the radio in The Adventure of Maisie (1939 - 1947) series. At M-G-M, Sothern starred in the film version of Panama Hattie (1942) opposite Red Skelton, which was a box office success. In 1949, she starred in A Letter to Three Wives which brought her great reviews but did little to advance her career. In 1953, Sothern starred as Susie MacNamara in the television series Private Secretary, (1953 - 1957) and the next year starred in The Ann Sothern Show (1958 - 1961). Sothern continued working on stage, screen, and television. Her last film role was in The Whales of August (1987). For her role in that film, she earned her only Best Supporting Academy Award nomination.

Ella Raines and Diana Lewis

Joan Blondell (1906 – 1979) was an American actress who was a top movie star during the 1930s and early 1940s. Later in her career, she became a popular character actress. Some of Blondell’s early films include The Public Enemy (1931), Gold Diggers of 1933Dames (1934), and Stand-In (1937). Later in her career, she gave notable supporting performances in The Blue Veil (1951), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), and Grease (1978).

Why watch this film?

  • The movie features several strong female characterizations from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
  • It depicts World War II through the eyes of women serving at an Army field hospital.
  • The film was made during the War so the outcome was uncertain.
  • Features the work of studio contract director Richard Thorpe.

Cry Cry ‘Havoc’ trivia

  • Joan Crawford and Merle Oberon were considered for lead roles that eventually went to Margaret Sullavan and Ann Sothern.
  • This was the second film role for actress Ella Raines.
  • Sullavan and Fay Bainter starred together in The Shining Hour (1938)
  • The film was based on a play starring Carol Channing and Ann Shoemaker.
  • It features Robert Mitchum in one of his earliest film roles.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.

To join the discussion on Zoom May 25, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you’ll receive an invitation a link to the meeting.

Discussion questions:

  1. What did you think of the ensemble cast?
  2. Did it remind you of any other films you've seen?
  3. What did you think of the three star leads: Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, and Joan Blondell?
  4. Do you think the film was an accurate portrayal of nurses on the battlefield?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...