Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#709. Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

Directed By: Robert Wise

Starring: Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, Jack Warden

Tag line: "Gable and Lancaster make the seas boil in the battle adventure that hits like a torpedo!"

Trivia: Producers Hill and Burt Lancaster had the film re-edited after director Robert Wise finished his cut. Wise left the film after this point for the rest of post-production

Run Silent Run Deep, a WWII action film set primarily on a U.S. Naval submarine, has several tense battle scenes that were designed to keep its audience on the edge of their seats. But for the men of the U.S.S. Nerka, the animosity that exists between their commanding officers is the real threat, proving just as dangerous to their well-being as the entire Japanese fleet.

When his sub is sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Commander 'Rich' Richardson (Clark Gable) finds himself reassigned to a desk job in Pearl Harbor. But after learning 3 more subs have also been lost in the Bungo Straits, the same area where his vessel was destroyed, Richardson petitions the top brass for command of the U.S.S. Nerka, which he plans to take to the Straits to exact a little revenge. The only problem is Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster), who, for years, has served as the Nerka's Executive Officer. Assuming he’d be promoted to Captain and given command of the Nerka, Bledsoe’s none too pleased to hear he’s been passed over, leading to some tension between him and his new superior that could threaten not only the mission, but the very lives of everyone on board.

Rumor has it Gable and Lancaster didn’t get along while making Run Silent Run Deep. Lancaster, who was also one of the film’s producers, supposedly objected to Gable’s insistence on a strict 9-to-5 schedule during the shoot, whereas Gable didn't appreciate the jokes his younger co-star was making about his age. Whether this behind-the-scenes drama is true or merely Hollywood legend, the two are nonetheless convincing as a pair of officers who rarely see eye-to-eye. Shortly after leaving port, the Nerka’s lookouts spot a Japanese sub on the horizon. Instead of attacking, Richardson orders his crew to remain on course. Bledsoe gently reminds him the Nerka is a fast vessel, and can easily outmaneuver the enemy, adding it also “hates to show its backside to a Jap sub”. This failure to act doesn’t sit well with the men, but when Bledsoe realizes their new Commander is defying orders to lead them on an Ahab-like mission of revenge, he throws protocol out the window, dragging the Nerka and its crew to the brink of mutiny.

Run Silent Run Deep strikes the perfect balance between realism (its depiction of life on a sub) and drama (Richardson and Bledsoe's conflict). With superior performances by its leads and Robert Wise's solid direction, Run Silent Run Deep packs plenty of wallop into its surprisingly brief, yet excellently paced 90 minutes.


Christopher Lindsay said...

The off-screen tension between Gable and Lancaster definitely had a positive impact on their performance. For me, the tension between them is the best (and most important) aspect of the film.

I like your statement: "Run Silent Run Deep strikes the perfect balance between realism and drama."

I wrote a short essay (500 words) on Run Silent Run Deep called "To Honor vs. Dishonor." If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback:

James Robert Smith said...

I have always thought this was a strikingly good film. I did not know that Gable and Lancaster supposedly did not get along. If so, it certainly shows in their performances, especially from Lancaster who does genuinely seem to dislike Gable.

But you always have to wonder about such things. They could have been pals during the production and it was all just hype to promote the film, or the stories could be run of the mill Hollywood rumor.