The Fighting Seabees (1944)

100 mins | Drama | 10 March 1944

Full page view
HISTORY

After the opening onscreen credits, a written prologue reads: "Proudly and gratefully we dedicate this picture to the Civil Engineer Corps and the Construction Battalions--the Seabees of the United States Navy who have fired the imagination of the world with their colorful exploits throughout the Seven Seas." The U.S. Navy Construction Battalions, known as the Seabees, was created in Jan 1942 to provide armed, militarily trained construction workers to erect buildings, airfields, refueling bases, etc. in support of the military during World War II. The motto of the tenacious Seabees, "We build, we fight," was echoed in the speech of "Lt. Comdr. Bob Yarrow" at the film's end, when he praises his men and states, "We build for the fighters, we fight for what we build."
       HR news items noted that George Reeves, who was to be borrowed from Paramount, was originally set to co-star in the film with John Wayne, but was prevented from appearing when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. Susan Hayward was borrowed from Paramount for the production, which received full cooperation from the U.S. Navy, according to news items and reviews. Although a Jul 1943 HR news item noted that the studio was "writing the character of Captain Needham, commanding officer of the Construction Battalions at Camp Hueneme, into the script...and Albert J. Cohen has wired for permission to have the captain play himself in the picture," Needham does not appear as a character in the completed film.
       According to HR news items, the parade ground scenes were shot on location at Camp Endicott, in Davisville, RI, and featured footage of real Seabees marching in ... More Less

After the opening onscreen credits, a written prologue reads: "Proudly and gratefully we dedicate this picture to the Civil Engineer Corps and the Construction Battalions--the Seabees of the United States Navy who have fired the imagination of the world with their colorful exploits throughout the Seven Seas." The U.S. Navy Construction Battalions, known as the Seabees, was created in Jan 1942 to provide armed, militarily trained construction workers to erect buildings, airfields, refueling bases, etc. in support of the military during World War II. The motto of the tenacious Seabees, "We build, we fight," was echoed in the speech of "Lt. Comdr. Bob Yarrow" at the film's end, when he praises his men and states, "We build for the fighters, we fight for what we build."
       HR news items noted that George Reeves, who was to be borrowed from Paramount, was originally set to co-star in the film with John Wayne, but was prevented from appearing when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. Susan Hayward was borrowed from Paramount for the production, which received full cooperation from the U.S. Navy, according to news items and reviews. Although a Jul 1943 HR news item noted that the studio was "writing the character of Captain Needham, commanding officer of the Construction Battalions at Camp Hueneme, into the script...and Albert J. Cohen has wired for permission to have the captain play himself in the picture," Needham does not appear as a character in the completed film.
       According to HR news items, the parade ground scenes were shot on location at Camp Endicott, in Davisville, RI, and featured footage of real Seabees marching in review before the Secretary of the Navy. Other locations included Camp Huemene, near Santa Barbara, CA; Camp Pendleton, CA; and a camp in Virginia. HR news items noted that the picture was to have its world premiere at all Seabee camps throughout the country on 14 Jan 1944, and that several "pre-release" showings were to be seen in different cities in Jan 1944. Five hundred 16mm prints of the picture were to be distributed to U.S. military camps throughout the world, according to a Jan HR news item. The picture received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music Score. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Jan 1944.
---
Daily Variety
26 Nov 1943.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jan 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Jan 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 43
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 43
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 43
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 44
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 44
pp. 6-7.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jan 1944.
---
Motion Picture Daily
19 Jan 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Jan 44
p. 1725.
New York Times
20 Mar 44
p. 14.
Variety
19 Jan 44
p. 30.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
William Hall
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
Contr to scr const
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
SOURCES
SONGS
"Song of the Seabees," music and lyrics by Peter De Rose and Sam M. Lewis
"Where Do You Work-A, John?" music and lyrics by Mortimer Weinberg, Charley Marks and Harry Warren, special lyrics by Ned Washington.
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 March 1944
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 27 January 1944
Production Date:
20 September--early December 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Republic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 January 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12458
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100
Length(in feet):
8,965
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9802
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Egotistical, hard-working Wedge Donovan, the owner of a highly reputed construction company, greets members of his crew as they return from a job for the Navy. Wedge is infuriated to learn that the men, who were working on a South Pacific island, were targeted by Japanese forces because technicians are irreplaceable. As civilians, the workers could not be armed and sustained heavy losses. Wedge lambasts Lt. Cmdr. Bob Yarrow, who was in charge of the mission, but is surprised when Bob agrees that the situation must be corrected. Bob invites Wedge to accompany him to Washington, D.C. and approach Capt. Joyce about establishing a construction battalion. In Washington, Wedge is enthusiastic until he learns that it will take months of military training before his men can be armed. Fed up with what he perceives as Navy red tape, Wedge says that his men will fend for themselves and storms out. Wedge then accompanies his crew to another small island in the South Pacific, where they are to build an air field. Also along is a group of war correspondents, including Constance Chesley, who is strongly attracted to Wedge, despite her romantic attachment to Bob. Wedge fights his own feeling for Connie, telling her to "stick with the guy who brought her." Wedge continually balks at Bob's strict Navy methods, so Connie tries to win him over with kindness, and the construction work progresses rapidly. One afternoon, however, an air raid siren sounds, and three of Wedge's men are shot by Japanese airplanes as they stand outside the bomb shelter. Believing that the Navy men have left them to be mowed ... +


Egotistical, hard-working Wedge Donovan, the owner of a highly reputed construction company, greets members of his crew as they return from a job for the Navy. Wedge is infuriated to learn that the men, who were working on a South Pacific island, were targeted by Japanese forces because technicians are irreplaceable. As civilians, the workers could not be armed and sustained heavy losses. Wedge lambasts Lt. Cmdr. Bob Yarrow, who was in charge of the mission, but is surprised when Bob agrees that the situation must be corrected. Bob invites Wedge to accompany him to Washington, D.C. and approach Capt. Joyce about establishing a construction battalion. In Washington, Wedge is enthusiastic until he learns that it will take months of military training before his men can be armed. Fed up with what he perceives as Navy red tape, Wedge says that his men will fend for themselves and storms out. Wedge then accompanies his crew to another small island in the South Pacific, where they are to build an air field. Also along is a group of war correspondents, including Constance Chesley, who is strongly attracted to Wedge, despite her romantic attachment to Bob. Wedge fights his own feeling for Connie, telling her to "stick with the guy who brought her." Wedge continually balks at Bob's strict Navy methods, so Connie tries to win him over with kindness, and the construction work progresses rapidly. One afternoon, however, an air raid siren sounds, and three of Wedge's men are shot by Japanese airplanes as they stand outside the bomb shelter. Believing that the Navy men have left them to be mowed down, Wedge and his crew grab guns and rush out to join the battle. They blunder into a trap that Bob and the soldiers have laid for the approaching Japanese forces, however, and the ensuing battle takes a heavy toll on the men, although the Navy eventually repels the invaders. Connie is shot by a wounded Japanese soldier as she runs on the beach, and before she passes out, she and Wedge declare their love for each other. Having heard the exchange, Bob questions Wedge, who asserts that he spoke only to comfort the wounded Connie. Wedge then attends to his injured men and can offer no resistance when Bob blames him for the damage. Bob still wants Wedge to help him press for the armed construction battalions though, and the reformed Wedge accepts a Navy commission and works alongside Bob. Later, after the workers have enlisted in the Navy and undergone rigorous military training, four platoons of the new Construction Battalions, nicknamed the Seabees, stand ready for duty. On the night before Bob and Wedge are to ship out, Connie returns to Washington, and Wedge tells her that she should stick with Bob. Although she is crushed by the rejection, Connie responds warmly when Bob confesses that he still loves her. Later, the Seabees return to the South Pacific, where they are to build a crucial oil depot. The work moves swiftly despite interference from Japanese snipers, and soon construction is complete. Eddie Powers, Wedge's foreman, is shot and killed as he opens the first oil valve, however, and an infuriated Wedge orders his men into the jungle to search for snipers. Bob receives a report of encroaching fog and, afraid that Japanese surface craft will slip in, goes to warn Wedge. While Bob is discovering that Wedge has abandoned his post to go into the jungle, a battle begins nearby. Airplanes from closely positioned U.S. battleships land for refueling, while anti-aircraft guns fight incoming Japanese planes. Japanese troops move onto the island, and Bob is wounded during a fierce gun battle. Wedge returns and reports to Bob, who wearily tells him that he will probably be court-martialed upon their return home. Bob then orders Wedge to protect the oil tanks at any cost, and Wedge's men spring into action. With the Japanese forces split into two columns, Wedge is forced to send his men after one side, while he attaches a bomb to a bulldozer and heads for the oil fields, where he intends to ignite one tank and spill the flaming oil onto the other enemy column. Wedge is mortally wounded but carries out his mission, and soon the enemy soldiers are routed. Later, back in the United States, Connie watches with pride as Bob announces to the assembled men that the President has issued a citation to commend the Seabees' courage under fire. Bob and Connie then embrace, and although Connie admits that the brave Wedge held a special place in her heart, she says that she has always loved Bob the most. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.