Secret Command (1944)

80-81 mins | Drama | 31 July 1944

Writer:

Roy Chanslor

Producer:

Phil L. Ryan

Cinematographer:

Frank F. Planer

Editor:

Viola Lawrence

Production Designers:

Lionel Banks, Edward C. Jewell

Production Company:

Terneen Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were By Secret Command and Pilebuck . The film opens with voice-over narration explaining that this is a "drama of the homefront about men and women building an American Victory fleet...built for America's own fighting forces to carry them into battle and bring them back, victorious." Although a HR production chart places Robert Williams in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Secret Command marked the initial effort of Terneen Productions, Inc., an independent production company owned by Pat O'Brien and Phil Ryan. According to a HR news item, some scenes were shot at the Calship Shipyards in California. Carol Nugent made her screen debut in this picture. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special ... More Less

The working titles of this film were By Secret Command and Pilebuck . The film opens with voice-over narration explaining that this is a "drama of the homefront about men and women building an American Victory fleet...built for America's own fighting forces to carry them into battle and bring them back, victorious." Although a HR production chart places Robert Williams in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Secret Command marked the initial effort of Terneen Productions, Inc., an independent production company owned by Pat O'Brien and Phil Ryan. According to a HR news item, some scenes were shot at the Calship Shipyards in California. Carol Nugent made her screen debut in this picture. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Jun 1944.
---
Daily Variety
26 May 44
p. 4.
Film Daily
5 Jun 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 43
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 44
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Jun 44
p. 1921.
New York Times
14 Jun 44
p. 16.
Variety
31 May 44
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the serial story Saboteurs by John Hawkins and Ward Hawkins in The Saturday Evening Post (10 Apr--22 May 1943).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
By Secret Command
Pilebuck
Release Date:
31 July 1944
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 13 June 1944
Production Date:
17 January--8 March 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
15 June 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12704
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80-81
Length(in feet):
7,396
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10035
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When a ne'er-do-well, ex-war correspondent Sam Gallagher, asks his brother Jeff for a job at the Calship shipyards where Jeff is a foreman, Jeff, bitter about Sam's extended absence during their mother's illness and death, reluctantly hires him as a pile driver. Unknown to Jeff, Sam is an undercover agent for Naval Intelligence and has been assigned by James Thane to investigate reports of sabotage at the shipyards. Thane tells Sam that, as a cover, a family consisting of a wife and two children has been fabricated for him, and a house has been rented in his name. Before dawn the next morning, Sam reports to work and meets his new partner, Red Kelly, a skilled veteran who detests all newcomers. After Sam is assigned the cold, wet job of driving piles into the sea floor, he meets fellow workers Brownell and Simms; Max Lessing, the plant's general manager; and Ben Royall, the safety inspector. While filing some papers at the office, Sam sees Lea Damaron, his former sweetheart, who is now dating Jeff and working as a secretary at the plant. When Sam tells Lea that he is married and has two children, Lea passes the news along to Jeff. Jeff, suspicious of his brother's behavior, determines to investigate his past. After work, Sam goes to his new house and there meets Jill McCann, the agent assigned to pose as his wife, and Joan and Paul, refugees orphaned by the war who are to act as his children. Soon after, Miller, another worker at the plant, visits and introduces himself as Sam's contact. Miller informs Sam that he has met two Nazis posing ... +


When a ne'er-do-well, ex-war correspondent Sam Gallagher, asks his brother Jeff for a job at the Calship shipyards where Jeff is a foreman, Jeff, bitter about Sam's extended absence during their mother's illness and death, reluctantly hires him as a pile driver. Unknown to Jeff, Sam is an undercover agent for Naval Intelligence and has been assigned by James Thane to investigate reports of sabotage at the shipyards. Thane tells Sam that, as a cover, a family consisting of a wife and two children has been fabricated for him, and a house has been rented in his name. Before dawn the next morning, Sam reports to work and meets his new partner, Red Kelly, a skilled veteran who detests all newcomers. After Sam is assigned the cold, wet job of driving piles into the sea floor, he meets fellow workers Brownell and Simms; Max Lessing, the plant's general manager; and Ben Royall, the safety inspector. While filing some papers at the office, Sam sees Lea Damaron, his former sweetheart, who is now dating Jeff and working as a secretary at the plant. When Sam tells Lea that he is married and has two children, Lea passes the news along to Jeff. Jeff, suspicious of his brother's behavior, determines to investigate his past. After work, Sam goes to his new house and there meets Jill McCann, the agent assigned to pose as his wife, and Joan and Paul, refugees orphaned by the war who are to act as his children. Soon after, Miller, another worker at the plant, visits and introduces himself as Sam's contact. Miller informs Sam that he has met two Nazis posing as defense workers and learned that they are planning to sabotage the entire shipyard. The next day at work, Kelly's antagonism toward Sam results in a fistfight. When Sam feigns cowardice, Jeff's suspicions are aroused and he asks Lea to get Sam to confide in her. While driving Sam home after work, Lea questions him about his wedding, and he tells her that he was married in London. When Sam invites Lea inside to meet his wife Jill, Jill mentions that they were wed in Paris, thus confirming Jeff's suspicions. At the plant that night, a saboteur stealthily removes a bolt from a set of steel beams. During a meeting the next day, Lessing announces that a dock must be extended to meet a carrier due to arrive in three days. To speed progress, the pre-constructed set of metal beams is lifted by a crane to attach to the dock, but with the bolt missing, a nut loosens and falls off. Jeff climbs onto the crane to repair the beam, and when the crane swings loose and hits him, Jeff is tossed, unconscious, into the water. Sam dives in to rescue him, thus winning the men's respect. Later, Sam visits Jeff in the hospital, and Jeff interrogates him about his new family, but Sam insists that he is telling the truth. After Sam leaves, Lea confesses to Jeff that she thinks she is still in love with Sam. On his next shift, Sam examines the rig, trying to determine what caused the accident. After Lessing confronts him, Sam tells Miller that he thinks Lessing may one of the saboteurs. That evening, Miller notifies Sam that he has discovered that Royall and Lessing are the Nazi saboteurs and are planning to sabotage the plant the day after the carrier docks. Later, at the plant, Sam finally wins Kelly's respect and Kelly buys toys for the children and offers to chauffeur Sam to work. Miller then tells Sam that Simms is also involved in the plot, and to his horror, Sam realizes that Simms once saw him in a German prison camp in Berlin. After being told that one of his children is sick, Sam hurries home and learns that Miller has phoned Jill with the news that Simms has recognized him. Soon after, Simms appears at the house and, at gunpoint, forces Jill and Sam to accompany him. Sam overpowers Simms, however, and Jill strikes him over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. Simms's death propels the saboteurs to take immediate action. Convening a meeting that night, Brownell introduces himself as Gestapo agent Colonel Von Browning and announces that he has been appointed their new leader. Brownell proclaims that the group must stay together until daylight, the time of the planned explosion. Desperate, Miller sneaks into a backroom to phone Sam, but is discovered by Brownell and killed. Hearing Sam's voice on the telephone, Brownell leads his men to Sam's house to eliminate him. Mistaking Kelly, who has come to pick up Sam, for their prey, the spies shoot and kill him. Jill cradles Kelly in her arms, and with his dying breath, he identifies Brownell as one of his assailants. Alerted by Miller, Sam has gone to the plant to meet Thane and apprehend the saboteurs before they can act. After Thane arrests Royall and Lessing, Jill runs into the yards and warns Sam that Brownell, who is still free, is their leader. Sam finds Brownell just after he has set the detonator for the explosives. As the minutes tick away, Sam struggles desperately with Brownell. Finally drowning Brownell, Sam disconnects the bomb, thus saving the shipyard. Later, Jeff and Lea are married and Sam explains that he was unable to answer his dying mother's letters because he was a prisoner in a German camp. Upon returning home, Sam sees the children's suitcases packed and asks them to stay with him. Finding Jill in tears, Sam, now assigned to Combat Intelligence, proposes to her and tells her that he wants to adopt the children, and in reply, she kisses him. +

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

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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.