The Frogmen (1951)

96 mins | Drama | July 1951

Full page view
HISTORY

This film opens with the following written statement: "This is a true story based on incidents which occurred in the latter part of World War II. It deals with one of the most hazardous and unique branches of the Armed Forces...the Underwater Demolition Teams. This film could not have been produced without the active cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Navy." Underwater Demolition Teams, whose members were nicknamed "frogmen," have been used since World War II for reconnaissance duties, clearing of underwater obstacles planted by the enemy, advance landings on beaches and offensive underwater attacks on enemy ships. The U.S. aquatic forces eventually became the Navy SEALs.
       According to HR news items, producer Paul Short of Allied Artists protested the use of the title The Frogmen by Twentieth Century-Fox, asserting that he had established prior claim to it. Eventually Short dropped his claim and Twentieth Century-Fox was allowed to use the title. Short's production was never made. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, several studios were interested in producing films about the Underwater Demolition Teams, but only Twentieth Century-Fox obtained an exclusive guarantee of cooperation from the Navy. Studio records also report that Fox purchased the rights to a book entitled The Frogmen , written by Tom Waldron and James Gleeson, although it was unrelated to the film and was purchased only to provide "protection" on the title.
       A Jan 1950 HR news item noted that Henry Hathaway was originally set to direct the picture, which was to feature Millard ... More Less

This film opens with the following written statement: "This is a true story based on incidents which occurred in the latter part of World War II. It deals with one of the most hazardous and unique branches of the Armed Forces...the Underwater Demolition Teams. This film could not have been produced without the active cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Navy." Underwater Demolition Teams, whose members were nicknamed "frogmen," have been used since World War II for reconnaissance duties, clearing of underwater obstacles planted by the enemy, advance landings on beaches and offensive underwater attacks on enemy ships. The U.S. aquatic forces eventually became the Navy SEALs.
       According to HR news items, producer Paul Short of Allied Artists protested the use of the title The Frogmen by Twentieth Century-Fox, asserting that he had established prior claim to it. Eventually Short dropped his claim and Twentieth Century-Fox was allowed to use the title. Short's production was never made. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, several studios were interested in producing films about the Underwater Demolition Teams, but only Twentieth Century-Fox obtained an exclusive guarantee of cooperation from the Navy. Studio records also report that Fox purchased the rights to a book entitled The Frogmen , written by Tom Waldron and James Gleeson, although it was unrelated to the film and was purchased only to provide "protection" on the title.
       A Jan 1950 HR news item noted that Henry Hathaway was originally set to direct the picture, which was to feature Millard Mitchell in a starring role. According to studio records, Richard Conte was originally set to play "Pete Vincent," Jack Elam was first cast as "Sleepy," and Craig Hill was set to play "Lt. J. G. Franklin." Although a Jan 1951 HR news item reported that New York stage actress Evelyn Evans had been cast in the film, she does not appear in the completed picture. In a 28 Nov 1950 news item, HR reported that because working conditions were deemed too "riotous" for women, all female roles were written out of the script. No actresses appeared in the completed picture.
       According to a 22 Nov 1950 Var news item, the film was to incorporate footage shot by the U.S. Navy of the invasion of Korea. Studio publicity reported the film used several pieces of innovative equipment such as a seven-ton undersea camera bell to encase the cameras and a new underwater camera called the Aquaflex, which ran independently of air supply and electric cables running to the surface. Only two Aquaflex cameras existed at the time, one of which was owned by the studio and the other by the military. Contemporary sources note that the film was shot on location in Norfolk, VA; Key West and Silver Springs, FL; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. A 28 Feb 1951 HR news item noted that assistant director Dick Mayberry filled in for director Lloyd Bacon when Bacon fell ill with the flu. According to a 16 Sep 1951 NYT article, before the film's New York opening, the studio "bought time on every local TV outlet to screen a trailer of the film's unique underwater sequences." The film received Academy Award nominations in the Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Writing (Motion Picture Story) categories.
       Studio records indicate that producer Samuel G. Engel wrote an original story entitled "Frogmen in Korea" as an intended follow-up to The Frogmen , but that picture was not produced. Story writer Oscar Millard did write a one-hour television remake of The Frogmen , entitled "Deep Water," which was broadcast in May 1957 on the 20th Century-Fox Hour . The program was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Ralph Meeker, James Whitmore and Richard Arleen. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Apr 51
pp. 132-33, 155-56.
Box Office
16 Jun 1951.
---
Box Office
11 Aug 1951.
---
Daily Variety
8 May 1950.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Jun 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 50
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 50
p. 4, 8
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 50
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 50
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 51
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 51
p. 1.
Los Angeles Daily News
4 Apr 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Jun 51
p. 877.
New York Times
30 Jun 51
p. 8.
New York Times
16 Sep 1951.
---
Variety
22 Nov 1950.
---
Variety
13 Jun 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir and fill-in dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Contr to story
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Loc mgr
Loc prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Chief elec
Grip
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Anchors Aweigh" by Charles Zimmerman.
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1951
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Little Creek, VA: 24 May 1951
New York opening: 29 June 1951
Los Angeles opening: 13 July 1951
Production Date:
18 December 1950--7 March 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
29 June 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1141
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
96
Length(in feet):
8,655
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15030
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During World War II, in the South Pacific, Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence, a strict disciplinarian, is put in charge of the elite thirty-member Navy Underwater Demolition Team #4 after their former leader, Jack Cassidy, is killed. The men are distrustful of the standoffish Lawrence, and their burgeoning relationship takes a turn for the worse when Lawrence chews them out for brawling with sailors. The ship's captain, Lt. Cmdr. Pete Vincent, advises Lawrence to go easier on the men, who are often sent on dangerous, complicated missions to clear landing sites of underwater obstacles. Lawrence refuses to indulge the squad, however, and earns their enmity when he splits them up for a reconnaisance mission and puts edgy Chief Jake Flannigan in charge of the more dangerous side of the island they are exploring. During the mission, which is to ascertain the best area for the U.S. forces to invade a Japanese-held Pacific island, Lawrence cuts his leg on some coral, and one of the pick-up boats is shelled and destroyed. Lawrence sees that Flannigan and the wounded Kinsella are still in the water, but rather than risk the men and information he has already gathered, he orders his boat to return to the main ship. A rescue boat succeeds in picking up the embittered Flannigan and Kinsella, but Lawrence's seemingly heartless actions increase the men's ill will toward him. Flannigan and some of the others request transfers to another unit, but Lawrence insists that they complete the next day's mission to clear the landing site for the invasion. The next morning, Lawrence, who is sick with coral poisoning, does not reveal his illness when he ... +


During World War II, in the South Pacific, Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence, a strict disciplinarian, is put in charge of the elite thirty-member Navy Underwater Demolition Team #4 after their former leader, Jack Cassidy, is killed. The men are distrustful of the standoffish Lawrence, and their burgeoning relationship takes a turn for the worse when Lawrence chews them out for brawling with sailors. The ship's captain, Lt. Cmdr. Pete Vincent, advises Lawrence to go easier on the men, who are often sent on dangerous, complicated missions to clear landing sites of underwater obstacles. Lawrence refuses to indulge the squad, however, and earns their enmity when he splits them up for a reconnaisance mission and puts edgy Chief Jake Flannigan in charge of the more dangerous side of the island they are exploring. During the mission, which is to ascertain the best area for the U.S. forces to invade a Japanese-held Pacific island, Lawrence cuts his leg on some coral, and one of the pick-up boats is shelled and destroyed. Lawrence sees that Flannigan and the wounded Kinsella are still in the water, but rather than risk the men and information he has already gathered, he orders his boat to return to the main ship. A rescue boat succeeds in picking up the embittered Flannigan and Kinsella, but Lawrence's seemingly heartless actions increase the men's ill will toward him. Flannigan and some of the others request transfers to another unit, but Lawrence insists that they complete the next day's mission to clear the landing site for the invasion. The next morning, Lawrence, who is sick with coral poisoning, does not reveal his illness when he puts Flannigan in charge of the mission and stays behind. Assuming that Lawrence is a coward, the men angrily but efficiently complete their task, although "Pappy" Creighton, whose brother is a Marine, sneaks onto the beach with Flannigan to leave a sign welcoming the Marines. Creighton is shot by snipers on the beach, but Flannigan tows him to the pick-up boat. Back on the ship, Creighton is put in traction because of the bullets in his spine, and Flannigan confesses to Lawrence that their prank caused Creighton's injuries. Lawrence furiously upbraids Flannigan for his irresponsible behavior, and soon all of the men request transfers. While Lawrence is discussing the problem of the men's hero worship of Cassidy with Vincent, a torpedo hits the ship but does not explode. Lawrence volunteers to disarm the torpedo, which has lodged in the hospital room next to Creighton's bed, and with the help of Flannigan, succeeds. Soon after, Lawrence receives orders to blow up a Japanese submarine pen, and tells the men that although it will be their last mission together, as he will request a transfer himself, he is proud to have served with them. Despite Flannigan's suspicion that Lawrence will again pull light duty, Lawrence leads the mission, which is endangered when one of the men accidentally trips a signal wire. Japanese sentries shoot at the men as they plant the charges, and the men are forced into hand-to-hand combat with Japanese divers. Lawrence is stabbed during one fierce encounter, and although he orders Flannigan to leave him behind because he will hinder Flannigan's own escape, Flannigan tows him to safety. The mission is a success, and soon Lawrence is recuperating in the sick bay with Creighton. Finally won over by Lawrence's pragmatism and bravery, the men reveal their acceptance of him by asking him to sign the portrait they have drawn of Cassidy for his widow. +

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.