Battle of the Coral Sea (1959)

80 or 86 mins | Drama | November 1959

Full page view
HISTORY

Before the onscreen credits roll, the following written letter appears as it is read by an offscreen voice: "One of the greatest and most significant battles in the history of Naval warfare occurred in May, 1942. The place: the Coral Sea, South Pacific. The participants: The Japanese Fifth Carrier Division and the United States Pacific Fleet. The issue at stake was simple and clearcut. The enemy was moving rapidly towards Australia and had to be stopped. He was stopped. The Allied Victory in the South Pacific will stand in world history as a noble monument to the memory of the gallant men and officers of the United States Navy who fought and won the Battle of the Coral Sea. Signed: Rear Admiral John J. Bergen, USNR, President Navy League of the United States."
       At the end of the onscreen credits, the following written acknowledgment appears: "We wish to express our appreciation to the Department of Defense and the United States Navy for the cooperation extended in the production of this film---particularly to the officers and men who serve aboard the submarines U.S.S. Aspro and U.S.S. Koka , U.S.S. Penguin and U.S.S. Wiseman . The film ends with a montage of sea battles over which an offscreen voice explains that the Battle of the Coral Sea represented "the greatest Naval engagement in history, and laid the groundwork for the sea battle at Midway."
       The Battle of the Coral Sea, which took place on 7 May 1942, was fought to prevent the Japanese from capturing Port Moresby, New Guinea, a strategic victory that would have allowed the ... More Less

Before the onscreen credits roll, the following written letter appears as it is read by an offscreen voice: "One of the greatest and most significant battles in the history of Naval warfare occurred in May, 1942. The place: the Coral Sea, South Pacific. The participants: The Japanese Fifth Carrier Division and the United States Pacific Fleet. The issue at stake was simple and clearcut. The enemy was moving rapidly towards Australia and had to be stopped. He was stopped. The Allied Victory in the South Pacific will stand in world history as a noble monument to the memory of the gallant men and officers of the United States Navy who fought and won the Battle of the Coral Sea. Signed: Rear Admiral John J. Bergen, USNR, President Navy League of the United States."
       At the end of the onscreen credits, the following written acknowledgment appears: "We wish to express our appreciation to the Department of Defense and the United States Navy for the cooperation extended in the production of this film---particularly to the officers and men who serve aboard the submarines U.S.S. Aspro and U.S.S. Koka , U.S.S. Penguin and U.S.S. Wiseman . The film ends with a montage of sea battles over which an offscreen voice explains that the Battle of the Coral Sea represented "the greatest Naval engagement in history, and laid the groundwork for the sea battle at Midway."
       The Battle of the Coral Sea, which took place on 7 May 1942, was fought to prevent the Japanese from capturing Port Moresby, New Guinea, a strategic victory that would have allowed the Japanese full control over the Coral Sea, thus cutting off Australia from the Allies. The battle marked the first strategic defeat of the Japanese Imperial Navy.
       A Jun 1957 HR news item announced that Stirling Silliphant was writing the script. By Nov 1958, a HR news item noted that production had been delayed because of casting and script difficulties. The extent of Silliphant's contribution to the final script has not been determined. Although an Apr 1959 HR news item noted that Jerrald [misspelled] Goldsmith was to write the score, his contribution to the released film's score has not been determined. Although HR news item place Robert Strauss and Logan Field in the cast, Strauss was not in the film and Field's appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to the Var review, the battle scenes were comprised of stock footage and miniature work, with the San Fernando Valley and San Diego standing in for the South Pacific. Studio production materials contained in film's production file at the AMPAS Library add that the water shots were filmed off Santa Catalina Island, CA and that the prison scenes were filmed at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA. Battle of the Coral Sea marked the screen debut of George Takei.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Oct 1959.
---
Daily Variety
14 Oct 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Oct 59
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1958
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1959
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1959
p. 6, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 59
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Oct 59
p. 451.
Variety
14 Oct 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Asst cam
Still photog
Cableman
Best boy
Head grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
2d prop
Lead man
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1959
Production Date:
9 March--27 March 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
10 October 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14572
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80 or 86
Length(in feet):
7,677
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19356
SYNOPSIS

On Mar 14, 1942, three days after the fall of Corregidor, the United States Naval submarine the U.S.S. Dragonfish , commanded by Jeff Conway, completes a reconnaissance mission scouting Japanese war ships along the Philippine corridor. Upon returning to base, Conway and his crew are assigned to ascertain the location of the Japanese war fleet headed to attack Port Moresby, New Guinea. The capture of the port would insure the Japanese supremacy over the Coral Sea. With information supplied by Conway, the Navy hopes to attack and destroy the fleet. Handed a sealed envelope containing his orders, Conway is told that he is to open the envelope on his eighth day at sea and warned that the orders must not fall into enemy hands at any cost, even if that means scuttling his own ship. Conway follows orders to maintain strict radio silence and heads out the next day with his trusted crew of Lt. Len Ross, torpedo man Bates and yeoman Halliday. Using a camera attached to the ship’s periscope by the ingenious Ross, they take photographs of the enemy ships headed for Port Moresby. On the eighth day, Conway opens the envelope and learns that the Naval strike force is scheduled to rendezvous on May 4th to formulate their strategy for attacking the Japanese fleet, thus necessitating that he transmit any information gathered by that date. To obtain close-up photographs of the enemy fleet, the Dragonfish threads its way through a treacherous mine field. While navigating through the field, the submarine ... +


On Mar 14, 1942, three days after the fall of Corregidor, the United States Naval submarine the U.S.S. Dragonfish , commanded by Jeff Conway, completes a reconnaissance mission scouting Japanese war ships along the Philippine corridor. Upon returning to base, Conway and his crew are assigned to ascertain the location of the Japanese war fleet headed to attack Port Moresby, New Guinea. The capture of the port would insure the Japanese supremacy over the Coral Sea. With information supplied by Conway, the Navy hopes to attack and destroy the fleet. Handed a sealed envelope containing his orders, Conway is told that he is to open the envelope on his eighth day at sea and warned that the orders must not fall into enemy hands at any cost, even if that means scuttling his own ship. Conway follows orders to maintain strict radio silence and heads out the next day with his trusted crew of Lt. Len Ross, torpedo man Bates and yeoman Halliday. Using a camera attached to the ship’s periscope by the ingenious Ross, they take photographs of the enemy ships headed for Port Moresby. On the eighth day, Conway opens the envelope and learns that the Naval strike force is scheduled to rendezvous on May 4th to formulate their strategy for attacking the Japanese fleet, thus necessitating that he transmit any information gathered by that date. To obtain close-up photographs of the enemy fleet, the Dragonfish threads its way through a treacherous mine field. While navigating through the field, the submarine hits an inoperative mine, and the resulting sound waves alert the enemy to their presence. The Japanese respond by dropping depth charges that knock out the submarine’s power, jam its rudders and flood its torpedo room. When the bombing suddenly stops, the Americans spend tense hours trapped in the submarine as the air supply is slowly depleted. After connecting some microphones to the hull of the sub, the Japanese commander declares that he has attached a depth charge to their vessel and will detonate it unless they surrender within five minutes. In the remaining minutes, Conway burns his orders and jettisons the photographs through a torpedo tube. After his crew has been safely transported onto the enemy ship, Conway rigs the Dragonfly with explosives, then detonates them as he jumps overboard. Plucked out of the sea and taken aboard the enemy ship, Conway is reunited with his friends and introduced to Comm. Mori, the genial Intelligence officer who has been assigned to interrogate them. They are taken to an island interrogation camp where Mori warns them that escape is impossible. After the Americans meet fellow prisoners Maj. Jimmy Harris and Lt. Peg Whitcomb of the Australian army, Capt. Yamazaki, the brutal head guard at the camp, arrives with his interpreter, Karen Phillips. Yamazaki vows to execute anyone trying to escape, then orders Karen to take Conway to see Mori. On the way, Karen explains to Conway that she has maintained her neutrality during the war and is on the island only because her family owns it. In his office, Mori warns Conway that he will extract the information he seeks by any means necessary. Mori then puts Conway in charge of a grueling labor detail in which his men are forced to peddle a water wheel in the burning sun. When Ross contracts pneumonia from the strain, Peg advises Conway to tell Mori everything he wants to know if he hopes to save his men. With three days left before May 4th, Conway determines to hold on until after the deadline. Soon after, Bates is insubordinate to a guard, who then challenges him to a wrestling match. After Bates thrashes him, the guard picks up a rifle and shoots Bates in the back. Mori, who has set up the match, thinking that Bates would lose and thus demonstrate Japanese superiority, is chagrined by its dishonorable outcome. In his office, Mori concedes that his psychological methods have failed and that he is being replaced by his predecessor, the sadistic Capt. Takahashi, who favors torture. As Conway and his comrades bury Bates, Karen gives them a bible and admits that she is beginning to question her neutrality. When Conway asks for her help, she offers to supply some knife blades. Later, Karen stages a fight with Peg and tells her to grab the large straw hat she is wearing. Upon dismantling the hat, the prisoners find several knife blades hidden inside. Using the blades to cut slivers of wood from their bunks, Ross fashions a bow and arrow. When Yamazaki pays a surprise visit to announce that Takahashi will be arriving in the morning, the prisoners realize that they must escape that night. As night falls, Karen diverts a guard, then cuts the generator lines that power the search lights, leaving the camp in darkness. After Ross uses his bow and arrow to shoot the watchtower guard, he and Harris seize the guard’s machine gun and sneak though the fence surrounding the camp to attack enemy headquarters. Ross is killed in the crossfire, and when Harris tries to flee, he too is cut down by enemy bullets and later dies in Peg’s arms. The survivors gather at the water to await Karen. With daylight coming, Conway sends the others to board one of the Japanese boats while he waits for her. Running for her life from the crazed Yamazaki, Karen stumbles into the clearing, allowing Conway to gun down the captain. After joining the others on the boat, they speed away from the island. Soon after, they are fired on by an American Naval seaplane that mistakes them for the enemy. Conway signals the plane in code, after which it lands and rescues them. Conway then relays his intelligence to Naval command, thus enabling United States bombers to destroy and disable the enemy fleet. +

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.