The Bedford Incident (1965)

102 mins | Melodrama | 11 October 1965

Director:

James B. Harris

Writer:

James Poe

Producer:

James B. Harris

Cinematographer:

Gilbert Taylor

Editor:

John Jympson

Production Designer:

Arthur Lawson

Production Companies:

Bedford Productions, Heath Productions
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HISTORY

On 7 Jul 1963, NYT reported that producer James B. Harris optioned film rights to Mark Rasocovich’s newest novel, The Bedford Incident. According to a 27 Jul 1964 LAT news story, Harris paid $100,000 of his own money for the property, which would mark his first foray into directing after a series of successful collaborations with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Upon making the deal, Harris learned that actor Richard Widmark was also interested in the novel, and agreed to sign him as both star and co-producer through his company, Heath Productions. A 23 Sep 1963 DV brief announced the hiring of screenwriter James Poe, at which point Harris and Widmark reached out to Sidney Poitier to play the role of the ship’s medical officer, “Lieut. Comdr. Chester Potter.” Although the role had been written with Poitier in mind, he instead requested to play reporter “Ben Munceford,” and Harris negotiated a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures executive Mike Frankovich.
       A 27 Jul 1964 DV news item stated that Peter Fonda was in talks for a role, but he does not appear in the film.
       According to the 20 Aug 1964 NYT, the Pentagon refused to cooperate with the production due to tightened “acceptability standards” following the unfavorable depictions of the U.S. military in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Seven Days in May (1964, see entries). A 3 Aug 1964 DV article reported that the Pentagon offered to loan out a missile frigate only on condition that the filmmakers removed the critical final plot point, ... More Less

On 7 Jul 1963, NYT reported that producer James B. Harris optioned film rights to Mark Rasocovich’s newest novel, The Bedford Incident. According to a 27 Jul 1964 LAT news story, Harris paid $100,000 of his own money for the property, which would mark his first foray into directing after a series of successful collaborations with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Upon making the deal, Harris learned that actor Richard Widmark was also interested in the novel, and agreed to sign him as both star and co-producer through his company, Heath Productions. A 23 Sep 1963 DV brief announced the hiring of screenwriter James Poe, at which point Harris and Widmark reached out to Sidney Poitier to play the role of the ship’s medical officer, “Lieut. Comdr. Chester Potter.” Although the role had been written with Poitier in mind, he instead requested to play reporter “Ben Munceford,” and Harris negotiated a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures executive Mike Frankovich.
       A 27 Jul 1964 DV news item stated that Peter Fonda was in talks for a role, but he does not appear in the film.
       According to the 20 Aug 1964 NYT, the Pentagon refused to cooperate with the production due to tightened “acceptability standards” following the unfavorable depictions of the U.S. military in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Seven Days in May (1964, see entries). A 3 Aug 1964 DV article reported that the Pentagon offered to loan out a missile frigate only on condition that the filmmakers removed the critical final plot point, in which “Ensign Ralston” accidentally destroys a Russian submarine. Harris kept the scene, promising to complete the necessary effects using miniatures or by leasing another vessel. However, a 18 Nov 1963 LAT item reported that he and Poe were able to conduct research onboard a U.S. destroyer stationed off the coast of Norfolk, VA.
       A 4 Nov 1964 Var brief indicated that principal photography began two days earlier at Shepperton Studios in London, England. The 9 Nov 1964 DV stated that the unit was expected to remain in London for two months; the 18 Dec 1964 edition reported that the banquet scene was scheduled to be filmed on Christmas Eve using real props. Ocean sequences were shot in the North Sea, with the full participation of the British Royal Navy. According to the 3 Aug 1965 DV, the crew had access to British destroyers, helicopters, and camera ships. The film qualified for the U.K.'s Eady Plan, as the 22 Jan 1965 DV noted that Poitier was a citizen of both the U.S. and the Bahamas, which was then a British Crown colony.
       Although the 4 Mar 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel announced that Poitier had completed his work on the picture, filming continued at the Malta Film Facilities. On 12 May 1965, Var reported that Harris and the crew had returned to Shepperton following eight weeks at the facility’s newly constructed water tank.
       That autumn, the 2 Sep 1965 LAT noted that Harris and Poitier would present the film at ten U.S. universities prior to its release. A few days later, the 8 Sep 1965 Var reported that the premiere would take place at London’s Garde Theatre on 11 Oct 1965, with simultaneous domestic engagements in New London, CT; San Diego, CA; Corpus Christi, TX; and Norfolk, VA—all cities home to important U.S. naval bases. The Bedford Experiment opened 2 Nov 1965 in New York City, followed by a Los Angeles release on 10 Nov 1965. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1964
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
9 Nov 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Los Angeles Sentinel
4 Mar 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 1963
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1963
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1964
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1965
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1965
Section B, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
11 Nov 1965
Section D, p. 12.
New York Times
7 Jul 1963
Section X, p. 5.
New York Times
20 Aug 1964
p. 36.
New York Times
3 Nov 1965
p. 43.
Variety
4 Nov 1964
p. 20.
Variety
12 May 1965
p. 76.
Variety
8 Sep 1965
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A James B. Harris-Richard Widmark Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Co-prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Assoc art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
MAKEUP
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Bedford Incident by Mark Rascovich (New York, 1963).
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 October 1965
Premiere Information:
London premiere and New London, CT, opening: 11 October 1965
New York opening: 2 November 1965
Los Angeles opening: 10 November 1965
Production Date:
2 November 1964--May 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Bedford Productions
Copyright Date:
1 August 1965
Copyright Number:
LP31742
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
102
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

U. S. Navy Capt. Eric Finlander is the tough, efficient commander of the Bedford , an ultra-modern submarine-chasing destroyer. He has the complete loyalty of his crew, who both fear and respect him. His assistant, Commodore Schrepke, a German former U-boat commander in World War II now on assignment to NATO, is the only one who dares to question Finlander's orders or intent. The Navy permits Ben Munceford, a liberal Negro journalist, to come aboard for the purpose of writing a story about Finlander and his crew. Another newcomer, ship's doctor Lieut. Comdr. Chester Potter, discovers to his amazement that the crew never report for sick call. The Bedford is on its usual patrol off the coast of Greenland when expert sonar man Merlin Queffle detects a Russian submarine. Finlander wants to force the submarine to surface but is prohibited by fleet headquarters from doing so. Finlander stalks the submarine, keeping an around-the-clock watch, waiting for it to surface for air. Despite the warnings of Schrepke and Munceford, who sense that this mock war has gotten out of hand and fear that the Russians may show force, Finlander rams the submarine, now in international waters, when the Russians refuse to identify themselves. The crew of the Bedford is exhausted and near to cracking under the strain of keeping constant vigilance at their stations; Queffle has collapsed; and young Ensign Ralston, the butt of Finlander's criticisms, is dangerously jittery. Ralston misunderstands a command and fires a nuclear missile at the submarine, which is sunk but not before launching its own torpedoes to destroy ... +


U. S. Navy Capt. Eric Finlander is the tough, efficient commander of the Bedford , an ultra-modern submarine-chasing destroyer. He has the complete loyalty of his crew, who both fear and respect him. His assistant, Commodore Schrepke, a German former U-boat commander in World War II now on assignment to NATO, is the only one who dares to question Finlander's orders or intent. The Navy permits Ben Munceford, a liberal Negro journalist, to come aboard for the purpose of writing a story about Finlander and his crew. Another newcomer, ship's doctor Lieut. Comdr. Chester Potter, discovers to his amazement that the crew never report for sick call. The Bedford is on its usual patrol off the coast of Greenland when expert sonar man Merlin Queffle detects a Russian submarine. Finlander wants to force the submarine to surface but is prohibited by fleet headquarters from doing so. Finlander stalks the submarine, keeping an around-the-clock watch, waiting for it to surface for air. Despite the warnings of Schrepke and Munceford, who sense that this mock war has gotten out of hand and fear that the Russians may show force, Finlander rams the submarine, now in international waters, when the Russians refuse to identify themselves. The crew of the Bedford is exhausted and near to cracking under the strain of keeping constant vigilance at their stations; Queffle has collapsed; and young Ensign Ralston, the butt of Finlander's criticisms, is dangerously jittery. Ralston misunderstands a command and fires a nuclear missile at the submarine, which is sunk but not before launching its own torpedoes to destroy the Bedford. +

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

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