AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Alternate Title: The Gaunt Woman
Director: Alfred Werker (Dir)
Release Date:   19 May 1951
Production Date:   mid-Aug--mid-Oct 1950
Duration (in mins):   87 or 89-90
Duration (in feet):   8,065
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Cast:   Dana Andrews (Pat Bannon) By Arrangement with Samuel Goldwyn
    Carla Balenda (Margaret McLean)  
    Claude Rains (Eric Skalder)  
    Philip Dorn (Conrad)  
    Onslow Stevens (McLean)  
    Skip Homeier (Steve)  
    Eric Feldary (Holger)  
    J. M. Kerrigan (Skipper Ben)  
    Arthur Shields (Dolan)  
    Morgan Farley (Caleb)  
    Dave Thursby (Ambrose)  
    Henry Rowland (Anderson)  
    Charles A. Browne (Smitty)  
    Don Dillaway (Owen)  
    Al Hill (Tom)  
    Lee MacGregor (Lt. Cameron)  
    William Andrews (Holtz)  
    Richard Norris (2d mate)  
    Kathleen Ellis (Villager)  
    Karen Norris (Villager)  
    Harry Mancke (Villager)  
    Whit Bissell (Shuster)  
    Jay Morley (Wharf official)  
    Bert Kennedy (Old seaman)  
    Larry Johns (Mark)  
    Bruce Cameron (Nazi machine gunner)  
    Ned Roberts (Nazi machine gunner)  
    Watson Downs (Ethan)  
    Jimmy Ogg (Cabin boy)  
    Dick Crockett (Nazi)  
    Bob Morgan (Nazi)  
    Wes Hopper (Nazi)  
    Bob Smitts (German sailor)  
    Geza De Rosner (German sub officer)  
    Robert Boone (Sailor with rating)  
    Peter Bourne (Lieutenant)  
    Zachary Berger (Nazi sailor)  
    John Royce (Nazi sailor)  
    William Yetter (German)  
    George Ovey    
    Carl Sklover    
    Bessie Wade    
    Art Dupuis    

Summary: In 1943, Pat Bannon, the captain of a large Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing boat, The Daniel Webster , is in desperate need of sailors and so hires Conrad, a Dane without identification papers. Pat then reluctantly agrees to take stranger Margaret McLean to Trabo, a village on the Newfoundland coast, where Pat fishes. During the voyage, a small storm hits and fog envelops the boat. Pat hears machine gun fire in the distance and suspects that German U-boats are signaling each other. When sailor Holger, another Dane, shows Pat that the boat's radio has been sabotaged, Pat questions Conrad after Holger reveals that Conrad has refused to speak Danish. The rough-hewn Conrad grudgingly utters some Danish and comments that Holger's Danish is surprisingly polished. Just then, the men hear more gunfire, and Pat realizes that the U-boats are shelling another vessel. Pat and some of his crew, including Holger and Conrad, board the wrecked vessel, which turns out to be a Danish schooner called The Gaunt Woman , and after discovering a dead man up top, locate the ship's dazed, speechless captain, Eric Skalder, down below. Once Pat has inspected the ship's cargo--barrels of costly rum--Skalder finally begins talking, describing how his schooner was blown off course during the storm and his crew abandoned ship after the shelling began. Skalder identifies the dead man as his business partner and states that the Germans planted a bomb on the schooner, which his partner found and deactivated. Skalder offers to pay Pat to tow the schooner, and Pat agrees. That night, while on the deck of The Daniel Webster , Pat notices a light being flashed through a porthole and goes below to investigate. Finding only Margaret awake, Pat questions her. Margaret explains that she is a nurse and is returning to Trabo, her childhood home, to visit her father. When Pat comments that he knows no one in Trabo named McLean, Margaret becomes defensive, claiming that her father, a sea captain who left Trabo many years before, was disabled when his ship was attacked by a U-boat. Later, in the isolated village of Trabo, Skalder accepts Margaret's father's invitation to spend the night at his house, but Pat declines and returns to search the schooner. On board Pat finds Conrad, who states that he became suspicious of Skalder's story because he had noticed bullet holes in a tarp covering a lifeboat, but none in the lifeboat itself, suggesting that the Germans had shot up the tarp while the boat was being used. The two men inspect the cargo area again and there discover a hidden door leading to a large room filled with torpedoes. Now aware of Skalder's true mission, Pat speculates that the schooner was heavily damaged during the storm because it was tied up to a submarine, so Skalder sent his crew away and ordered the shelling to explain the devastation. At that moment, as Pat and Conrad hide, Holger enters the torpedo room to send a coded message over the radio. After Holger leaves, Conrad races to warn the McLeans about the schooner, while Pat greets Skalder, who is re-boarding with his returning crew. A Canadian patrol plane then lands nearby, and the pilot informs Skalder that the schooner will be inspected the next morning. Feigning ignorance, Pat suggests that one of his Danish sailors act as a witness during the inspection, and Skalder selects Holger. Pat hurries to the McLeans', where Margaret reveals that Conrad left his flashlight in the schooner's hold. Sure that the Nazis will destroy the village when they find the flashlight, Pat prepares to shove off that night, while Margaret quietly evacuates the village. All goes as planned until Anderson, one of Skalder's men, shows up at the McLeans' claiming to need a nurse and insisting that Margaret go to the schooner. To protect Margaret, McLean reveals the location of the villagers. Hidden under the McLeans' house, Pat overhears the exchange, and as soon as Anderson leaves with Margaret, he and his crew camouflage some rowboats with gasoline-soaked brush and row out to the schooner. The men set fire to the brush, which ignites the schooner as they are boarding it. A gun battle then ensues, and after all the German crew is subdued and Margaret is rescued, Pat corners Skalder. Skalder insists that a time bomb is set to go off in twenty minutes and is powerful enough to destroy the village. Pat sends Margaret, with whom he has fallen in love, and most of his crew to help move the villagers to a high cliff and instructs Steve, another crew member, to steer the schooner toward the current. Just then, two approaching U-boats are spotted, so Pat decides to blow them up along with the schooner. Skalder, meanwhile, suddenly pulls a gun on Conrad, who is guarding him at gunpoint, and the two men shoot each other. Skalder is killed, but Pat manages to drag the wounded Conrad to a rowboat. Pat, Conrad and Steve row furiously, reaching safety moments before the bomb explodes and destroys the schooner and the submarines. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Alfred Werker (Dir)
  Lloyd Richards (Asst dir)
  Nate Levinson (Fill-in asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Bischoff (Exec prod)
  Warren Duff (Prod)
Writer: Dale Van Every (Scr)
  Oliver H. P. Garrett (Scr)
  Roy Huggins (Scr)
Photography: George E. Diskant (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  J. McMillan Johnson (Prod des)
Film Editor: Ralph Dawson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  William Stevens (Set dec)
Costumes: Michael Woulfe (Gowns)
Music: Roy Webb (Mus)
  C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
Sound: Phil Brigandi (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Make Up: Mel Berns (Makeup artist)
  Larry Germain (Hairstylist)
Stand In: Dave Sharp (Stunt supv)
  Sol Gorse (Stunts)
  Gil Perkins (Stunts)
  Bob Steele (Stunts)
  Clint Dorrington (Stunts)
  Bob Wolfe (Stunts)
  Dale Van Sickle (Stunts)
  Tom Steele (Stunts)
  Fred Kendar (Stunts)
  Dick Elmore (Stunts)
  Bert Le Baron (Stunts)
  Carey Loftin (Stunts)
  Bill Lewin (Stunts)
  Carl Sklover (Stunts)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel The Gaunt Woman by Edmund Gilligan (New York, 1943).
Authors: Edmund Gilligan

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 23/5/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP1055

PCA NO: 14781
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Sea
  World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Impersonation and imposture
  Nazis
  Schooners
  Sea captains
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Boats
  Bombs
  Danes
  Fathers and daughters
  Fishermen
  Fog
  Germany. Navy
  Gloucester (MA)
  Handicapped
  Newfoundland (Canada)
  Nurses
  Ship crews
  Spies
  Storms
  Submarine boats
  Torpedoes

Note: The working title of this film was The Gaunt Woman . The following written foreword appears at the end of the opening credits: "When war engulfs the world, giant forces are marshalled for conflict. Smashing victories are won and heroes are heralded far and wide. Often forgotten are the small victories, the acts of great personal courage by little people. This is the story of one small victory in World War II." Edmund Gilligan's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post between 10 Oct and 21 Nov 1942.
       According to a HR news item, Gilligan's story was purchased in Feb 1943 by producer Charles R. Rogers for release by United Artists. John Farrow was announced as a possible director at that time. In Sep 1943, DV reported that Rogers was searching for a leading man for the project, but no further information about Rogers' involvement has been found. HR news items indicate that the story was revived by RKO in 1949. RKO borrowed Dana Andrews from Samuel Goldwyn's company for the production. A Jun 1950 HR news item announced that locations in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were scouted as possible filming sites, but it has not been determined whether shooting actually took place there. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   12 May 1951.   
Daily Variety   20 Sep 1943.   
Daily Variety   18 Apr 51   p. 3.
Film Daily   20 Apr 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Feb 1943.   
Hollywood Reporter   17 May 50   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   31 May 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jun 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 50   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Aug 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Sep 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Oct 50   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Oct 50   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 51   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   28 Apr 51   p. 817.
New York Times   24 May 51   p. 47.
Variety   25 Apr 51   p. 6.

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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.
 
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