Update: This post has been updated to fix broken links.
Back in the 60’s, no one was beloved more than ‘The Duke’, especially by our men in uniform. So when he was to begin shooting a Navy-themed movie, the U.S. Navy pulled out all the stops, allowing him to use one of their own ships as the set. Now pictures, never before published, are being released that show John Wayne on the ship, with navy sailors. They are pretty cool and make all of us who weren’t alive to experience ‘The Duke’ in action, very jealous.
“Hey I know, let’s get the Navy and make a movie! It’ll be great!”
Hollywood and the U.S. Navy have had a long and often fruitful relationship and, just as in warfare, there are hits and misses. 1986’s Top Gun remains a classic on numerous levels, while the 2001 klunker Pearl Harbor was quickly (and rightly) consigned to the bargain bin, despite its tremendous publicity buildup and strong Navy support.
Blockbuster busts are nothing new. Back in the mid-1960s another megaproduction involving the Navy, a passle of major stars, and a famous director was getting the major-buildup treatment. With a cast topped by John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Patricia Neal, director Otto Preminger’s In Harm’s Way was expected to set a new standard for naval action flicks.
Well, it did. Despite spending an enormous amount of money and effort to build a model fleet of U.S. and Japanese warships replicating (under a fictional name) the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Preminger managed to give the world some of the worst movie miniatures ever produced. They looked like just what they were – rowboat-sized craft driving around on a huge lake shooting toy guns with toy splashes.
And the plot – – – but we digress…
The Navy was fully on board with the picture’s production, and provided the USS SAINT PAUL (CA 73), one of the world’s last active heavy cruisers, as a set. The SAINT PAUL was a genuine World War II cruiser, having been commissioned in early 1945. She saw combat off Korea and Vietnam before finally being decommissioned in 1971.
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