Sat 12 Dec 2009
DESTROYER. Columbia Pictures, 1943. Edward G. Robinson, Glenn Ford, Marguerite Chapman, Edgar Buchanan, Leo Gorcey, Regis Toomey. Director: William A. Seiter.
Some of the patriotric combat movies made during World War II while the fighting was going on overseas are still worth seeing today, but this isn’t one of them. Bits and pieces here and there, perhaps, but all good intentions aside, this isn’t one to go more than a few steps out of your way for.
I’ve checked on Google, and I’ve come up with two different ships called the USS John Paul Jones, but both came along a long time after World War II. Until I’m told otherwise, I’ll continue to assume the story told in Destroyer is quite fictional.
Working as a shipyard welder and construction boss in building the one in this story is Steve Boleslavski (a swaggering Edward G. Robinson), but when he re-enlists for the new hostilities with his former rank as chief bosuns mate, he finds that his knowledge of the new gunnery (as well as command techniques) are far out of date.
Resenting being pushed aside in the chain of command is Glenn Ford’s character, Mickey Donohue, who has the double misfortune of falling in love with Boley’s daughter (Marguerite Chapman). Fate and bad luck continue to haunt the ship and its crewmen until at last, demoted to mail boat status, there comes the chance to show what it (and they) can do.
Perhaps there is simply too much story here to be contained in only 99 minutes of film time, very close to A-movie standards. There’s the story of the ship; the story of Boley vs. Mickey; and the romance, which has the couple running off to elope only the third time we see them together, before we know that they are even talking civilly to each other.
There must have been a lot going on when the cameras weren’t rolling.