The Frogmen – 1951 – English
Film directed in 1951 by Lloyd Bacon, and starring Richard Widmark, Dana Andrews, Gary Merrill, Jeffrey Hunter, Warren Stevens, Robert Wagner, Harvey Lembeck, Ed Donovan, Jack Warden, Rush Williams…
Synopsis: World War II drama in which Richard Widmark, as Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence, replaces the popular commanding officer of a group of underwater demolition divers. a crew of fiercely independent studs who hang their proverbial hats in Davy Jones’ locker. The martinet Lawrence tightens the discipline of the unit, making him mucho unpopular with the macho frogmen. Finally, Lawrence proves himself as more than just a stuffed white shirt, showing he has the cojones to keep up with their peculiar brand of the jones, becoming one of the team by fearlessly defusing a live torpedo at the risk of his own life.
Review: The first time I saw this I was 10 years old, very impressionable and wanted very much to be like these men of war. This film has a lot to say about dedication and hard work learning the art of war. As John Wayne once said in “Sands of Iwo Jima” about the learning of the proper procedures of how to fight a war, because if we don’t do it right a whole lot of men don’t walk away from it, “forevermore they don’t”. As has been said this is the precursor to the modern day Seals. Sure I know they are tougher men today, but in my estimation not any more honorable and dedicated than the men portrayed in this “great” film.
The acting is outstanding and very real, especially to be so good that an old man like myself, remembers how I felt all the times I saw the film. If a film and the men involved in telling the tale of “The Frogmen” left that much impression and remembered to this day, then it had to be great acting, direction and favorably produced. There was no outlandish computer graphic techniques of today nor scenes of blowing up the world that come so common place in todays action genra films, but a reason and purpose for the gritty life and death struggle each man faced to become a frogman in the U. S. Navy or UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams) as they were and are called.
This black and white picture was dominated by the snarling Richard Widmark in perhaps his best performance in his career. I know many remember him for other films, but to me, he made this film and was the quintessential commander training his men to do a very difficult job with nothing more than shear strength of character and leadership. They did not have the high tech apparatus of todays Seals, but for what they lacked in equipment they more than made up for in “guts and glory” beneath the waters.
The rest of the cast, Dana Andrews, Gary Merrill, Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Wagner, just to name a few seemed to be portraying what is best in the Navy and men of war. Several more gave memorable performances in telling the tale of “The Frogmen” and the U. S. Navy’s dedication to the finest in warfare.
The standard war movie is one thing, but this is a classic not seen much today and one in which many that followed learned by this tale of the U. S. Navy.