Directed by: William A Seiter
Countries & Regions: United States
Studio: Sony pictures home entertainment
Length: 99 mins
Released: 11 March 2013
Cat No: CDR18839
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A 1943 flagwaver starring Edward G. Robinson and Glenn Ford as US Navy sailors in World War II. Destroyer tells the story of a new... Read More
A 1943 flagwaver starring Edward G. Robinson and Glenn Ford as US Navy sailors in World War II. Destroyer tells the story of a new American destroyer, the John Paul Jones, from the day her keel is laid to nearly her last voyage. Among the crew, is Steve 'Boley' Boleslavski (Edward G Robinson), a shipyard welder who helped to build her, who re-enlists with his old rank of Chief bosun's mate. After failing her sea trials, the John Paul Jones is assigned to the mail run - until she is caught up in a desperate battle with a Japanese sub.
This is a stirring, richly rewarding piece of wartime propaganda built around a superb performance from the mighty Edward G. Robinson.
He's cast as a veteran of the Great War who helps to build a new destroyer after his old ship is sunk in battle, and then signs up to serve on it, only to find that his abrupt manner and outmoded understanding of warfare rub his new colleagues up the wrong way, including a cocky young hothead (Glenn Ford) who's in love with the old timer's daughter (Marguerite Chapman).
The story may sound clichéd, but it's beautifully played, and rooted in a typically detailed, realistic world by Frank 'Spig' Wead, the naval aviator turned screenwriter later immortalised in John Ford's film The Wings of Eagles.
Robinson, short and broad with a distinctive, gravelly voice, is best-remembered today as that most influential of screen gangsters, Little Caesar. But he was an actor of considerable range, able to play patsies, family men or squat, dewy-eyed patriots with equal skill. Two years previously he had dominated The Sea Wolf as a terrifying captain. Here he commands attention in a more sympathetic manner, all mouth and no malice as a sentimental old seafarer alone in his contention that both he and his beloved boat are fit for battle. His talent as an actor is particularly well showcased during the film's pivotal scene, in which he delivers an impromptu speech to a group of green recruits looking for a transfer. The monologue, concerning the exploits of naval hero John Paul Jones, could have come off as mawkish or heavy-handed, but in Robinson's capable hands − and delivered in that unforgettable voice − it's enough to make you jump on a destroyer and head straight for the enemy.
Glenn Ford, who at that time was one of Columbia's hottest properties, is very effective as Robinson's foil, while Chapman makes for a likeable, unusually strong-minded love interest, and there's comic support from Edgar Buchanan, Leo Gorcey of the Dead End Kids, and Edward Brophy.
Destroyer is a film that belies its propagandist purpose to provide top-grade entertainment some 70 years on.