In Harm's Way
If anyone asks you why John Wayne was ever considered to be a good actor, point the questioner in the direction of In Harm's Way. In it, Wayne turns in one of his best, most sensitive performances as Captain "Rock" Torrey, a supremely competent warlord leading his men with precision, yet also humble when he stumbles upon the love of a good woman (Patricia Neal, as nurse Maggie Haynes). Directed by Otto Preminger from a screenplay by Wendell Mayes, itself based on James Bassett's sweeping novel, 1965's In Harm's Way is really a soap opera, but set in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II amid the internecine struggles of various conflicting commands. Beginning on the eve of the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor, the film charts first the fall, then the rise, of Torrey and his trusted colleague Paul Eddington (Kirk Douglas, who is also superb) after the Pearl attack. As a Rear Admiral, Torrey is charged with turning around his little corner of the war, but in his way are a preening admiral named Broderick (Dana Andrews), his grasping spy (Patrick O'Neal), and Torrey's own estranged son (Brandon De Wilde), an ensign. The story of In Harm's Way is huge yet small at the same time, with a marvelous cast that ranges from Burgess Meredith to Henry Fonda (in a cameo), and the film is beautifully put together by Preminger, who favors long takes, a moving camera, and a classical story structure. It's a subtle, tense, moving drama that is one of Preminger's best films, and also one of the most realistic war movies of all time. Paramount's DVD release offers a wonderful, almost flawless anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) of this black and white film, photographed by Lloyd Griggs, while audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. Extras consist of a seven-minute "making-of" featurette from 1965 (which also includes some outtakes) and three theatrical trailers of varying lengths each casting Preminger in the starring role. Keep-case.