« Sommer Time | Main | 50 Best High School Movies Ever? »

September 11, 2006

Hellcats of the Navy


Nathan Juran - 1957
Columbia Pictures Region 1 DVD

On this Fifth Anniversary of 9/11 I decided it would be fitting to watch a film starring the only movie star (so far) to become President of the United States. I am certain there are those who are certain about what Ronald Reagan would have done had been President on that day. There is also the possible evidence based on his actions in past films. Being a blog about movies, I choose to write about the reel Ronald Reagan, rather than the real Ronald Reagan.

Hellcats of the Navy is the only film that Reagan made co-starring Nancy Davis, better known as Mrs. Ronald Reagan. The film takes place during World War II, with Reagan as a submarine commander grappling twice with the decision to save one life at the expence of his crew. Davis is a nurse stationed at Guam. When Davis questions Reagan's choices, he reminds her, "You have to live with people. Work with them. Fight besides them. That's what matters." Reagan overcomes his anguish to get to the work of winning the war.

Orders are broken while Reagan and crew conduct a sneak attack on the Japanese, and follow a freighter through waters filled with submerged explosives. This being a Hollywood film, the mission is accomplished. While Hellcats is not entirely a gung-ho war film, it must have seemed even more dated in its attitudes compared to Robert Aldrich's Attack and Kubrick's Paths of Glory. The only reason why anyone bothers seeing Hellcats at all is for the novelty of the two leading roles. Reagan was often thought by others to confuse his real life with his reel life. While history can't be changed, there is some, if perhaps false, sense of assurance of watching Ronald Reagan as a character who fully acknowledged his sense of personal responsibility even if it cost him professionally, literally diving in and taking action even if it cost his his life, all on behalf of a greater good.

Posted by peter at September 11, 2006 03:33 PM