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Pearl Harbor in the Movies

Pearl Harbor in the Movies...What to see...
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“In Harms Way" Paramount Pictures, 1965

From Playboy May 1965 "The film, which covers the attack on Pearl Harbor, opens with an officers' party and an orgiastic dance scene between Barbara and O'Brian followed by their adulterous luau-for-two..."

Although this movie is highly fictitious then it is worth seeing. The attack on Pearl Harbor seems real even without ever showing one attacking Japanese plane. The start of the movie shows how a destroyer sinks a Japanese midgetsub, and immediately thereafter the attack on Pearl Harbor begins and catapults the characters into the war in the Pacific, but also into events in their own lives. The movie is filled with stars such as John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Patricia Neal, Jill Haworth and upcoming stars Carroll O’Connor and Larry Hagman of “Dallas fame.

Caught Attention

"In Harms Way" attracted more attention than any other film at the time, both because the movie deals with rape and suicide, but also because Director Otto Preminger included a kissing scene between Barbara Bouchet and Hugh O'Brian, where Bouchet is topless.

The scene with Barbara Bouchet and Hugh O'Brian was filmed at Makapuu Beach, but in the American version you only see them wake up in the morning. The European version is a little bit more revealing, Playboy covered this in their May 1965 issue, see picture on the left.

John Wayne at his best?

The critics are split in their opinion on this movie, John Wayne fans think that this is one of his best movies, while others see it as a very long soap-opera. Film Quarterly probably gave it the worst review: “Seedy cataloguing by Otto Preminger, that cinematic reprobate, og hackneyed wartime experiences undergone by characters who are not so cardboard as they are remote...The outlook is naive..." If you want to vote for "In Harms Way" go here.


Director Otto Preminger
ScreenPlay Wendell Mayes, based on the novel by James Bassett
Production Otto Preminger
Cast John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Henry Fonda, Burgess Meredith, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Jill Haworth, Dana Andrews, Franchot Tone, Patrick O'Neal, Carroll O'Connor, Larry Hagman, Hugh O'Brian, Barbara Bouchet


photos from "In Harms Way"


“In Harms Way"

New York Times, April 7, 1965

“You can’t kill John Wayne. Thats the message -- the only message that comes through loud and clear in Otto Preminger’s big war film “In Harms Way,?..This is a slick and shallow picture that Mr. Preminger puts fourth here, a straight clich?crowded melodrama of naval action in the Pacific in World War II.?..”Mr. Preminger is nothing if not generous. He gives you a lot of bang for a buck.

Film Quarterly, September, 1965

“Seedy cataloguing by Otto Preminger, that cinematic reprobate, og hackneyed wartime experiences undergone by characters who are not so cardboard as they are remote...The outlook is naive (as if Preminger had just discovered such actually do go on!), showy, superficial, and, curiously, not entirely boring. In short, just what you’d expect from Preminger?

Time Magazine, April 9, 1965

“This epic based on the novel by James Bassett is among Preminger’s liveliest. It’s clear, unequivocal message is that World War II was fought to make the world safe for wide-screen melodrama...Harm’s Way opens at a Pearl Harbor naval officers?dance on the evening of Dec. 6, 1941. While boozy Commander Kirk Douglas is at sea, his wife (Barbara Bouchet) is at play, behaving like a one-woman luau. She sakes her hips at an Air Force major, lures him away for a nude swim...With half a dozen plots to juggle, Preminger keeps all of them interesting for at least two of the three hours spent In Harms Way. At one moment he shrewdly plays the grimness of war against the undeniable glamour of it, next diverts the flow of sentimental clichés into a vein of snappish humor.

Playboy, May 1965 had three pages devoted to what they called "The Kiss" (see pictures on the left) and it is certainly a kiss that is worth noticing, it is so special that American movie-goers were not allowed to see it, and it was edited out of the American version. Here is what Playboy wrote:

"In his latest film, "In Harm's Way," precedent-busting producer-director Otto Preminger escalates his war against movie-censorship with a contemporary variation on the classic cinematic clinch, with German-born beauty Barbara Bouchet wrapped in warm unadorned embrace with ex-TV cowboy Hugh O'Brian on the sandy shores of Waikiki Beach (Makapuu, ed.) Although "Playboy" has featured other filmic highlights of natatorial nudity in the past - Susannah York (June 1964), Elsa Martinelli in the arms of Robert Mitchum (October 1963) - the beachside buss on the following pages establishes a precedent for U.S. cinemaphiles in that Preminger voews it will not be restricted to European consumption.

The film, which covers the attack on Pearl Harbor, opens with an officers' party and an orgiastic dance scene between Barbara (who plays Kirk Douglas' wayward spouse) and O'Brian followed by their adulterous luau-for-two and subsequent demise during the Japanese attack. Amidst a star-filled cast,...,Barbara's brief debout adds appealing new dimension (35-22-34) to American moviemaking."


Newsweek, April 12, 1965

“In Harms Way is a reprise of every clich?of every war movie that saw service back in the ?0s. Perhaps Preminger, a fast man with a trend, is capitalizing on the current wave of nostalgia for the attitudes and styles of old movies.

From the Premier, Honolulu Advertiser, April 9, 1965

“Actor Burgess Meredith, who has the role of an admiral in the movie, was the only member of the cast to attend the opening. “I can’t wait to see it,?he said before entering the theater. “I can’t remember whether I got killed or not.

Chicago Review wrote

"It's a huge film, intertwining the Navy's preparation for war with a dozen personal stories, yet all the elements are kept in perfect balance."

BaltimoreCity Paper wrote

"A big sloppy wartime soap opera, director Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way is also a riveting old-fashioned Navy yarn that benefits hugely from a superb cast."