» » The Navy Way (1944)

Short summary

The experiences of a disparate group of young men as they make their way through Navy boot camp.

Premiered at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station on March 24, 1944, and the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, with star Robert Lowery, Paramount contractees Susan Hayward, Phyllis Brooks, Jean Heather, Albert Dekker and director 'William A. Berke'(as William Berke) in attendance. They also appeared on that evenings broadcast of the "Meet Your Navy" radio show and the following day they all appeared on "The National Barn Dance" radio show broadcast from WLS in Chicago.

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.

Hairy-chested Robert Lowery was forced to submit to a body waxing in order to appear bare-chested in the boxing sequences.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Sti
    This is a flag-waving programmer about the lives of boots at the Great Lakes Training Facilities during World War II. It manages to cover all the bases without doing much wrong. This Pine-Thomas feature -- they were known as "Dollar Bills" because of their ability to squeeze out a decent flick on a tight budget -- manages to have a few interesting bits despite a lack of top-notch talent.

    The central story, about turning around an unwilling draftee Robert Lowery, who is more interested in winning a boxing championship than the War, and his romance with gorgeous WAVE Jean Parker is a bit subpar, but a fine supporting cast including a humorous ex-shoe clerk Roscoe Karns, cowboy Tom Keene whose son has already died in the war and and Robert Armstrong as their instructor manages to keep things humming along.
  • comment
    • Author: Chillhunter
    During the war years, the prolific Pine-Thomas producing team made several low-budget war-themed b&w programmers on an independent basis that were then released through Paramount. The team managed to squeeze a lot of production value into these films by including lots of location shots taken at actual military bases and training facilities. The usual pattern, as seen in a film like AERIAL GUNNER (1943), for instance, was to send a second unit to the location (the Harlingen Aerial Gunnery School in Texas), and then film the Hollywood cast (led by Richard Arlen and Chester Morris) on cramped studio sets and in front of rear-screen projected scenes of the locations. A handy way to save money, but not the most convincing way to film training and combat scenes.

    With THE NAVY WAY (1944), Pine and Thomas took a different tack. It was the first of their productions to be filmed entirely on location, in this case at the U.S. Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois, with the entire cast of actors, led by Robert Lowery and Jean Parker, all on location as well. This has a significant influence on the way the film looks, feels and plays out. There's less of a hokey plot—usually the old chestnut about two guys making a play for the same girl and pulling tricks on each other to ace the other one out (see AERIAL GUNNER)—and more of an attempt to capture slice-of-life vignettes of various naval recruits in a particular unit trying to excel and get out into the war. The sore spot in the unit is Italian-American boxing champ Johnny Zamano, who resents being drafted and tries to use his connections to get out of service. When that fails, he only gradually comes around, with the help of his new buddies, and begins to live up to his obligations. There's much more of a propaganda feel to the proceedings than we saw in AERIAL GUNNER, SUBMARINE ALERT and MINESWEEPER, to name three others in this group of films that I've seen. This makes sense, given the needs of the war and the way the entire naval facility was made available for filming. The spirit of the base evidently infused the cast and filmmakers with a different kind of energy than they would have had back in Hollywood.

    There is a love triangle in the film, but it asserts itself late in the story and happens quite unexpectedly—kind of like the way such things happen in real life. Johnny's plausibly petulant reaction to this development leads to an act of reckless behavior that jeopardizes his unit's near-perfect record and his own navy career. The resolution is quite moving. The characters all behave like real people and not Hollywood stereotypes and we get pulled into the movie's emotional core much more willingly because of that.

    Robert Lowery, usually a straight arrow leading man in B-movies (he played Batman in a 1949 serial), struck me as an odd casting choice for a street-tough Italian-American boxer, but he's a good actor and he manages to pull it off, displaying just enough bitterness to be believable and just enough charm to eventually win over the other characters and the audience. Jean Parker, who resembles Claudette Colbert, plays the female medical officer who nurses Johnny's wounds after a bout on the base and attracts his romantic attentions. Her character is an independent adult woman with a clear sense of her own needs, desires and agenda and is not just an object bandied about between two male rivals. She makes the significant choices here, which is quite a sea change from the pattern established in the other films in the Pine-Thomas group. The cast is filled with quite a few other distinguished supporting players, most notably Robert Armstrong as the unit's training instructor; Bill Henry as a Chicago rich boy who joins up to prove himself; Tom Keene (billed as Richard Powers) as a cowboy who joins up after his son has been killed in combat; Roscoe Karns as an older recruit; and Mary Treen in a delightful performance as Karns' bubbly fiancée.

    This may not be the most exciting wartime film of its era, given its emphasis on training rather than combat, but, thanks to its location filming and solid cast, it's a most unusual one and well worth a look. I found it on Mill Creek's 50-film Combat Classics DVD set.
  • comment
    • Author: Zymbl
    Robert Armstrong as a Navy CPO sees to the training of such various navy recruits as Robert Lowery, William Henry, Larry Nunn, Roscoe Karns, and Tom Keene in The Navy Way. This was a Pine-Thomas production from Paramount and was shot at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.

    Trying to mold an Espirit De Corps among this lot isn't an easy job for Armstrong. His biggest problem is Robert Lowery who before he got drafted was a promising middleweight boxer from the wrong side of the tracks. The biggest thing holding him from going over the hill is Pharmacist's Mate Jean Parker. But Henry who is a rich kid who enlisted is also interested in her.

    As in Casablanca they all see that the problems of three people don't amount too much with the country at war. As for Lowery you can sympathize a bit with him because he's reaching his peak as a fighter. A whole lot of athletes in all sports missed their peak years during World War II.

    Certainly The Navy Way is rather dated as a film, but it's still good entertainment. As for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station that's still there and still molding recruits The Navy Way.
  • comment
    • Author: Jonide
    Mixing comedy, drama and a ton of patriotism, this late war film is a last minute attempt to get new blood in so the old blood can have a little rest. Cleverly opening with flashbacks of a bunch of the recruit's past, this is the beef stew of society as all types end up as buddies, some in with the most honorable of dreams, the others almost pushing and screaming in their efforts to stay out. But as the training influences take over their ideals, they all plan to serve together on the same trip.

    Robert Lowery headlines as a cynical boxer, ready for a shot at the title, but forced to change his plans when his draft card is pulled. Meeting pretty nurse Jean Parker has him convinced that he's in the right place but a last minute revelation has him discovering the truth about her feelings for him.

    Comedy is put in the hands of veteran character actor Roscoe Karns who had a misunderstanding with girlfriend Mary Treen and joins out of spite. Various others represent various social classes, aged and emotional maturities, but the message is clear: no man who wants to serve their country should be disqualified. Veteran actor Robert Armstrong overlooks the advancement of the recruits as they go from clumsy newbies to fully trained sailors ready for duty.

    Lowery gets a comical surprise when he whistles at Parker upon first sight and ends up being called over by her for reasons he doesn't expect. Other comic moments keeps the atmosphere light for a while, but there is a definitely serious theme of love of country and freedom at the front. As corny as it is to see the security's eyes widen in pride when the youngest recruit humbly repeats his oath, it's also a reminder of why we have fought for freedom and why we can't stop. In retrospect, this is probably the best of the low budget Pine Thomas features released by Paramount.
  • comment
    • Author: White gold
    The Navy Way is a WW2 propaganda film helping to recruit men into the US Navy. The story follows a bunch of the usual green recruits through the selection process and then the various gruelling training regimes they must undergo. It turns out that joining the navy is a character-building exercise that'll make a real man out of you, if we didn't know that already.

    The problem about this film is that it doesn't go anywhere, unlike Kubrick's similarly-constructed FULL METAL JACKET. The guys get together, fight, bond, and that's it. The ex-boxer is the most interesting character but he doesn't go anywhere either. The whole love triangle sub-plot just seems to be included to slow the pacing down further. There is a measure of realism here but as a film, THE NAVY WAY is severely lacking.
  • comment
    • Author: Nalaylewe
    During WWII, all of the Hollywood studios, even the little ones, began churning out bazillions of patriotic propaganda films. They were designed to increase the public's support for the war as well as glamorize the idea of joining the service to serve in the war effort. Of these bazillion films, "The Navy Way" is pretty typical. While it's clearly sub-par compared to the films of bigger studios such as MGM or Warner, it's not bad for tiny little Pine-Thomas--a B-movie production branch of Paramount. Now when I say Bs, these are quickly produced, short and low-budget films made as a lesser picture in a double-feature. Most of them clearly were inferior to the better A-pictures--though there were many exceptions. Sadly, "The Navy Way" isn't one of these exceptions.

    The film is very much in the mold of "Buck Privates" or "In the Navy"--but without the comedy. You have a group of disparate prototypical guys. There is the cocky boxer who hates that he was drafted and won't allow himself to work as part of any team (take a wild guess what happens to him). There is the rich guy who is a swell guy down deep--choosing to become an enlisted man instead of cashing in on his position to get a cushy officer's job. There is the girl who comes between two guys. There is also the somewhat comedic character--played by Roscoe Karns who made a career out of playing such roles. There are many other stereotypical sorts of men as well--and you KNOW by the end they will be honorable and tough fighting men. It's all pleasant but entirely unremarkable as well (other than starring Robert Lowery--the big-screen's first Batman). Not a bad time-passer but no more.

    By the way, this was filmed at the Great Lakes Training Facility near Chicago. My wife visited a friend who was in training there and was shocked to see that the place was landlocked AND sailors had to 'ask permission to come aboard'--even though this was for buildings, not ships!
  • comment
    • Author: Azago
    A routine program filler with some familiar faces in the cast -- Rosco Karns, Robert Armstrong of "King Kong," Horace McMahon in a walk-on. It's sort of a training film -- "What to Expect When You Join the Navy and What You Should Avoid Doing." The opening narration tells us about the men in civilian clothes who are being marched into the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, "Yesterday, you lived in Glencoe, Illinois, in Hammond, Indiana, in Podunk, Nebraska. And you were a machinist, a clerk, a farmer, a philatelist (well, not that), but today you're joining the Navy and you are sailors." That's fine for the half dozen men whose careers we follow, but a little upsetting to Johnny Zumano, a boxer whose career was just getting started and who wanted to become a champ to provide for his impoverished parents. Johnny, whose story this chiefly is, gets over his initial frustration but when, on top of everything else, he is dumped by his girl friend he gets drunk and is about to be court martialed and discharged.

    Through the seasonable interposition of a gracious providence, the four-striper who is about to pull the lanyard on the guillotine of justice overhears Johnny talking to the chaplain. "Gee, I wanted to stay in the Navy something awful and ship out with the other fellas but I couldn't tell the Captain that." Johnny has his pride, see, and he don't go whining to nobody.

    However, the Captain having overheard Johnny's confession, so to speak, now realizes how committed Johnny is to the U. S. Navy. Does Johnny avoid a discharge? Does he join his comrades? Do they ship out together? No power on earth could drag the answers from me.

    It's a low-budget effort, true, and we can't expect too much in the way of acting or story or art direction. Yet, every time I tell myself that, I think of Val Lewton over at RKO who in the same time period was churning out one little gem after another on a similar budget, and horror pictures at that, with such unpromising titles as "The Leopard Man." Or, ten years later, the inexpensive but vernacular art of the Scott-Boettiger Westerns. It's the difference between merely doing a job and showing some degree of craftsmanlike care in your product.
  • Cast overview:
    Robert Lowery Robert Lowery - Johnny Zumano - aka Johnny Jersey
    Jean Parker Jean Parker - Ellen Sayre
    William Henry William Henry - Malcolm Randall (as Bill Henry)
    Roscoe Karns Roscoe Karns - Frankie Gimble
    Sharon Douglas Sharon Douglas - Trudy
    Robert Armstrong Robert Armstrong - CPO Harper
    Tom Keene Tom Keene - Steve Appleby (as Richard Powers)
    Larry Nunn Larry Nunn - Billy Jamison
    Mary Treen Mary Treen - Agnes
    Wallace Pindell Wallace Pindell - Sailor Joslin (as Wally Pindell)
    John 'Skins' Miller John 'Skins' Miller - Recruit Pop Lacy
    Joseph Crehan Joseph Crehan - Chaplain Benson
    Hjalmar F. Hanson Hjalmar F. Hanson - Great Lakes Naval Station Choir Director (as Commander Hjalmar F. Hanson)
    Art Lasky Art Lasky - Fighter
    John J. 'Red' Madigan John J. 'Red' Madigan - Sailor
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