Cry 'Havoc' (film)

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Cry 'Havoc'
Cry 'Havoc' cinema poster.jpg
Cinema poster
Directed byRichard Thorpe
Produced byEdwin Knopf
Screenplay byPaul Osborn
Jane Murfin (uncredited)
Based onBased upon the play by Allan R. Kenward
StarringMargaret Sullavan
Ann Sothern
Joan Blondell
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
CinematographyKarl Freund, A.S.C.
Edited byRalph E. Winters
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 23, 1943 (1943-11-23) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States

Cry 'Havoc' is a 1943 American war drama film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Richard Thorpe. The cast is primarily female, with the main roles played by Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines, Frances Gifford, Diana Lewis, Heather Angel, Dorothy Morris and Connie Gilchrist.

Production background[edit]

The film is based on a play by Allan Kenward which opened in Hollywood, California in September 1942. The play was also presented on Broadway, under the title Proof Through the Night with Carol Channing and Ann Shoemaker. However, the play was not successful, opening on December 25, 1942 and closing January 2, 1943 after 11 performances.[1] The title comes from a famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."

This film features a very early appearance by Robert Mitchum, who is briefly seen as a dying soldier. It also marks the final performance by Diana Lewis, who retired following her marriage to William Powell.

Opening narration[edit]

"This is the story of thirteen women. Only two of them — Captain Alice Marsh and Lieutenant Mary Smith — were members of the armed forces of the United States. The others were civilians — American women who, until that fateful day in December, knew no more of war than did you or your nearest neighbor."


The film tells the story of a mixed group of Army nurses stationed in Bataan during World War II. At the beginning of the film, the head nurse, Lt. Mary Smith (Margaret Sullavan) begs her superior, Capt. Alice Marsh (Fay Bainter), for more nurses to help deal with the excessive workload, but instead of professional nurses, she is assigned a group of civilians from various backgrounds. They lack experience and require training and find it difficult to settle in. Pat Conlin (Ann Sothern) rebels against Lt. Smith's strict nature, but the group begin to reveal stories from their past and become better acquainted. They also meet a male officer, Lt. Holt (uncredited Jack Randall). Pat becomes infatuated with him, leading to jealousy between her and Lt. Smith who refuses to explain why she is offended by Pat's attention to him. During an air-raid one of the volunteers, Sue West (Dorothy Morris), is separated from the group, and some of the women, including her sister Andra (Heather Angel) search for her. After three days, she is found alive, having spent the time trapped in a hut with the corpses of several soldiers who were killed during the attack.

The hardships bring the women closer, and they discuss their hopes for the future. Grace (Joan Blondell), a former burlesque performer, dances for the group to break the tension. Sue remains in a state of shock following her ordeal, and this is compounded when the hospital is attacked again. Grace is injured and, in a later attack, Connie (Ella Raines) is killed. An opportunity arises for all of the women to leave Bataan to Corregidor, but after some discussion, they all decide to remain and help as best they can. Lt. Smith becomes ill with malaria, and in her delirium reveals to Flo that she was married to Lt. Holt and that they were keeping their marriage a secret due to a military regulation that prevented married couples from serving together. When the group learns that Lt. Holt has been killed, both Pat and Lt. Smith are grief-stricken. The hospital is surrounded by Japanese forces and the nurses forced to surrender.


Reaction to the film[edit]

The film was considered topical, with Bataan often in the news at the time, and proved to be profitable. The film writer, John Douglas Eames, commented that much of the film was theatrical rather than cinematic, and he also noted that "some of the girls seemed to have found a beauty salon on Bataan".[2] Leonard Maltin also noted that its stage origins were obvious, but that it offered a "pretty honest picture of war".[3]


  1. ^ Internet Broadway Database entry
  2. ^ Eames, John Douglas, The MGM Story, Octopus Books, London, 1975. p. 186. ISBN 0-904230-23-6
  3. ^ Maltin, Leonard, Leonard Maltin's 1998 Movie and Video Guide, Signet Books, 1998. p. 291. ISBN 0-451-19288-5

External links[edit]