Desperate Cargo

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Desperate Cargo
Desperate Cargo FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by William Beaudine
Produced by John T. Coyle
Written by
  • Morgan Cox (screenplay)
  • John T. Coyle (screenplay)
Based on story "Loot Below"
by Eustace L. Adams
Music by Whitey Jowett
Cinematography Jack Greenhalgh
Edited by Guy V. Thayer Jr.
Distributed by Producers Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • July 4, 1941 (1941-07-04)
Running time
67 minutes
71 minutes (Ontario, Canada)
Country United States
Language English

Desperate Cargo is a 1941 American film directed by William Beaudine and based on the 1937 Argosy magazine serial Loot Below by Eustace Lane Adams. The film stars Ralph Byrd and Carol Hughes. The supporting cast includes Julie Duncan and Jack Mulhall. [Note 1]


On the Caribbean island of Puerto Nueva, a disparate group of individuals await a Boeing 314 Clipper, the "Caribbean Clipper" that will take them to Miami. Tony Bronson (Ralph Byrd) is the new purser for the flight who disrupts the robbery of New York journalist Jim Halsey (Jack Mulhall) at their hotel.

Halsey is a passenger on the same Trans-Caribbean Airlines flight, flying to America to begin an assignment for his newspaper that will ultimately have him stationed in the Orient. Having some money left, Halsey fixes Tony up on a double date with two entertainers in a "sister act", Ann Howard (Julie Duncan) and her partner, Peggy Morton (Carol Hughes). The pair have only just been informed that their show in New York has been cancelled and are stranded in Puerto Nueva, without the fare to leave. Ann uses her feminine wiles to con Tony into arranging free passage for them on the Clipper. Nonetheless, Tony falls in love with Ann, and Jim proposes to Peggy.

Among the other passengers are Madden (Johnstone White), Ryan (Richard Clarke), Desser (Paul Bryar) and "Professor" Carter (I. Stanford Jolley), their ringleader and a former pilot who flew Clippers for the airline. Their plan is to hijack the aircraft in mid-air, rob the passengers and steal a shipment of $500,000 in the safe on board. Carter will then land in a remote area of the Caribbean Sea where the gang and their loot will be picked up.

When they take over the aircraft by killing the navigator and co-pilot, Carter has the passengers locked in their quarters and the crew locked in the cargo compartment. After landing, although the gang has the money from their captives, the safe is locked and only Tony can open it. Ryan is ordered to force the purser to open the safe but in a struggle for Ryan's gun, Tony shoots him, and makes his escape, jumping from the aircraft. Swimming over to the cargo hold, he frees the pilot, Capt. Hank MacFarland (Kenneth Harlan) and the rest of the crew, then returns to the cockpit where Carter threatens to burn the Clipper. Tony overpowers him, and holding the rest of the gang at gunpoint, allows MacFarland to regain control of the aircraft. Jim and Tony are finally reunited with their sweethearts as the Clipper heads to Miami, where the police are waiting to apprehend the gang.


  • Ralph Byrd as Tony Bronson
  • Julie Duncan as Ann Howard
  • Carol Hughes as Peggy Morton
  • Jack Mulhall as Jim Halsey
  • I. Stanford Jolley as "Professor" Carter
  • Kenneth Harlan as Capt. Hank MacFarland
  • Richard Clarke as Henchman Ryan
  • Johnstone White as Madden, a valet/henchman
  • Paul Bryar as Henchman Desser
  • Thornton Edwards as Manuelo
  • Don Forrest as Navigator Williams
  • Loretta Russell as Mrs. Pettingill, a passenger
  • Rick Vallin as Radioman Stevens
  • Harry Depp as Crouse, a small passenger


A Boeing 314 Clipper was prominently featured in Desperate Cargo, but only in stock footage.

Principal photography, under the working title of Dangerous Cargo, took place from mid to late May 1941.[2] Although set on board a Boeing 314 Clipper, nearly all the shots were interior views, filmed on a sound stage.


Desperate Cargo was a B film "potboiler" that was an early example of the disaster film where a disparate group of characters are faced with a dilemma. In a more recent review, Catherine Yronwode saw many redeeming characteristics in the film, including the casting of a number of interesting actors, such as silent screen stars Kenneth Harlan as the airliner pilot and Jack Mulhall as the second male lead. "All in all, this was a great little movie of its type. Sure, it could have been better – a shorter set-up and more tension in the final scenes, a staccato musical score to heighten the drama, a cuter and more compliant lead actress – but it is certainly worth a viewing." [3]



  1. ^ Ralph Byrd 's feature role in Desperate Cargo was one of his few starring roles outside of the Dick Tracy serials and TV show.[1]


  1. ^ Brooks and Marsh 2003, p. 305.
  2. ^ "Original print information: Desperate Cargo (1941)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 9, 2014.
  3. ^ Yronwode, Catherine. "Review: Desperate Cargo." IMDb, June 14, 2007.


  • Brooks, Tim and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0-34549-773-4.

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