Destination Tokyo

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Destination Tokyo
Destination Tokyo poster.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed byDelmer Daves
Produced byJerry Wald
Jack L. Warner
Screenplay byDelmer Daves
Albert Maltz
Story bySteve Fisher
StarringCary Grant
John Garfield
Narrated byLou Marcelle
Music byFranz Waxman
William Lava
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited byChristian Nyby
Vladimir Barjansky
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 31, 1943 (1943-12-31) (US)
Running time
131 or 135 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,544,000[2]

Destination Tokyo is a 1943 black and white American submarine war film. It was directed by Delmer Daves in his directorial debut,[3] and the screenplay was written by Daves and Albert Maltz, based on an original story by former submariner Steve Fisher. The film stars Cary Grant and John Garfield and features Dane Clark, Robert Hutton, and Warner Anderson, along with John Ridgely, Alan Hale Sr., and William Prince. Production began on June 21, 1943 and continued through September 4 of that year. The film premiered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 15, 1943 as a benefit for crippled children,[4] and was released generally in the U.S. on December 31, 1943.

Destination Tokyo has been called "the granddaddy of submarine films like Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Das Boot (1981), and U-571 (2000)".[3]


On Christmas Eve, the submarine USS Copperfin, under the command of Captain Cassidy (Cary Grant), departs San Francisco on a secret mission. At sea, Cassidy opens his sealed orders, which direct him to proceed first to the Aleutian Islands to pick up meteorologist Lt. Raymond (John Ridgely), then to Tokyo Bay to obtain vital weather intelligence for the upcoming Doolittle Raid.

On the way, two Japanese planes attack; both are shot down, but one pilot manages to parachute into the water. When Mike (Tom Tully) goes to pick him up, he is stabbed to death. New recruit Tommy Adams (Robert Hutton) shoots the pilot, but because he was slow to react, Tommy blames himself for Mike's death and volunteers to defuse an unexploded bomb stuck under the deck. When Mike is buried at sea, Greek-American "Tin Can" (Dane Clark) does not attend the service, which angers the other men until he explains that every Allied death causes him great pain. Meanwhile, Raymond, who lived in Japan, discusses how the Japanese people were led into the war by the military faction.

As the submarine nears Tokyo Bay, the Copperfin has to negotiate its way through protective minefields and anti-torpedo nets. When a Japanese ship enters the bay, Cassidy follows in its wake. That night, a small party, including the ship's womanizer, "Wolf" (John Garfield), goes ashore to make weather observations. Meanwhile, Tommy is diagnosed with appendicitis. "Pills", the pharmacist's mate (William Prince), has to operate following instructions from a book, using improvised instruments, and without sufficient ether to last throughout the procedure. The operation is a success, and "Cookie" Wainwright (Alan Hale) begins to prepare the pumpkin pie he had promised to bake for Tommy.

Raymond broadcasts the information the shore party has collected in Japanese in an attempt to avoid detection, but the Japanese are alerted and search the bay. The Copperfin remains undetected, allowing the men to watch part of the Doolittle Raid through the periscope. After recovering Raymond and his team, the submarine then slips out of the bay following an exiting ship.

Later, the Copperfin sinks a Japanese aircraft carrier and is badly damaged by its escorts. In desperation, after long hours and barrages of depth charges, Cassidy attacks, sending a destroyer to the bottom and enabling the crew to return safely to San Francisco.


Cast notes:


Members of the cast spent time at the U.S. Navy's Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California, to familiarize themselves with submarine procedures and operations. Technical advisors to the film included the captain of the USS Wahoo, Dudley Walker Morton, and crewmember Andy Lennox.[6] The sub was reported as missing in action after production on Destination Tokyo completed, sunk by Japanese aircraft in October 1943 while returning home from a patrol in the Sea of Japan. The model of the Copperfin used for filming was based on actual American submarines, except that, to confuse the Japanese, it was given equipment and apparatus that were used on numerous different types of subs.[4] The film was accurate enough to be used by the Navy as a training tool for submariners.[3]

The incident in the film in which the pharmacist's mate performs an appendectomy was based on an actual event which took place on the submarine USS Seadragon.[4]

Some filming of Destination Tokyo took place at Portuguese Bend near Redondo Beach, California.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

Writer Steve Fisher received an Academy Award nomination for his original story for Destination Tokyo.[4]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Box office[edit]

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $3,237,000 locally and $1,307,000 domestically.[2]


Inspired by Grant's role, a seventeen year-old Tony Curtis forged his mother's signature to enlist in the United States Navy in 1943.[9] Requesting submarine duty he instead served aboard a submarine tender, USS Proteus. Later, as a top Hollywood talent, he co-starred with Grant as submariners in the 1959 World War II comedy Operation Petticoat, with Grant commanding the fictional USS Sea Tiger.

When the crew of a World War II-submarine in the 1951 movie Operation Pacific is given the treat of watching a movie, Destination Tokyo is screened.

According to his autobiography, the film influenced Ronald Reagan in his decision to accept the lead role of a World War II-submarine captain in the 1957 movie Hellcats of the Navy.

One of the film's screenwriters, Albert Maltz, was later brought before the House Committee on Un-American Activities on the grounds that some of the dialogue in Destination Tokyo reflected Communist sympathies.[10]



  1. ^ Destination Tokyo at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p. 24 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. ^ a b c d e McGee, Scott (ndg) "Destination Tokyo (1944)"
  4. ^ a b c d e Staff (ndg) "Notes"
  5. ^ Mankiewicz, Ben (May 29, 2017) "Outro" to Turner Classic Movies' presentation of Destination Tokyo
  6. ^ National Geographic Society. WW2: Hell Under The Sea,Episode 3, "America Fights Back"
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  9. ^ "My service"
  10. ^ Eliot, Marc (2005) Cary Grant: The Biography. New York: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-84513-073-1.

External links[edit]