The Fighting Seabees (1944)

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    Photo with the courtesy of lasbugas


    Plot Summary
    Construction workers in World War II in the Pacific are needed to build military sites,
    but the work is dangerous and they doubt the ability of the Navy to protect them.
    After a series of attacks by the Japanese, something new is tried, Construction Batalions (CBs=Seabees).
    The new CBs have to both build and be ready to fight.
    Summary written by John Vogel

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan
    Susan Hayward .... Constance Chesley
    Dennis O'Keefe .... Lt. Cmdr. Robert Yarrow
    William Frawley .... Eddie Powers
    Leonid Kinskey .... Johnny Novasky
    J.M. Kerrigan .... Sawyer Collins
    Grant Withers .... Whanger Spreckles
    Paul Fix .... Ding Jacobs
    Ben Welden .... Yump Lumkin
    William Forrest .... Lt. Tom Kerrick
    Addison Richards .... Capt. Joyce
    Jay Norris .... Joe Brick
    Duncan Renaldo .... Construction worker at party
    Wally Wales .... Lt. Cmdr. Hood (as Hal Taliaferro)
    Abdullah Abbas .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Lee Adams .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Joel Allen .... Coxswain (uncredited)
    Roy Barcroft .... Seabee Barcroft (uncredited)
    Roy Brent .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Charles D. Brown .... Capt. Squires (uncredited)
    George Bruggeman .... Seabee (uncredited)
    Wheaton Chambers .... Navy observer (uncredited)
    Roy Darmour .... Officer (uncredited)
    Kenne Duncan .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Jean Fenwick .... Capt. Joyce's secretary (uncredited)
    Terry Frost .... Orderly (uncredited)
    Gene Gary .... French construction worker (uncredited)
    Bud Geary .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Ernest Golm .... Van Pelt (uncredited)
    Kit Guard .... Construction worker in shelter (uncredited)
    Eddie Hall .... Man walking to file cabinet (uncredited)
    William Hall .... Swede (uncredited)
    Alex Havier .... Japanese soldier (uncredited)
    Herbert Heyes .... Capt. Millard (uncredited)
    Reed Howes .... Reporter (uncredited)
    John James .... Meteorological officer (uncredited)
    Nora Lane .... Kitty (secretary) (uncredited)
    James B. Leong .... Japanese officer (uncredited)
    Beverly Lloyd .... Chorine (uncredited)
    Tom London .... Johnson (uncredited)
    Clarence Lung .... Japanese officer (uncredited)
    Adele Mara .... Twinkles Tucker (uncredited)
    Frank Marlowe .... Construction worker who dies (uncredited)
    LeRoy Mason .... Jonesey (uncredited)
    Al Murphy .... Costruction worker (uncredited)
    Forbes Murray .... Navy surgeon (uncredited)
    Jack O'Shea .... Arriving construction worker (uncredited)
    Paul Parry .... Lt. Cmdr. Stuart (uncredited)
    Hugh Prosser .... Seabee (uncredited)
    Joey Ray .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Jeffrey Sayre .... Lt. Cmdr. Kane (uncredited)
    George Sherwood .... Lieutenant commander in chartroom (uncredited)
    Tom Steele .... Seabee (uncredited)
    Larry Stewart .... Seabee (uncredited)
    Clarence Straight .... Signalman (uncredited)
    Charles Sullivan .... Construction worker (uncredited)
    Ben Taggart .... Aircraft carrier captain (uncredited)
    Chief Thundercloud .... Indian Seabee (uncredited)
    Charles Trowbridge .... Randolph (uncredited)
    Billy Wayne .... Reporter (uncredited)
    Crane Whitley .... Lt. Cmdr. Hunter (uncredited)
    Robert J. Wilke .... Arriving construction worker (uncredited)
    Buddy Wilkerson .... Gunner (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Borden Chase screenplay
    Borden Chase story Donovan's Army
    Æneas MacKenzie screenplay (as Aeneas MacKenzie)

    Original Music
    Peter De Rose (song "Song of the Seabees")
    Sam Lewis (song "Song of the Seabees")
    Mort Glickman (uncredited)
    Marlin Skiles (uncredited)
    Roy Webb (uncredited)

    Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
    Yakima Canutt .... second unit director
    Philip Ford .... assistant director (uncredited)

    Tom Steele .... stunts (uncredited)
    George Bruggeman .... stunts (uncredited)
    Yakima Canutt .... stunt coordinator (uncredited)
    Bud Geary .... stunts (uncredited)
    Fred Graham .... stunts (uncredited)

    One of the rare times we see John Wayne dancing. He performs the "Jitterbug" with a blonde girl in the night club scene.

    Joe Brooks' film debut.

    Roy Barcroft, a Republic stalwart, appears in this film as one of the Seabees. No effort was made to give him a "character" name, they simply referred to him using his real name, "Barcroft".

    Republic, being as "thrifty" as they were, used a large number of stock shots from Flying Tigers (1942) for the scenes involving "enemy" aircraft.

    In 1949, Republic Pictures reissued this film on a double bill with Flying Tigers (1942) which also starred John Wayne.

    The film's dedication states: "Proudly and gratefully we dedicate this picture to the Civil Engineer Corps and the Construction Battalions - the Seabees of the United States Navy who have fired the imagination of the world with their colorful exploits throughout the Seven Seas."

    The words to the fun song, the "Song of the Seabees" (Music by 'Peter de Rose' and Lyrics by Sam Lewis) heard in the movie go like this: "We're the Seabees of the Navy - We can build and we can fight - We'll pave the way to victory - And guard it day and night - And we promise that we remember - The 'Seventh of December' ..... "We're the Seabees of the Navy - Bees of the Seven Seas" ..... "The Navy wanted men - That's where we came in - Mister Brown and Mister Jones - The Owens, the Cohens and Flynn - The Navy wanted more - Of Uncle Sammy's kin - So we all joined up - And brother we're in to win!"

    The production of this movie received extensive cooperation from the United States Navy.

    The motto of the real Construction Battalion Seabees is: "We build, we fight". This is encapsulated in the line of dialogue said by Lieutenant Commander Robert Yarrow (Dennis O'Keefe) at film's end when he says: "We build for the fighters, we fight for what we build".
    Link this trivia
    The Paramount Pictures studio loaned actress Susan Hayward to the Republic Pictures studio to appear as Constance Chesley in this movie.

    George Reeves was originally going to co-star alongside John Wayne in this movie, so reported The Hollywood Reporter. Like Susan Hayward in this film, Reeves was going to be loaned by studio Paramount Pictures to the Republic Pictures studio. However, the Army Air Corps drafted Reeves and as such he couldn't appear in this movie.

    The film utilizes an oft-used storyline of the war movie genre which has two soldiers in love with the same girl.

    This movie is a tribute to the United State's Navy's Construction Battalions of the Second World War. Their nickname is the CB's or Seabees which explains the meaning and relevance of this film's title, The Fighting Seabees (1944).

    An edition of The Hollywood Reporter in July 1943 announced that the Republic Pictures studio was "writing the character of Captain [Henry P.] Needham, commanding officer of the Construction Battalions at Camp Hueneme, into the script . . . and [Associate Producer] Albert J. Cohen has wired for permission to have the captain play himself in the picture". From December 1942 to August 1944, as the officer in charge of the Advance Base Receiving Barracks / Advance Base Depot, Needham spent two tours at Port Hueneme. Needham was also the CBC Commanding OFficer at Port Hueneme from 1947 until 1951. However, in the end, neither a character in the movie was not named after Needham, nor did Needham appear in the film.

    This movie is considered a Second World War wartime propaganda film of the United States.

    The movie featured real footage of Seabees marching in review before the Secretary of the Navy from Camp Endicott, Davisville / North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

    The Hollywood Reporter reported a number of location filming sites used in the movie. These included Camp Huemene, Santa Barbara, California; Camp Endicott, Davisville / North Kingstown, Rhode Island where the parade ground marching scenes were filmed; Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Southern Califonia; as well as another military camp in Virginia.

    SPOILER: This is one of seven movies which John Wayne made that he actually dies in.

    * Continuity: In the final battle scene a clamshell bucket is seen picking up Japanese soldiers. There are legs (with feet visible) dangling from the bucket. In the next shot, the legs are replaced with tree trunks.

    * Factual errors: In the first landing by Japanese the landing craft are U.S.N. LCVPs, which are distinctly different than any landing craft used by the Japanese. Also, there are no ships offshore from which the landing craft could have come.

    * Continuity: When the Japanese soldier is picked up in the clamshell bucket, the feet beneath the bucket are facing the opposite direction of the soldier.

    * Factual errors: In a couple of scenes Japanese soldiers are seen pulling the pin out of grenades with their teeth and throwing them American style. Actual Japanese grenades had a compression actuator not a pin. Typically they would smack the top of the grenade on their helmet to start the fuse and then throw.

    * Continuity: When the Seabees are first deployed to the island, they embark in Higgins boats (no bow ramps). When they reach the shore, the Higgins boats are now LCVPs.

    Filming Locations
    San Diego, California, USA
    Iverson Ranch, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California,

    The photo above is obviously from one of the
    many westerns filmed on the ranch.
    It is here merely to show the location

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 13 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Fighting Seabees is a 1944 war film starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward.
    The picture portrays a heavily fictionalized account of the dilemma
    that led to the creation of the U.S. Navy's "Seabees" in World War II.
    The supporting cast includes Dennis O'Keefe and William Frawley,
    and the movie was directed by Edward Ludwig.

    Duke and his gang all played well in this tribute to the Construction Battalions.
    However, it's another one where he gets, killed, BOO HOO!!!
    It was Duke at his best as the construction boss, and had a great work-gang.
    Susan Hayward acquitted herslef well, as so did Dennis O'Keefe, Pauk Fix, Grant Withers, and
    William ' I Love Lucy' Frawley.

    The fans and critics liked this film., for its morale, boosting, let's bash the Japs.
    This is the first film, Duke is seen fighting Japs, on land!

    The reviewer of the NYTimes commented:-


    It's nice to see our side, dispatching the Japs,to their ancestors",
    even though the tactics, seem to smack of Rover Boy,
    than Navy tradition"

    A good film, to watch,

    User Review


    Take it for what it is
    12 November 1999 | by Brundledan

    Having watched this in the wee hours of Veterans' Day, I just wanted to point out that rating it and other WWII propaganda films on the basis of artistic merit is beside the point entirely. The people that made these didn't have the luxury of crafting meticulous stories and memorable characters; most of the movies had been contracted by the government and had to be turned out QUICKLY. Movies like "The Fighting Seabees" were made for one reason alone: as propaganda pieces designed to bolster public support for our fighting men overseas. As such, they were an important part of the war effort, and helped ensure that fifty years later, we'd have the luxury of sitting at our computers and hashing about their qualities as movies.

    With all that in mind, "The Flying Seabees" is really pretty good.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Hi Vera

    The actor you are referring to was Leonid Kinskey 1903-1998

    He was born in St petersburg on April 18.

    An accomplished mime artist he left Russia in 1921 and worked his way through Europe and ended up in the United States. In 1926 he made a brief debut and then went missing for the next six years until 1932 when he made his first sound picture.

    Because of his height and appearnce he was ideal for playing the eccentric foreigner.

    After retireing from films he ran a restaurant and also after making a comeback in the mid fifties worked in television. He appeared in two pictures with John Wayne.

    After his death the obituaries described him as one of hollywoods greatest clowns.



    Walk Tall - Talk Low

  • Hi Arthur,
    Thank you for information, it all sounds very interesting. And I like the idea that some person from St.Petersburg was in movies with Duke.

  • We sure do enjoy this movie. It is one of JW's movies that I definitely remember watching in my youth. I have a distinct memory of the scene where the bulldozer pushes the Japanese tank off the side of the cliff :smile: . Some of you might have better memories than mine, but for me we're talking 50 years ago - I wasn't even 10 years old yet. This is one of the movies I found at K-Mart for $6.95 about 4 or 5 years ago, that got me started buying old JW movies and really getting into learning about him again.

    From that humble beginning to a raving fanatic :fear: !

    Chester :newyear:

  • The script annoyes me, what a damn stupid thing to do to steal the guns and attack with bulldozers, and after that Wedge still gets the leadership of the new unit. A straightforward hero story is better than this kind of teaching. The Japs are yet less human than in Flying Tigers, makes you hate them alright, but they are too ridiculous even for a war morale boosting film.
    The actors are good though, and the triangle love affair is portrayed with taste and bigger than life feelings. Highlight of the film is Duke dancing that quick-paced dance.

    I don't believe in surrenders.

  • Watche Fighting Seebees tonight. Must admit it has been awhile since I last saw it. Good action movie although with JW as Wedge Donovan. Wonder did he keep this name in mind for Donovan Reef?

    He did seem to have good chemistry with Susan Hayward. Support cast gave great support too.


  • The Fighting Seabees is another that I grew up watching and is also a top 20 favorite of mine. I would assume that since I know I have seen this movie at least once a year, for the past 25 years, that I have seen it at least 25 times. I liked the fact that William Frawley was in it. I always did like him as well.

    Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..

  • liked the movie well enough but agree that when the construction squad burst into battle that was not the strongest scene.

    Greetings from North of the 49th

  • I hope someone can help. In the movie seabees susan Hayward calls william frawley a name on the ship. the meaning was user of big words.

    Mister you better find yourself another line of work, cause this one sure DON"T fit your PISTOL!

    Edited once, last by brick: need to get it another thread ().

  • watched this film this afternoon and thought it was ok 7 out of 10 imo

    " I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man " True Grit

  • I like this film, the dance sequence with Adele Mara is a great scene. I always liked William Frawley, he was a good character actor like Strother Martin.

    :film: " When the legend becomes fact print the legend"

  • You're right, Chilibill. When I was working down at the U.S. Naval base at Port Hueneme, with our Naval Reserve diving unit (we had to pull brass screws off a destroyer that was going to be used for target practice), this base was one of just a few Seabee bases around the country.

    They had a Seabee museum there that was very interesting. It documented extensively the movie that John Wayne was in, plus they had a lot of very interesting displays from firearms on up. It was obvious that the Seabees had a lot of pride in their organization. Here's a link. (Interesting side note . . . they are selling bricks as part of a fund-raising effort to build a new museum.)

    Chester :newyear: