In this fast-moving, wisecracking sailors-at-sea story, Cagney is a truculent dance-hall lothario whose gal is stolen by petty officer O'Brien after a Pier Six brawl. Cagney later joins the Navy and is assigned to the battleship Arizona, on which O'Brien is stationed. The two continue their
feuding while Cagney breaks all the rules, bringing upon himself one punishment after another. Further, the feisty Cagney woos O'Brien's sister, Stuart, when in port, which aggravates the situation. Cagney's errant ways soon make him a pariah; no other sailor on board ship will even talk to him,
except loyal McHugh. Then Cagney goes AWOL and O'Brien puts him under arrest. At the end, Cagney redeems himself by performing a heroic rescue of a fellow sailor, almost burning to a crisp. He survives, however, to clasp O'Brien's hand in friendship, embrace Stuart, and win Navy honors.
This rousing comedy found a great box-office response as the first of eight films Cagney would do with the wonderfully responsive O'Brien, a movie duo that would equal Gable and Tracy. Bacon's energetic, lightning direction, plus a powerhouse cast, caused this film to be nominated for Best Film of
1934, losing to IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. The movie was shot on location at the US Naval Training Station in San Diego, with a great deal of footage filmed on board the great battleship USS Arizona, which was sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Margaret Lindsay was originally
assigned the sister-sweetheart role but required an operation at the last minute and was replaced by Stuart. The action film was not without hazards. In one scene Cagney drops from the gondola of the dirigible Macon, also loaned to Warners by the Navy, in an attempt to save O'Brien's life, but he
slipped, and both fell down the rope, Cagney burning his hands so badly that they "looked like hamburger," as he later remembered. leave a comment