22 July 2006 | robertguttman
"That's my ship, the Arizona."
"That's my ship, the Arizona", says Pat O'Brien in the very first line of dialogue in this 1934 Warner Brothers feature. Indeed, much of this motion picture was filmed aboard the famous battleship that is now a national monument on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
Another prominent feature of "Here Comes The Navy" is the USS Macon, the U.S. Navy's last dirigible. If the elderly battleship USS Arizona was a leftover from World War I, the USS Macon represented the cutting edge of technology in 1934, much as the Space Shuttle does today. The giant airship crashed into the Pacific Ocean less than a year after this film was produced, fortunately, with the loss of only two of her 100 crew members. Although the service continued to operate much smaller and less expensive non-rigid blimps for many years, the loss of the USS Macon put an end to the Navy's rigid airship program. There can be little doubt that many of the USS Macon's crewmen seen in this movie were still aboard at the time of the crash.
Of course, the principal feature of "Here Comes The Navy" is the crackling byplay between perennial rival/buddies James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, both of whom were at the top of their form here. As usual, Cagney plays the brash wise-guy while O'Brien is the steady, authority figure bent on channeling Cagney's energy into the right direction. It is a formula they were to repeat in several more movies, most famously in "Angels With Dirty Faces".
Caught between Cagney and O'Brien is Gloria Stewart. This was the same Gloria Stewart who would later be featured in the 1997 version of "Titanic". Stuart did a reasonable job here, even though she was inevitably upstaged by her two dynamic co-stars. But then, Cagney and O'Brien could easily steal scenes from anybody.
"Here Comes The Navy" is a treat for Cagney fans (and there are still plenty of those out there). It is equally a treat for history buffs. Originally intended as a showcase for the contemporary Navy, the movie is now a time capsule of the service in a bygone era.