Fighting Seabees, The (1944) B-
A crucial element in John Wayne's war heroes is his rebellious and independent streak. Wayne's leaders are often impulsive, willing to disobey orders if they think their decision is morally right and an action is needed. Wayne's heroes want to fight on the front; they hate deskwork. In this respect, Wayne's heroes stands in diametric opposition to William F. Whyte's “Organization Man,” the conformist who goes by the book and adjusts himself to the organization's rules by doing all things “the company way.”
Wayne's construction engineer Wedge Donovan in Edward Lustig's “The Fighting Seabees” helps to organize the Navy’s Construction Battalion, the Fighting Seabees, the special fighting units of civilian workers in the South Pacific. Donovan is told by Lieutenant Commander Bob Yarrow (Dennis O'Keefe) to disregard the Japanese snipers and to focus on construction.
Compared with Yarrow, Donovan is hot-tempered and impatient with the enemy. He continues to obey orders until his friend is killed, then in defiance of the rules, he orders his men to fight back. However, Donovan's stubbornness causes the death of many men, for which he is held responsible. Guilt-ridden, he redeems himself in a one-man action which costs him his life but succeeds in saving the important oil tanks.
As usual with most war picture, the romantic subplot, here with Susan Hayward, feels like a distraction and is not convincing.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Scoring (Dramatic or Comedy): Walter Scharf and Roy Webb
The winner was Max Steiner for the sentimental family melodrama, “Since You Went Away.”
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