Making the Grades
Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) is a tough reporter, always looking for a story angle. Armed with her camera and typewriter, she stoically chronicles unfolding events even in the face of personal disaster.
While crossing the Atlantic during World War II, the passenger vessel she is on is torpedoed by a German U-boat. Safely stowed away on a lifeboat, Connie records the horror as the boat goes under, leaving debris and dead bodies floating on the surface.
However, she isn't the only one to make it off the damaged ocean liner. Soon other survivors appear in the littered water and make their way to the lifeboat. Charles D. Rittenhouse (Henry Hull), a wealthy businessman is hauled on board, as are a navy nurse (Mary Anderson), an engineer (John Hodiak) a sailor (William Bendix), a steward (Canada Lee) and a radio operator (Hume Cronyn).
Finally, one more castaway is rescued from the waves--the captain of the German U-boat. Face-to-face with the purveyor of the calamity, the travelers are divided in their reactions.
Confining his cast to the tiny craft, Alfred Hitchcock builds tension and strain among the passengers as they deal not only with Captain Willy's (Walter Slezak) arrival, but also the anxiety of each day that passes without a sign of rescue. Surrounded by miles and miles of open sea, their human vices and strengths come to the surface as the characters interact with one another while defending themselves against the elements.
Nominated for three Oscars in 1945, the film's premise of restrictive circumstances and the resulting duress have since been recreated in films like Red Eye and Flightplan, which contain individuals inside the body of an airplane. Similarly in Castaway, Tom Hanks' character is trapped on an isolated island.
Shot in black and white, this legendary classic portrays the human will to survive. Still as time drags on and the passengers' private motives are revealed, the demarcation line between humanity and heartlessness sends the occupants to opposite ends of the Lifeboat.
Talk about the movie with your family...
Connie's affection for her material possessions is tested as she slowly loses all of them. Why are her typewriter and camera so important to her? How does she react when they are lost? How does her attitude change by the end of the film?
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lifeboat.
How do the “close quarters” in this film add to the tension? What is revealed about each person’s character? What part does trust play among the castaways?