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Cry "Havoc"

This article is about the 1943 motion picture. For the board game see Cry Havoc.
Cry 'Havoc'
File:Cry 'Havoc' cinema poster.jpg
Cinema poster
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Produced by Edwin H. Knopf
Screenplay by Paul Osborn
Jane Murfin (uncredited)
Based on Proof Through the Night
by Allan R. Kenward
Starring Margaret Sullavan
Ann Sothern
Joan Blondell
Fay Bainter
Marsha Hunt
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Karl Freund
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • November 23, 1943 (1943-11-23) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Cry 'Havoc' is a 1943 American war drama film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Richard Thorpe. The cast is primarily female, with the main roles played by Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines, Frances Gifford, Diana Lewis, Heather Angel, Dorothy Morris and Connie Gilchrist.

Production background

The film is based on a play by Allan Kenward which opened in Hollywood, California in September 1942.[1] The play was also presented on Broadway, under the title Proof Through the Night with Carol Channing and Ann Shoemaker. However, the play was not successful, opening on December 25, 1942 and closing January 2, 1943 after 11 performances.[2] The title comes from a famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."


The film tells the story of a mixed group of Army nurses stationed in Bataan during World War II. At the beginning of the film, the head nurse, Lt. Mary Smith (Margaret Sullavan) begs her superior, Capt. Alice Marsh (Fay Bainter) for more nurses to help deal with the excessive workload, but instead of professional nurses, she is assigned a group of civilians from various backgrounds. They lack experience and require training and find it difficult to settle in. Pat Conlin (Ann Sothern) rebels against Lt. Smith's strict nature, but the group begin to reveal stories from their past and become better acquainted. They also meet a male officer, Lt. Holt (Allan Byron), and Pat becomes infatuated with him, leading to jealousy between her and Lt. Smith who refuses to explain why she is offended by Pat's attention to him. During an air-raid one of the volunteers, Sue West (Dorothy Morris), is separated from the group, and some of the women, including her sister Andra (Heather Angel) search for her. After three days she is found alive, having spent the time trapped in a hut with the corpses of several soldiers who were killed during the attack.

The hardships bring the women closer and they discuss their hopes for the future. Grace (Joan Blondell), a former burlesque performer dances for the group to break the tension. Sue remains in a state of shock following her ordeal, and this is compounded when the hospital is attacked again. Grace is injured, and in a later attack, Connie (Ella Raines) is killed. An opportunity arises for all of the women to leave the island, but after some discussion they all decide to remain and help as best they can. The group learns that Lt. Holt has been killed and both Pat and Lt. Smith are grief-stricken. Soon after, Lt. Smith becomes ill with malaria and in her delirium reveals that she was married to Lt. Holt and that they were keeping their marriage a secret due to a military regulation that prevented married couples from serving together. The film ends with the hospital surrounded by Japanese forces and the nurses forced to surrender to them.

Reaction to the film

The film was considered topical, with Bataan often in the news at the time, and proved to be profitable. The film writer, John Douglas Eames, commented that much of the film was theatrical rather than cinematic, and he also noted that "some of the girls seemed to have found a beauty salon on Bataan".[3] Leonard Maltin also noted that its stage origins were obvious, but that it offered a "pretty honest picture of war".[4]

Of note to modern audiences is a very early film appearance by Robert Mitchum, who is briefly seen as a dying soldier. The film also marks the final performance by Diana Lewis, who retired following her marriage to the actor William Powell.

Main cast and characters

70px Margaret Sullavan as Lt. Mary Smith 70px Frances Gifford as Helen Domeret
70px Ann Sothern as Pat Conlin 70px Diana Lewis as Nydia Joyce
70px Joan Blondell as Grace Lambert 70px Heather Angel as Andra West
70px Fay Bainter as Capt. Alice Marsh 70px Dorothy Morris as Sue West
70px Marsha Hunt as Flo Norris 70px Connie Gilchrist as Sadie, the cook
70px Ella Raines as Connie Booth


  1. ^ IMDB entry
  2. ^ Internet Broadway Database entry
  3. ^ Eames, John Douglas, The MGM Story, Octopus Books, London, 1975. p. 186. ISBN 0-904230-23-6
  4. ^ Maltin, Leonard, Leonard Maltin's 1998 Movie and Video Guide, Signet Books, 1998. p. 291. ISBN 0-451-19288-5

External links