Released: September 29, 1943 Running time 98 minutes
Director: Richard Rosson, Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: John Rhodes Sturdy
Music: David Buttolph
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio and Harry Perry
Editor: Edward Curtiss
Art Director: Robert F. Boyle and John B. Goodman
Noah Beery Jr.
Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson never intended to create the role of second-unit director; they were just trying to make good movies.
From their first collaboration on the gangster classic, “Scarface,” Rosson and Hawks developed a relationship of mutual trust that saw Rosson shooting some of the most stunning scenes in a wide variety of movies that carried the “Directed by Howard Hawks” banner.
In 1932, Rosson traveled up and down the Mexico’s Pacific coast for two months with cameraman Byron Haskin and a sixteen-man crew to capture the fishing sequences that gave Hawks’ “Tiger Shark” a needed dose of realism and power. The two torpedo boat sequences that Rosson filmed for Hawks’ 1933 “Today We Live” are among the few things that keep this picture from being a total disaster. And, even after Howard Hawks was dismissed from the set of “Come and Get It,” his second unit director’s logging scenes were retained for their vivid intensity.
Whenever Hawks needed to obtain location shots of people doing difficult and dangerous jobs, Richard Rosson was his first choice to direct them and Rosson rewarded his friend’s faith every time with work that always exceeded the director’s expectations.
When Hawks wrapped up “Air Force” in October of 1942 after an arduous thirty-four weeks of work and a nearly infinite number of battles with Hal Wallis, he was ready for a little recreation and relaxation. Despite his marriage to Nancy “Slim” Gross less than a year earlier, Hawks soon turned his attention to a young actress named Ella Raines.
Introduced by Charles Feldman, Ella and Howard hit it off immediately. Hawks soon signed Raines to an exclusive contract with his recently formed B-H Productions Company. The actress began spending time at the Hawks ranch while Slim was away and Hawks began preparing her for an extensive screen test.
Meanwhile, he began work on a production for Universal Studios. Initially planned as a low budget war film, “Corvettes in Action” was designed to glorify the role of the fast little ships that escorted convoys across the submarine infested North Atlantic. Unlike “Air Force,” this new war film had an appealing female role. Hawks decided that the part of the young woman who loses one brother at sea and must stand by her older brother and new boyfriend in their dangerous new assignment would be played by his latest protégé.
Concentrating most of his attention on preparing Ella Raines for her screen debut, Hawks opted to produce the picture but turn over the director’s chair to the ever-reliable Richard Rosson.
That’s not to say that the compulsive director gave his friend an entirely free reign. As much as Hawks disliked interference when he was making a movie, he felt totally free to assume directing responsibilities when he was producing a picture. Fortunately, the bond between Rosson and Hawks was strong enough to handle this situation. Hawks ended up shooting most of the action filmed on the sound stage, obsessing about Raines appearance and lighting, rewriting the script on the fly, and, in typical Hawks fashion, rapidly driving the project over budget. Rosson, doing what he did best, captured exciting footage of corvettes and other ships in action in the North Atlantic while also filming some exceptional footage at shipyards in Montreal.
Renamed “Corvette K-225,” the Rosson-Hawks collaboration did decent box office business but did not turn a profit until three years after its release. As for Ella Raines, her role in the finished film now seems so minor that it hardly justified all the time and money Hawks invested in making it happen.
"He was very charming, very thoughtful, very kind. He helped me through all my scenes." - Ella Raines on Howard Hawks while filming Corvette K225
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.