is a 1944 film starring Tallulah Bankhead and directed by Alfred Hitchcock
, based on a story by John Steinbeck
The film opens with a ship sinking. Soon a lifeboat appears with one passenger, a rich, snooty newspaper columnist named Connie Porter (Bankhead). Other survivors make their way onto the boat: Kovac, Stanley, Joe, and Gus, four of the ship's crew; wealthy industrialist C.J. Rittenhouse; Alice, an Army nurse; and Mrs. Higgins, a war refugee. Finally, they pick up Willi (Walter Slezak), a German who was on the U-boat that sank their ship—the U-boat, it turns out, also sank. Kovac wants to throw Willi into the ocean, but the others prevail on him to do the honorable thing and keep Willi aboard as a prisoner. The passengers aboard the lifeboat then have to struggle to survive on the open ocean, while Willi plays them off each other in an effort to gain control.Lifeboat
took a lot of criticism at the time for making its German villain a strong and intelligent character. It bombed at the box office but still got Alfred Hitchcock an Oscar nomination for Best Director (he didn't win).
- Amputation Stops Spread: Gus' leg is amputated on the lifeboat to prevent the spread of gangrene.
- Beta Couple: Stanley and Alice to Connie and Kovac.
- Bilingual Backfire: Willi can only speak German, with Connie translating—until the storm hits the boat and he starts barking orders in perfect, fluent English.
- Claustrophobia: Trapped in a lifeboat, with hunger and thirst eating away at the passengers. Willi hoards food and water, which eventually allows him to take charge.
- Creator Cameo: Alfred Hitchcock always did these, but here it proved a challenge. After considering the possibility of playing a corpse floating in the water, he inserted himself into a weight loss advertisement on the newspaper the people on the boat read. He provides a Before and After picture.
- Empathy Doll Shot: A baby bottle floats by the boat. Subverted when Connie grabs her camera so she can capture a dramatic Empathy Doll Shot.
- Establishing Character Moment: Any possibility that Willi might be a good guy is eliminated when, upon the reveal that Mrs. Higgins' baby is dead, he gives a bored yawn and lies down to take a nap.
- Fake Brit: Hume Cronyn, a Canadian-American, portrays the British character Stanley. One critic noted that he sometimes doesn't even bother with the accent.
- Faux Affably Evil: Willi is cheerful and polite, and sings German folk songs as he rows the boat. He also hides water and food, does not reveal that he has a compass and can speak English, and murders poor Gus after Gus catches him swigging from his hidden water flask.
- Infant Immortality: Subverted when the baby Mrs. Higgins brings aboard the boat is revealed to be dead.
- Lost at Sea: With little food or water. They try to sail to the island of Bermuda, but Willi deliberately steers them in the other direction, towards a German supply ship.
- Manipulative Bastard: Willi lies to the others, plays them against each other, and through sheer force of will winds up in charge, rowing them all to the German supply ship and internment.
- Pretty in Mink: While all the others had to swim to the lifeboat, Connie got in it before the boat sank, and is decked out in all of her finery, including her mink coat. This provides for a bit of comedy when other passengers climb aboard soaking wet and slick with oil, only to goggle at her.
- Running Gag: Connie got to the boat before the ship sank, and managed to also bring away her mink coat, her camera, her typewriter, her diamond bracelet, and her luggage. She gradually loses all of her stuff over the course of the film.
- Small Secluded World: The entire film takes place on the lifeboat.