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Film / Cry 'Havoc'

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"This is the story of thirteen women."

Cry 'Havoc' is a 1943 film directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, and Joan Blondell.

It is set in 1942 on the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines. As the film opens the situation is already bad, with the U.S. Army having been forced into Bataan as a last redoubt after the Japanese have conquered the rest of Luzon. Lt. Mary Smith (Sullavan), a supervisory nurse at an Army field hospital, is desperate for help. At the behest of her commander Capt. Alice Marsh (Fay Bainter), "Smitty" looks for volunteers with first aid experience among the civilians trapped on Bataan by the Japanese attack. She gets nine volunteers, including sassy, backtalking Pat (Sothern) and a stripper, Grace (Blondell). The women are initially catty towards each other, but the very serious and rapidly deteriorating situation on Bataan, and the stress they go through as hospital volunteers, cause them to form bonds. They also learn to respect the strict and serious Smitty, who has a couple of secrets.

Robert Mitchum, just starting out in Hollywood, plays a dying American soldier, and has one line.

Compare So Proudly We Hail!, another film also made in 1943 and also about Army nurses on Bataan.


  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Captain Smooth and Lieutenant Rough, that is. Capt. March is usually calm and pleasant while Lt. Smith is usually barking out orders.
  • Chromosome Casting: Not quite; we get a couple of lines from The Voice Lt. Holt, Robert Mitchum has one line, and there are a few more male doctors and soldiers in bit parts. But almost all the film is focused on the women volunteers and their women Army nurse supervisors.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: And a Shout-Out to Shakespeare. It's a quote from Julius Caesar: "Cry 'Havoc', and let slip the dogs of war."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Grace. After she takes a shrapnel wound to the leg, she says "Why couldn't it have been on my face, where no one would ever see it?"
  • The Ditz: Nydia the Southern girl is quite the moron. When Grace tells the others she takes her clothes off onstage, Nydia says "Were there men there?"
  • Downer Ending: The hospital surrenders and all the survivors are marched off into captivity.
  • Ensemble Cast: Nine volunteers, three supervisory nurses, and the cook, and they all have something to do at some point.
  • Good-Looking Privates: A gender flip, with nine extremely good-looking women volunteering for service in an Army field hospital at a desperate moment.
  • Intro Dump: When the nine volunteers arrive in camp, Smitty has them state their names for the roll and asks them what their skills are. This introduces the audience to the characters.
  • Mood Whiplash: Connie, Nydia, and Lusita obtain a precious bar of soap and go bathing in a nearby pond. Their fun little frolic is suddenly ended by a Zero that comes swooping in and strafes them, killing Connie.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The last shot is Pat and Smitty arm in arm, climbing the stairs out of the dugout to surrender to the Japanese.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Sue winds up being trapped in a storeroom for four days with six dead bodies after a Japanese bombing raid. After she's rescued she's giving the stare most of the time, when she isn't screaming.
  • Tomboyish Name: Hardass Lt. Mary Smith is called "Smitty".
  • The Voice: Lt. Holt, the male communications officer. He is seen briefly and from a distance while the volunteers are trundling into camp. Pat quickly develops a crush on him; later we discover that Smitty has a long-term romance with him. Outside of that quick far-distance glance, we never see him, but we do hear him a couple of times when Pat goes into his office.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Smitty has "malignant" malaria, which is the worst kind, and which means her death is basically a matter of time.