Cast & Crew
In the Pacific Ocean in during World War I, a German U-Boat carrying a gold shipment comes across a British sail ship. The German U-Boat commander, Von Boulten, has the U- Boat surface only to discover that the British ship has hidden guns aboard. In the battle, the German U-Boat is sunk, and Von Boulten and his lieutenant, the sole survivors, swim ashore. When their rescue seems assured, Von Boulten pushes his mate down a cliff, keeping for himself the map with the gold's location. Twelve years later on the docks of San Francisco, Von Boulten, now named Karl Schlemmer, meets with deep-sea diver Steve McCreary. Along with Lily, the group's financial backer, the three make a pact to raise the $3,000,000 in gold, and split it three ways. Out at sea, Schlemmer faces a near mutiny by his crew due to the rough weather. Steve tries to force Schlemmer to give him the map, but Schlemmer pulls a gun just as the ship is sunk by a giant wave. Together on a lifeboat, Steve tears the map in half, effectively making himself Schlemmer's partner. Three years later, Steve and Schlemmer sign on with a scientific expedition financed by socialite Diana Templeton, an aspiring oceanographer. Steve and Diana are attracted to each other, though Steve sees her mostly as a publicity-seeking nuisance, more interested in having her picture taken than science. When Diana gets Steve alone in the ship's dark room, he kisses her and becomes hooked. Lily, who was left behind in San Francisco, stows away on board and becomes a member of the galley crew. Schlemmer promises each partner that he will cheat the other, though Steve realizes that Schlemmer wants all the gold for himself and tells him so. When Diana uses Steve's diving gear without his permission, she develops the "bends," and Steve must rush her to the decompression tank. At dinner that night, scientists Dr. Chapman and Horace Waldridge want Steve removed from the ship, much to Schlemmer's chagrin. Steve arrives drunk and tells the group off, but Diana, surprisingly, takes all the blame herself. On deck, Steve and Diana make up. The next day, Steve and Schlemmer take off in a tender. After discovering the sunken U-Boat, Steve uses an underwater torch to cut inside and find the gold box. They attach the gold to a buoy, planning to return the next day with a crane to recover it. The next morning, Schlemmer and Lily drug Steve's coffee and leaves him behind. When he awakes, he discovers the two are gone. Diana and photographer Bert Jackson, meanwhile, go down in the diving bell, which is attacked by a giant octopus, which breaks the bell's air hose and steel chain. Steve goes down in his diving suit and kills the octopus with the torch, and the bell is raised just in time to save Diana and Bert from suffocation. Steve spies Schlemmer and Lily as they raise the sunken treasure. However, the box breaks just as it surfaces, and the gold spills out. As the box falls into the water, Schlemmer's foot becomes tangled in the chain, dragging him down with the gold. On deck that night, Steve tells Diana that saving her cost him $1,000,000, as the gold, now in the muddy sea bottom, is lost forever. He tells her she is just trouble, like him, and they kiss.
William J. Kelly
Below the Sea
In Below the Sea Wray plays a wealthy heiress and aspiring scientific explorer who finances an oceanographic expedition that is redirected by a former German Navy officer into a hunt for lost gold in a sunken German U-Boat. The actress exudes an undeniable sex appeal opposite leading man Bellamy, best known in the 1930s as the rich but mild-mannered and none-too-exciting "other man" in romantic comedies, such as The Awful Truth (1937), the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical Carefree (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). Here he displays another side of his persona as a gruff deep-sea diver, displaying his physical prowess in action sequences such as an underwater battle to the death with a killer octopus. The versatile and well-liked actor went on to a long and distinguished career taking on a wide range of roles, up to his last appearance, well into his 80s, in Pretty Woman (1990). He was honored by his peers in 1987 with an honorary Academy Award.
In her 1989 autobiography On the Other Hand, Wray recounted an amusing story about the production of Below the Sea. For a romantic shipboard scene between Wray and Bellamy, director Albert Rogell thought it would be more pictorially interesting if seagulls appeared in the background. He had a crew member strew crumbs along the rail behind the actors to attract the birds, but the gulls swooped down immediately and snatched all the food before the cameras were rolling. Second take, same problem. Wray said that the frustrated Rogell then shouted for the wild birds to be directed to fly through "one at a time" - as if that were possible.
Reportedly, there was some underwater footage shot in the early two-color Technicolor process for Below the Sea, but none of it was included in the release print. Even without this scene, Joseph Walker's cinematography reaped praise from reviewers of the day, who also noted the skillful blending of comedy, romance, melodrama and adventure. Although mostly unknown to audiences today, Below the Sea was a hit for Columbia when first released.
Director: Albert S. Rogell
Screenplay: Jo Swerling
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Film Editing: Jack Dennis
Cast: Ralph Bellamy (Steve McCreary), Fay Wray (Diane Templeton), Frederick Vogeding (Karl Schlemmer), Esther Howard (Lily), William J. Kelly (Dr. Chapman), Paul Page (Bert Jackson).
by Rob Nixon
Below the Sea
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
She was born Vina Fay Wray, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada on September 15, 1907. Her family relocated to Arizona when she was still a toddler so her father could find employment. When her parents divorced, her mother sent her to Hollywood when Fay's eldest sister died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The reasoning was that Southern California offered a healthier climate for the young, frail Wray.
She attended Hollywood High School, where she took some classes in drama. After she graduated, she applied to the Hal Roach studio and was given a six-month contract where she appeared in two-reel Westerns (25 minutes in length), and played opposite Stan Laurel in his pre-Oliver Hardy days.
She landed her first big role, as Mitzi Schrammell, in Erich von Stroheim's beautifully mounted silent The Wedding March (1928). It made Wray a star. She then starred in some excellent films: The Four Feathers (1929), the early Gary Cooper Western The Texan (1930), and one of Ronald Coleman's first starring roles The Unholy Garden (1931), all of which were big hits of the day.
For whatever reason, Wray soon found herself in a string of thrillers that made her one of the great screamers in Hollywood history. The titles say it all: Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game (both 1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Bat (both 1933) and, of course her most famous role, that of Ann Darrow, who tempts cinema's most famous ape in the unforgettable King Kong (also 1933).
Wray did prove herself quite capable in genre outside of the horror game, the best of which were Shanghai Madness with Spencer Tracy; The Bowery (both 1933), a tough pre-Hays Code drama opposite George Raft; and the brutal Viva Villa (1934), with Wallace Beery about the famed Mexican bandit. Yet curiously, the quality of her scripts began to tank, and she eventually found herself acting in such mediocre fare as Come Out of the Pantry (1935), and They Met in a Taxi (1936).
With her roles becoming increasingly routine, the last of which was the forgettable comedy Not a Ladies Man (1942), she decided to trade acting for domesticity and married Robert Riskin, who won two Best Screenplay Oscars® for the Frank Capra comedies It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). When Riskin died in 1955, Wray found herself working to keep busy and support her three children. She landed supporting parts for films like The Cobweb (1955), Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). She also found work in television on such popular programs as Perry Mason and Wagon Train before she retired from acting all together in the mid-'60s.
To her credit, Wray did remain reasonably active after her retirement. She published her autobiography, On The Other Hand in 1989 and was attending many film festivals that honored her contribution to film, most notably in January 2003, when, at 95 years of age, she accepted in person her "Legend in Film" Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Wray is survived by a son, Robert Riskin Jr.; two daughters, Susan and Victoria; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
The summary for this film was based on the viewing of an incomplete print. The opening of the film, aboard the U-Boat and on the deserted island, is performed in German without English subtitles. According to contemporary sources, part of the film was shot in two-color Technicolor. In the press conference scene, "Dr. Chapman" announces that he is going to screen some underwater color footage, but that footage was missing from the viewed print. According to Motion Picture Daily, the film was released under the title Hell's Cargo in most territories, but exhibitors were permitted to use the orginal title if inclined. M-G-M's 1933 film of a similiar title, Hell Below, was believed to have been the reason for the title change.