Crash Dive (found on IMDB) stars Tyrone Power as a naval lieutenant re-assigned from P.T. Boats to submarines during World War II. There is a side love story, which I thought we could have done without, but that’s just me. Jo Swerling wrote the screenplay and W.R. Burnett wrote the original story. As an early teenager I was very familiar with the W.R. Burnett. Quite a few Burnett novels were made into successful classic films: Little Caesar, High Sierra, and The Asphalt Jungle . . . and more.
What really perked my interest was seeing actor Ben Carter in a serious role as much more than just a messboy (works in the kitchen) with black skin. The United States has always been slow about counting on non-white mess saviors. The U.S. Navy seems to have been their best bet for acceptance.
“Negro messmen aboard a United States Navy cruiser who volunteered for additional duty as gunners. They have been doing proficient work under battle conditions on a task force in the Pacific under the instruction of the officers at the right.” July 10, 1942. National Archives Identifier: 520597, Local Identifier: 80-G-21743.
It was interesting seeing a friendly exchange between a black mess cook and white petty officer trying to hide a medical problem that would remove him from active duty on a submarine.
Oliver Cromwell Jones (Ben Carter): Mac, it’s none of my business, and it certainly isn’t up to me to give you advice, but if I had a weak heart …
Chief ‘Mac’ McDonnell (James Gleason): What are you talking about?
Oliver Cromwell Jones (Ben Carter): A man don’t take nitroglycerine for dandruff.
Tyrone Power, James Gleason, Ben Carter, and several more crewmen are picked to destroy a German seaside storage depot for German submarines.
The American submariners are adding blackface make up to their faces and hands as they prepare to go ashore on the commando raid:
Oliver Cromwell Jones (Ben Carter): Looks around at all the blackened faces and hands of the other crewmen] I’m the only born commando here!
Ben Carter (February 10, 1911 – December 12, 1946) was both an American actor as well as a casting agent. He appeared in numerous Hollywood feature films like The Harvey Girls, Dixie Jamboree, and Born to Sing. He gloried in the fact that he cast all the unknown black people in Gone with the Wind. He appeared with the Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races as well as two Charlie Chan movies The Scarlet Clue (1945) and Dark Alibi (1946).
Finding Carter in the World War II movie Crash Dive where his character rose above racial stereotypes was a nice contrast to many other films, as well as the portrayal of him as a valuable member of a submarine crew made the film all the more worthwhile and interesting. Thank you, IMDB.
Carter was involved with the Hollywood Victory Committee and was a civil rights activist. He died of diphtheria on December 12, 1946, in New York City.