Here Comes the Navy (1934): Cagney’s Oscar-Nominated Film

Directed by Lloyd Bacon and scripted by Ben Markson and Earl Baldwin, based on the former’s story, Here Comes the Navy puts the cocky James Cagney into a sailor suit aboard the USS Arizona.

This was Cagney’s first film after the inception of the Legion of Decency code, which placed severe impositions on filmmaking.

Despite mixed review, the movie, originally titled “Hey, Sailor,” was Oscar nominated for Best Picture and proved to be a commercial hit with the public too.

Marking the first of 8 appearances with frequent co-star Pat O’Brien, Cagney plays Chesty O’Connor, a hot-tempered, undisciplined man who loses his girl to his competitor Biff Martin (O’Brien) at a dance hall.

Later, assigned to duty on the USS Arizona, where Biff  serves as Petty Officer, O’Connor disrupts social order with his rugged individualism, causing a rift and alienation between him and the other mates.

Biff, like the other men, dislikes O’Connor’s arrogant attitude and also resents his romance with his own sister, Dorothy Martin (played by Gloria Stuart).

When O’Connor goes A.W.O.L., Biff decides to court-martial him. In the end, O’Connor redeems himself with a heroic rescue, during which he gets burned, but his effort to rescue his peers is successful and he is restored to favor.

With the cooperation of the U.S. Navy, “Here Comes the Navy” was shot aboard the USS Arizona and at San Diego’s Naval Training Station.  The ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Picture, produced by Lou Edelman

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

Here Comes the Navy competed for the Best Picture with nine other films: The Barrets of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorcee, The House of Rothchild, Imitation of Life, It Happened One Night, One Night of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, and The White Parade.

It Happened One Night swept most of the 1934 Oscars, including Best Picture.