Ship Ahoy (1942): Edward Buzzell’s Musical Comedy, Starring Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, and Frank Sinatra (Uncredited)

From Our Vaults:

Edward Buzzell directed Ship Ahoy, a B-level musical-comedy, starring Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton.

Ship Ahoy

Theatrical poster


Ship Ahoy was the first of two films in which Powell and Skelton co-starred. The couple next paired up in 1943’s I Dood It, directed by Vincente Minnelli, alongside with Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy’s brother.

Though it’s considered a lesser effort on both actors’ behalf, the film is notable today for including Frank Sinatra, who appears in uncredited performance as singer with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

The movie also is credited with one of the most unusual displays of dance on screen for a sequence in which Powell’s character, needing to communicate a message to a US agent in the audience, manages to tap out the message in morse code. Reportedly, Powell taps genuine code during the performance.

The film was to be called I’ll Take Manila, but it was renamed after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Tallulah Winters is a dancing star who is hired to perform on an ocean liner. Before she leaves, she is recruited by a branch of the American government and asked to smuggle a prototype explosive mine out of the country.

However, in reality, she is unknowingly working for Nazi agents who have stolen the mine. Meanwhile, Merton Kibble, a writer of pulp fiction stories but suffering from writer’s block, is on the same ship and soon he finds himself embroiled in Tallulah’s real-life adventure.

The film was popular, earning $1,831,000 at the US box office and $676,000 elsewhere, thus making MGM profit of $1,037,000.

Eleanor Powell as Tallulah Winters
Red Skelton as Merton K. Kibble
Bert Lahr as “Skip” Owens
Virginia O’Brien as Fran Evans
William Post Jr. as H. U. Bennett
James Cross as “Stump”
Eddie Hartman as “Stumpy”
Stuart Crawford as Art Higgins
John Emery as Dr. Farno
Bernard Nedell as Pietro Polesi
Tommy Dorsey as Himself
Frank Sinatra as Himself
Buddy Rich as Himself
Ziggy Elman as Himself
Moroni Olsen as Inspector Davis
George Watts as Hotel detective
Ralph Dunn as Flammer
William Tannen as Grimes


Directed by Edward Buzzell
Screenplay by Harry Clork, Irving Brecher (uncredited), Harry Kurnitz (uncredited), story by Matt Brooks, Bradford Ropes, Bert Kalmar
Produced by Jack Cummings
Cinematography Robert H. Planck, Leonard Smith, Clyde De Vinna
Edited by Blanche Sewell
Music by George Bassman, George Stoll

Production company:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed by Loew’s Inc.

Release date: May 1942

Running time: 95 mins.
Budget $1,037,000
Box office $2,507,000


TCM showed the movie on January 6, 2022.