Until They Sail (1957)

MGM

Paul Newman was reunited with director Robert Wise, who had catapulted him to stardom in “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” for his third MGM loan-out from Warner in the WWII melodrama “Until They Sail.”

As a tough, disillusioned U.S. Marine Captain in WWII New Zealand who cynically investigates servicemen's requests to marry New Zealand girls, seeking refuge in drinking because of an earlier marriage that didn't work out.  That is until he meets a young war widow, sensitively played by Jean Simmons.

The story centers on the four Leslie sisters of Christchurch and their reaction to the boisterous American GIs who came to New Zealand during the war on route to battle zones, during which they romanced the local girls—until they sail.

Barbara Leslie Forbes (Jean Simmons) is still attached to the memory of her husband, who was killed after one month of marriage, but she keeps things in perspective and her emotions under control. In contrast, Anne Leslie (Joan Fontaine) is a prim spinster who fears men but pretends to disapprove of them. She softens under the romantic ministrations of a gentle captain (Charles Drake) who's later killed in action, leaving her pregnant with his child.

The third sister, Delia (Piper Laurie), a passionate femme, marries the local low-life Phil Friskett (Wally Cassell), who later goes off to the war. The youngest, Evelyn (Sandra Dee), wistfully observes her sisters' lives, quietly waiting for her true love, who is also at war.

There are not any men around. The Leslie sisters' parents are dead and their only brother has been killed in the war. Moreover, almost all the men of New Zealand are away fighting, leaving the women under the influence of the virile and horny GIs. 

But the women exert impact on the men.  Newman's Captain Jack Harding is humanized by his love for Barbara, who eventually returns his feelings.  Delia's need for fulfillment drives her into promiscuity with officers, and when her husband returns from the war and discovers her conduct, he kills her. And in the end, Evelyn is reunited with her childhood sweetheart.

Cast

Jean Simmons

Joan Fontaine

Paul Newman

Piper Laurie

Charles Drake

Sandra Dee

Wally Cassell

Alan Napier

Ralph Votrian

John Wildern

Tige Andrews

Adam Kennedy

Mickey Shaughnessy

 

Credits

Produced by Charles Schnee.

Directed by Robert Wise.

Associate Producer, James E. Newcom.

Screenplay by Robert Anderson, based upon a story by James A. Michener.

Music by David Raksin.

Lyrics for song, Until They Sail by Sammy Cahn. Sung by Eydie Forme.

Director of Photography, Joseph Ruttenberg

Art Directors, William A. Horning and Paul Groesse.

Film Editor, Harold F. Kress.

Running time, 94 minutes.