Don’t Go Near the Water (1957) – reviewed by George

A World War Two Navy comedy, this movie deals with the lives and generally peaceful times of a Naval Public Relations Unit, located on a Pacific island, but far, far away from the action. The film, with a script by Dorothy Kingsley and George Wells, based on the novel by William Brinkley, and directed by Charles Walters, is episodic, and so varies from word-jokes to slapstick to romance to situational comedy, but overall it’s silly more than funny, although there are some pretty funny episodes.
The film stars Glenn Ford as Lt. J.G. Max Siegel, a Harvard man who dislikes his time on the island of Tulura, at least until he meets Melora Alba (played by Gia Scala). Melora is the daughter of the most cultivated Tuluran, and is the schoolteacher. Their romance and the forbidden romance of enlisted man Earl Holliman and officer Anne Francis (as Lt. Jane Tomlen, one of only 12 nurses in the Naval Hospital) are the serious matters at hand. Keenan Wynn plays one of the war correspondents the PR guys are trying to placate and convince to write favorable copy about the Navy – it never occurred to me before that writing patriotic stories would merit (or require) any kissing-up. And Eva Gabor is a journalist who cooperates maybe too willingly. She becomes the first woman on a warship and donates a pair of panties to the crew. When the Admiral sees them flying he gets apoplectic, but in the best line in the movie one of his men says, “Anyhow, sir. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
Fred Clark is Lieut. Comdr. Nash, normally a drone at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane (they never heard of the final comma), and is somewhat power mad, but still at the mercy of the correspondents because he wants only good stories from them, and so his crew has to keep them happy at any cost. He also has problems with the Navy High Command – he thinks they should be happy to agree to be interviewed, and they just won’t cooperate. In fact, Admiral Junius Boatwright (played by Howard Smith) thinks that all the correspondents and the PR oddballs should be loaded on a boat and taken into the middle of Tokyo Bay, where they would drive the enemy nuts and end the war one year faster.
Nash also wants visitors to see (and photograph) a certain type of Pacific Islander, so he charges Russ Tamblyn as Ens. Tyson to put loincloths on the modern Tuluran men. Then the next day Max takes two Congressmen (Jack Albertson and Charles Watts) on a Jeep tour of the island.
The big slapstick sequence occurs when Nash orders the SeaBees off building a new building for the unit and orders his men to do it themselves. The sequence is long and destructive and allows Russ Tamblyn to showcase his acrobatic moves while he is bumped off stuff, vaulted into the air, and so on. But the really funny part is the faces of the SeaBees as they watch from a hillside.
Then toward the end, Nash selects a seaman based entirely on his name, Farragut Jones (it is a great name), and has him brought to Tulura so that Max can teach him a speech to give to war workers back home. The problem? Farragut (played by Mickey Shaughnessy) can’t put three words together unless one of them is the F-bomb. When Max finally presents him to the PR staff (after days and days of work), he delivers his speech perfectly. And then……
I liked this movie a little, especially when Keenan Wynn got blackmailed, but I think I liked the theme song best of all. The music for the song (and the score for the film) are by Bronislau Kaper and the lyrics for the song are by Sammy Cahn.

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