Run Silent, Run Deep

The setting is the South Pacific during World War II. An American submarine tracks an enemy convoy along a deadly stretch known as the Bungo Straights. The captain, a grizzled Navy veteran, stands on the conning tower. He eyes his quarry through his binoculars with a palpable obsession. He barks orders to the bridge to race towards the danger. Below, the Executive Officer, a man of cool and dispassionate professionalism, conveys those orders to the men as they ready for a daring head-on attack on one of the deadliest destroyers in the Japanese fleet. The crew fears for their lives; no captain has ever led an assault down the throat of an enemy ship.  But the men, like the audience, are in good hands because the captain is Clark Gable, the Executive Officer is Burt Lancaster, the director is Robert Wise and the movie is “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958), featured May and June (2022) on MGM HD.



Produced by Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, the film follows the journey of Captain P.J. Richardson (Gable) as he attempts to redeem himself for the loss of a submarine in the same part of the Pacific a year earlier. After a long stint manning a desk, Richardson leaps at his chance to take command and face his old adversary, a fearsome Japanese captain referred to as “Bungo Pete.” Richardson hand picks Lieutenant Commander Jim Bledsoe (Lancaster), a young up-and-coming officer as his exec and promptly puts the crew of the sub through a relentless and demanding series of drills to train them for his deadly plan. From the start, Bledsoe bristles under Richardson’s command and doubts his abilities. What ensues is a match of wits that cause each man to question the other’s courage and sense of duty.



“Run Silent, Run Deep,” is the product of an interesting period for Hollywood movies. It boasts the star power of the studio era with Gable and Lancaster playing to type as the determined captain and his brooding underling. Yet the movie also has the intimate realism of an independent production during a time when big-name actors began to make their own films.



By shooting on location in San Diego for the stateside scenes, with the real wind blowing in from the Pacific in the background instead of a process screen and a fan, “Run Silent, Run Deep” feels more modern than your typical WWII movie. For the scenes on the submarine, the filmmakers strove for accuracy. Robert Wise had the actors work with a real submarine crew to learn how to depict the duties at hand and recreated the claustrophobic closeness of quarters. Under Wise’s assured directorial hand, the result is a taut action thriller complete with characterizations of depth and economy.



Look for veteran character actor Jack Warden and comedian Don Rickles, in his movie debut, rounding out the cast as two of the crewmen.


You have permission to board “Run Silent, Run Deep,” May and June (2022) on MGM HD.