“The Bedford Incident” (1965) starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur, & Martin Balsam

The cold war just got hotter. -A tagline for the movie

Capt. Finlander: It’s been my experience with the press that they ignore truth for sensationalism.

Capt. Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark) plays a hardened cold-warrior on the American Naval destroyer USS Bedford. Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is a famous photojournalist given permission to interview the captain during a routine patrol. Lt. Cmdr. Chester Potter (Martin Balsam) comes with Munceford; he is the new doctor assigned to the ship. As they are adjusting to the ship, the Bedford discovers a Soviet sub nearby. Capt. Finlander begins a relentless pursuit, pushing his crew… perhaps to the breaking point!

Ben Munceford: I’ve heard a lot about you, Commodore, but I never expected I’d meet you.

Commodore Schrepke: Is that so?

Ben Munceford: Not aboard an American destroyer.

Commodore Schrepke: [Is] that so surprising in these times?

Ben Munceford: I guess not, if one can make the switch mentally. But I, uh… I still connect you with… Hitler’s navy.

Commodore Schrepke: Your pardon: Admiral Dönitz’s navy, sir.

This movie unites (real-life pals) Widmark and Poitier; they also worked on No Way Out (1950) and The Long Ships (1964). Poitier had been making films for 15 yrs at this time, BUT this was the 1st film in which his race was neither mentioned nor relevant. The role of the medical officer was written for Poitier, BUT he asked to play the journo instead. The former U-Boat commander onboard, Commodore Wolfgang Shrepke (Eric Portman- a Brit known for playing Germans), is a NATO advisor. The eager/cute Ensign Ralston (James MacArthur) MAY be familiar to some viewers; he played the older bro (Fritz) in the 1960 Disney classic- The Swiss Family Robinson. Look out for a 20-ish Donald Sutherland; he’s one of the nerdy scientists in the ship’s lab in an early scene.

Commodore Schrepke: That permission specifically said “if the sub is still in territorial waters,” is that not so?

Capt. Finlander: A matter of interpretation, Commodore.

Commodore Schrepke: But the Russian is in international waters. The ocean is free, my captain.

Capt. Finlander: Yeah, so it is.

Commodore Schrepke: So you have lost your opportunity. It was magnificent –

Capt. Finlander: Look, if I catch a man robbing my house and he makes a break for the street, do I let him go just because he made it to the sidewalk?

The director (James B. Harris) and screenwriter (James Poe) were able to visit a Navy destroyer in Norfolk, VA for pre-production research in late 1963. When Munceford and Lt. Cmdr. Potter are flying out to the destroyer, they are aboard an H-19 helicopter, which was called the Whirlwind by the British. Interior scenes were filmed aboard a British Type 15 frigate (the H.M.S. Troubridge); much British military equipment can seen around the ship. The cameras Munceford uses are the Nikon Model F and Pentax; the tape recorder he uses is a 1964 Philips EL3300 (the world’s 1st commercial compact cassette recorder).

I’m a long-time fan of Poitier and saw several of his more famous films growing up; he was a hero to MANY people (of all backgrounds) for his acting and activism. In the pandemic, I’ve been focusing on the noir genre; Widmark got his start there, though he later made many Westerns. I plan to watch and review more of this movies in the near future. I’m also a fan of the submarine drama Crimson Tide (1995) starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. There are a LOT of sub-related movies out there; I recently listened to reviews of a few on the podcast Submersion.

2 thoughts on ““The Bedford Incident” (1965) starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur, & Martin Balsam

  1. I have seen this, although it’s not one of the films of his that TCM regularly replays, even during the “Summer under the Stars” when they dedicate 24 hours to each of the stars they suggest. It’s not all that memorable but I always enjoy seeing Poitier.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.