Devil and the Deep (1932)


Devil and the Deep stars Tallulah Bankhead as the wife of a U.S. naval commander played by Charles Laughton (receiving ‘introducing’ credit here). Laughton’s character is mentally ill and insanely jealous of every man Bankhead ever comes into contact with, which includes Cary Grant early on in the film, and later with Gary Cooper. Thing is, Tallulah really did sleep with Cooper (God bless pre-code Hollywood). Things escalate to a third act in which Laughton takes his whole submarine crew, along with Cooper and Bankhead, undersea and creates an accident that crashes them on the ocean floor where they have their final showdown.

Devil and the Deep starts out a bit too talky, but opens up after the first act to include interesting outdoor Arabian sets and commendable underwater stunt work and miniature photography in the third act. Cooper’s naturalistic performance holds up the best. Bankhead plays it cool and dreary, while Laughton’s charisma is overwhelming at times. He’s a bit of a ham, but I think that’s always been part of his charm. All in all, you probably won’t find a better ‘love triangle aboard a crashed submarine’ movie, especially from the early 1930s.

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