Although I am (obviously) a Cary Grant fan, I have never been into war films, especially submarine films. So Destination Tokyo was a film that I have had on DVD for ages, and always put off watching until today, when I could not find anything I wanted to watch more. . It turned out to be a fairly well-made tense drama with some genuine suspense. Cary Grant plays the captain of a US Navy sub given the dangerous mission of sneaking into Tokyo Bay and sending men ashore to gather topographical and weather data needed by the Air Force for the Doolittle raid. The crew is played by character actors such as Alan Hale, Dane Clark, and William Prince, a young John Forsythe in his first credited role, and an excellent John Garfield, who has all of the best lines in the film. “The only kind of babies I am interested in,” he says in one scene, “are the ones born 21 years ago.” Robert Hutton is a timid submariner on his first patrol, who goes on to play a critical role in the mission. As a long-time resident in Japan, I was made slightly uneasy by some of the anti-Japanese propaganda, but realize this is is far from the worst of what came out of Hollywood during the war.
Grant, who became a US citizen in the year proceeding this film, was sometimes criticized for not doing more to “do his part” for the war effort. Grant’s biographer Marc Eliot claims that the actor actually volunteered to enlist, but was told he could better serve by basically spying on his wife Barbara Hutton, whose previous husband, Curt Haugwitz-Reventlow, was a possible Nazi-sympathizer. Grant was also instructed to make films highlighting the war effort, and this is one of the results of that command.