Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lifeboat (1944)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lifeboat (1944)

In director Alfred Hitchcock's tense ensemble adventure thriller-drama about American and German civilians who were survivors of a U-Boat attack and confined together on a lifeboat:

  • the opening scene - the aftermath of the sinking of an Allied passenger freighter (sailing from New York to London) by a Nazi U-boat's torpedo - swirling waters - and the views of the debris-strewn surface of the water, in a slow pan from left to right, including a box of American Red Cross supplies for Great Britain, a broken crate of fruit, a New Yorker magazine cover, some playing cards, large wooden spoons, a checkerboard, and a dead German face-down in the water with a lifebelt on his back
  • the first view of the titular lifeboat, with a single occupant wearing a mink coat -- rich, well-dressed, spoiled and cynical fashion photo-journalist Constance "Connie" Porter (Tallulah Bankhead), who was soon joined by anti-Nazi Czech-American Kovak (John Hodiak), a grease-covered engine-room freighter worker, and then a number of others, including English radio operator Stanley "Sparks" Garrett (Hume Cronyn), Army nurse Alice Mackenzie (Mary Anderson), and wealthy industrialist C.J. "Ritt" Rittenhouse (Henry Hull)
  • the back-lit scene of black steward "Joe" Spencer's (Canada Lee) moving recitation of the 23rd Psalm - part of the burial service (at sea) for the dead infant child of young shell-shocked Britisher Mrs. Higley (Heather Angel): ("....He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen")
  • the surprise cameo appearance of director Hitchcock in a newspaper ad for a waist-slimming product (Reduco Obesity Slayer)
  • the almost-wordless scene of the gruesome amputation of the gangrene-infected leg of seriously-wounded German-American Gus Smith (William Bendix), after heating up the blade of a knife with a cigarette lighter (protected from the wind by the hands of the survivors)
  • the revelation that one of the lifeboat's passengers was the Nazi U-boat Captain (Kapitan) Willi, the German (Walter Slezak), and that he was discovered to be steering them toward a German supply boat, not toward Bermuda as he promised; eventually after the passengers found Willi hoarding water, they beat him and pushed him overboard
  • the scene of the indomitable Connie putting her initials in lipstick on Kovac's chest and using her diamond bracelet as a fish bait-lure
One of Lifeboat Survivors Was German Nazi U-Boat Kapitan
Connie's Initials on Kovac's Chest
Connie: "Well, maybe they can answer that"
  • Connie's worry about her appearance after seeing on the horizon the American ship that was to rescue her and her companions after it had attacked, bombarded, and sunk the approaching German vessel (that Willi had earlier attempted to guide them toward)
  • the ambiguous ending when at the last moment, the lifeboat passengers were forced to decide what to do with a young injured and frightened German sailor/survivor who had climbed onboard their lifeboat from the sunken German warship; he asked: ("Aren't you going to kill me?"); Kovac mumbled under his breath, and then spoke to English merchant seaman and radio operator Stanley: ("Aren't you going to kill me? What're you gonna do with people like that?"); Stanley thought about the answer that might have been given by some of the deceased: ("I don't know. I was thinking of Mrs. Higley and her baby, and Gus"), and Connie (in close-up) wondered that maybe Mrs. Higley and Gus could answer him: ("Well, maybe they can answer that")

After The Sinking of an Allied Passenger Ship - One of the German U-Boat Bodies

The First Lifeboat Occupant: "Connie" Porter

Joe's Recitation of 23rd Psalm

Hitchcock's Cameo in Weight-Loss Ad

Gangrene Infected Leg Amputation Sequence - Shielding the Flame

Angry Group against German Kapitan Willi


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