As a modern Captain Ahab, Clark Gable stars as “Commander ‘Rich’ Richardson”, who is hellbent on finding an infamous Japanese destroyer named the “Akikaze”, which serves as the Captain’s “Moby Dick” of the story. His co-star and co-producer of the film, Burt Lancaster, portrays “Lt. Jim Bledsoe”, the Commander’s secondhand man who eventually takes over the responsibility for the captain when he is incapacitated from completing his duties. It was not just on the screen that the stars channeled their character’s frustration. In fact, it was more of an imitation of real life where the stars themselves could not get along.
The tense chemistry between Gable and Lancaster seemed to start over a clause in Gable’s contract which had become well-known to the studios. At this time in his career, Gable had made it a strict policy that regardless of what may be going on on set, once the clock turned 5 o’clock in the evening, he would leave the set to return home to his wife Kay. It aggravated the cast, the crew and especially Lancaster when Gable would cut short their shooting days. Reportedly, while shooting one of his scenes, Gable just left the scene because it had turned 5 o’clock. Lancaster would try to stop Gable from leaving the set but remained unsuccessful.
However, Lancaster was not as innocent in the feud. It is rumored that Lancaster, either to poke fun or to retaliate, would make fun of Gable’s age of 54. But their uneasy working environment would be put to the ultimate test when Gable disagreed with one aspect of the script.
The original story was supposed to unfold in which Lancaster’s character was supposed to mutiny against Gable’s murderous-obsessive Commander but Gable disagreed with this part of the story. A fight broke out on set and the veteran movie star left the set. He had stuck to his beliefs and called in sick for the following two days in order to prove his point to Lancaster. Finally, the production was forced to agree with Gable and the screenwriter, John Gay, rewrote the script. The revised script and what appears in the final film, is that Gable’s character suffers from an injury in which Lancaster’s character must take over.
Although it was not a commercial success, the film brought critical recognition for director Robert Wise. Later in his life, Lancaster would acknowledge Gable as being a consummate professional on set. The film also featured actor/comedian Don Rickles’ first onscreen appearance.
Today, “Run Silent Run Deep” is one of the films that set the bar for the genre of submarine war films and the film genre of war in general. The film provides a dynamic storyline with great dramatic performances from not only Gable and Lancaster but by the supporting cast as well.