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The Movie

Following the speech by President Roosevelt, Cecil B. DeMille set out to produce a movie documenting the events that brought Dr. Wassell and the men of the USS Marblehead and USS Houston to the attention of the world.  Mr. DeMille sent a telegram to the White House asking for permission to create a movie based upon the incident.  The White House gave their approval.  In addition, the Navy transferred Dr. Wassell to Hollywood to assist with the production.  Dr. Wassell spent a year with Mr. DeMille recreating the events.  Mr. DeMille also interviewed many of the sailors involved to recreate the events.

The film, The Story of Dr. Wassell, was released in New York, Los Angeles and Arkansas on June 6, 1944.  It opened across the United States on July 4, 1944.  The film met with mixed reviews.  However, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects.

All of the proceeds earned by Dr. Wassell were donated to a hospital for the deaf and blind in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Melvin Francis, one of the wounded sailors who was treated and evacuated by Dr. Wassell, played himself in the movie.

Gary Cooper played Dr. Wassell.  Dennis O'Keefe played Benjamin Hopkins, the sailor who was left behind captured by the Japanese.  At the end of the movie it was announced that Mr. Hopkins was alive, a fact which was not known while the film was in production.  Also appearing was Yvonne De Carlo, an actress who would later appear in DeMille's movie "The Ten Commandments" and the television series "The Munsters".

An overview of the movie may be seen here at The Philip Ahn Admiration Society.  Mr. Ahn also appeared in the movie, and was later known as Master Kan in the "Kung Fu" television series.

The movie is shown regularly on American Movie Classics (AMC) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM).  It is also available for purchase.

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