For Those in Peril -1944

J.O.C. Orton was born in 1889 in London, England as John Overton Cove Orton. He was a scenarist, screen and script writer who also directed in the 1920s. It seems he was known best for films such as Born for Glory (1935), Hi Gang! (1941) and Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) which broke box office records in Britain. He died in May 1962 in London. As a Script & Scenario Writer he has 43+ Credits (IMDB) and there are at least 12 more MIA credits where he worked as both Assistant Director and Director during the silent film era. He worked on productions from 1918-1946 with such luminaries as Adrien Brunel, Walter Summers, Miles Mander and Sir Michael Balcon (Producer) at Gainsborough and British-Gaumont a colleague of Hitchock when he also was a 'contract writer'. The two films shown on this page demonstrate his work as the scenarist of early silent and sound epic war footage action films which reflect his own wartime experience as a decorated veteran of WWI turned film scenarist. Originally with the Norfolks, he flew early bi-planes as an Observer with the RAF, in such war theatres as Kut in Mesopotamia, from 1916-1918.

In the next year, I will be compiling a complete filmography to both celebrate 100 years since the end of WWI and to define J.O.C.'s amazing life and contributions across two World Wars.

Directed by: Charles Crichton | Writers: Harry Watt, J.O.C. Orton, Richard Hillary, T.E.B. Clarke | Starrring: David Farrar, Ralph Michael, Robert Wyndham, John Slater, Robert Griffith. (92 mins), UK. DVD Release April, 2009. Producers: Michael & S.C. Balcon. Ealing Studios 1944.

BFI Information:


For Those in Peril was designed to publicise a then little-known unit of the British Royal Air Force, the Air Sea Rescue Unit which was set up in 1941 with the aim of saving those in distress at sea, particularly airmen who had been shot down or otherwise forced to ditch their craft in the water. In common with a number of other war-related films made by Ealing at this time the plotline was subservient to the propaganda message, so name actors were generally not used, and genuine sailors featured in the action scenes.

Location filming took place mainly in the area around the port of Newhaven in Sussex, with the English Channel sequences being shot off the Sussex coast. Crichton, on his first directorial assignment, later recalled: "(My) first picture ... was a propaganda picture called For Those in Peril where we rushed around the Channel in high speed motorboats, boats which were used for picking up crashed airmen and so on. It's a horrifying thing to say, but it was very exciting."

Principal photography took place in mid-1943 at the Ealing studios and on location. With the active participation of the Admiralty and Royal Navy in filming, Royal Navy Patrol Service armed trawlers and other auxiliary craft, Royal Navy coastal craft (motor launches and torpedo boats) located at HMS Aggressive, Shoreham, were made available. A Royal Air Force Supermarine Walrus air-sea rescue aircraft of No. 28 Air Sea Rescue unit and a Douglas DB-7 Boston bomber was also featured.


A WWII wartime story of air sea rescue - part-fiction, part-documentary, part-propaganda.

S Source: YouTube

"Looking back on it now, For Those in Peril should not be considered a movie as such, more a fascinating historical account of the dark days of war in the English Channel. -- Mark Walker

Charles Crichton is fondly remembered for his Ealing comedies, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt as well as for his later swansong, A Fish Called Wanda, but long before those he directed this little-known Ealing drama in 1944.

For Those in Peril belongs to that peculiar genre of wartime features that are part-fiction, part-documentary, part-propaganda (Coastal Command in 1942 was another in similar vein).

In this case, the flimsy story is designed to raise awareness of a little-known branch of the RAF, the Sea Rescue Boats. Pilot Officer Rawlings (Ralph Michael) reluctantly joins the crew of a rescue boat and is introduced to nautical life by skipper Murray (David Farrar).

After experiencing the mundane day-to-day routine, Rawlings learns how important their task is when they are called in to rescue the crew of a bomber shot-down in mid-channel. Not only is there thick fog and a minefield to deal with, but a German gunboat is looking for the airmen, too. And just when they seem to have accomplished the rescue, they are shelled by long-range guns from the French coast and strafed by the Luftwaffe. All in a day's work.

Crichton injects some melodrama into proceedings--one of the principal characters dies at the end--but his close ups of nervous faces and effects shots of exploding ships and planes exist simply to enhance the documentary aspect of the story. Actors and dialogue take second place to the depiction of what was, at the time of filming, an important part of the war effort. "Of course, the RMLs have got that pom-pom on the foc'sle," comments Murray matter-of-factly amid a barrage of similar naval jargon."

Forever England - 1936

Directed by: Walter Forde, Anthony Asquith | Written by: C.S. Forester (novel), J.O.C. Orton (Screenplay), Gerard Fairlie (Dialogue) | Starrring: John Mills, Betty Balfour, Barry MacKay, Jimmy Hanley. (70 mins), UK, A Gaumont British production.


Confusingly, this one film has gone by four different titles over the years. It’s adapted from a book by C.S. Forester, and on first release in the UK and Australia (May,1935) it took the novel’s title, Brown on Resolution. However, the US release (Oct,1935( went for a snappier title, Born for Glory – and when the film was re-released in the UK it acquired a more memorable title here too, Forever England.  For good measure, it was also reissued as Torpedo Raider in the US!

During all those title changes, a lot of footage was cut, and the film now feels rather disjointed and rushed at just 68 minutes long. According to the IMDB, originally it ran for 80 minutes. Some of the cut scenes involved a sexually daring storyline involving Balfour, so it seems likely that the censors had a hand in this. She now has all too little screen time, but still makes a strong impression during the opening scenes.

Banned in the USA
"When Brown on Resolution (released in the U.S. as "Born For Glory"), the 1935 Walter Forde English high seas World War I (WWI) military thriller ("The Big Parade of the High Seas"; "Story by C.S. Forester") starred Barry Mackay, Betty Balfour, John Mills (very young in this role, in his second year of making movies!), Jimmy Hanley, and Howard Marion-Crawford." - Anthony Slide

A lot of footage has been cut, though the original New York Times review of the film by Andre Sennwald gives the gist of what’s been lost. It seems that in the uncut film Elizabeth (Balfour) discovered she was pregnant, but, even so, refused to marry Somerville (Mackay), insisting they couldn’t be happy because of the class divide. Instead, she told her family she would bring her baby up alone.

This has now all been cut, sadly – it certainly sounds like an unusual take on the “fallen woman” theme. Even as the film stands, though, the romance across the class divide is a striking element. Of course, this is also a theme of another famous film based on a book by Forester, The African Queen, which also has some similarities with this film’s war story.


A war movie set on the high-seas during WWI. It chronicles the exploits of a brave English sailor who is captured by a German cruiser.

Source Source: YouTube

The plot is centred on the illegitimate son of a British naval officer singlehandedly bringing about the downfall of a German cruiser during World War I. This on-land section of the film is quickly over, and Albert (Mills) heads off for sea, as one of the crew of an ageing, small ship, the cruiser HMS Rutland. His father is still a serving officer on another ship, but neither of them knows of the other’s existence. The first shipborne scenes are fairly lighthearted, including a sequence where the boys invite some young German sailors aboard. Albert has a boxing match with one of the German lads, Max, and  they strike up an instant friendship. However, even before the pair have finished singing Danny Boy together, the Germans are ordered back to their ship – and by the next scene the First World War is under way. (The actor cast as Max, Howard Marion-Crawford, played Doctor Watson in a 1950s TV series with Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes, while Mills played an elderly version of Dr Watson in 1980s film The Masks of Death.)

After the Rutland is sunk, Albert and a gravely ill Ginger are plucked from the sea and rescued by the same German battle cruiser where they have friends among the crew. Max is delighted to see Albert and is soon sneaking him cigarettes and chatting to him, only shutting up when he sees an officer. Strikingly, there’s no hint of any personal enmity among the ordinary sailors, even though you might expect that in a film with such a strong vein of patriotism.

In any case, despite his friendship with Max, Albert is determined to stop the German ship from getting away – and, when it moors off the Galapagos islands for repairs to be carried out, he sees his chance. He escapes to the island of Resolution and hides in the mountains with a gun, picking off the German sailors one by one.

I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but you can probably guess it all. Despite some melodramatic scenes, in particular when Brown is on the island, the film as a whole feels down-to-earth and enjoyable, and Mills is very good as Albert. He has quite a few wordless scenes in the island section, and expresses a lot with just his eyes. These island scenes were directed by Anthony Asquith.  I’m impressed by how much versatility Mills showed in his 1930s films and indeed all through his long career."


'Scenario' is: a written outline of a film, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes; a postulated sequence or development of events; a setting, in particular for a work of art or literature.


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Details information on a few of the many War Films JOC was scenarist, scriptwriter or wrote the script adaption for:

JOC Orton | 1889-1962

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