This March marks the 30th anniversary of a Hollywood blockbuster movie premiere near and dear to the U.S. Naval Institute’s heart. In 1984, when the Naval Institute Press rolled the dice with The Hunt for Red October, its first venture into fiction publishing, it was the birth of a phenomenon. The book turned into a runaway smash hit, elevating the fame of the Institute and launching the career of best-selling author Tom Clancy. By the time the movie version hit theaters in March 1990, anticipation was high.
These items from the Naval Institute Archives recapture some of that zeitgeist. Notice the minimalist language of the movie poster: Filmgoers at the time knew what movie it was promoting without even having the full title spelled out. Red October mania was abundant, as the multiple foreign-language versions of the book attest; the cat-and-mouse sea story of a defecting Soviet submarine commander even spawned a board game (not to mention video games, of course)—and the film production attracted a top-notch cast. Megawatt movie star Sean Connery was memorable as Soviet Captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius; Alec Baldwin upped his Tinseltown cachet in his breakout role as Marine lieutenant-turned-CIA analyst Jack Ryan; and Scott Glenn embodied coolness under pressure as Navy Commander Bart Mancuso. James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, and a host of others rounded out the ensemble.
The U.S. Navy, seeing the project as having Top Gun–style recruitment potential, cooperated with Paramount in making the film, lending several ships and personnel to the undertaking. Glenn based his Mancuso performance on Commander (now retired Admiral) Thomas B. Fargo, who took the actor on a role-research cruise in the USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716). The USS Houston (SSN-713) appears in the movie, as does the USS Reuben James (FFG-57). Naval Air Station North Island supplied the prop torpedoes. Navy recruiters manned booths in select theater lobbies.
The Navy had backed a winner, as it turned out. The Hunt for Red October, the film, opened at number one in the U.S. box office and had what at the time was the biggest non-summer, non-Thanksgiving weekend opening ever. It won an Academy Award (for sound effects editing) and was nominated for two more. It went on to gross more than $200 million worldwide. It is a movie filled with memorable moments. But our favorite moment? When, as the camera pans Jack Ryan’s apartment, you see a copy of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings sitting there. We knew that guy was on the ball.