20th Century Films Psychology

To Honor vs. Dishonor: Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

run silent run deepTo honor is “to regard or treat with admiration and respect.”1 To dishonor is “to reduce to a lower standing in one’s own eyes or in others’ eyes.”2 If we treat someone with disrespect or contempt, we are dishonoring them. In Robert Wise’s Run Silent Run Deep (1958) Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) honors Cmdr. Rich Richardson (Clark Gable) in front of the crew, but he dishonors him when speaking to him privately.

When Bledsoe first meets Richardson, he is disrespectful and contemptuous. He calls the Captain “the poor desk commander with a tear in his eye”, asks if he got promoted by having “a qualified commander for a backstop”, and wants to be reassigned to another submarine. Bledsoe is angry that Richardson (who failed in a previous mission) was given command instead of him. Disrespecting him is a way to deal with his wounded pride.

Although Bledsoe dishonors Richardson in their first meeting, he honors him in front of the crew by treating him with respect and following his orders. He also honors him in his absence. When Jerry Cartright (Brad Dexter) mocks the Captain for his caution and focus on drills, Bledsoe rebukes him. Later, several crew members urge Bledsoe to relieve Richardson of command, but he reaffirms the Captain’s authority. He honors Richardson in front of the crew because it is his duty as an officer.

However, when the crew is not present, Bledsoe continues to dishonor the Captain. Frustrated that Richardson did not attack a Japanese sub, he subtly suggests that it was an act of cowardice. After learning that Richardson wants to go to the Bongo Straights, he is hostile toward him, saying, “Surely you’ve got guts enough” to tell the crew. Bledsoe questions the Captain’s courage because it increases his self-worth as an officer. In harshly criticizing the Captain, he feels assured that he could have done better if he were in charge.

The individual who treats people with disrespect or contempt often feels justified if what they are saying is true. But this is a rationalization. If we are disrespectful toward someone, we are diminishing them as a human being. If we disagree, we should express our viewpoint without being condescending, treating the person as an equal, never as an inferior. Treating a person with contempt is the moral equivalent of being a racist. Whereas a racist believes his race is superior to another race, a contemptuous person believes he is superior to another person.

Bledsoe treated Richardson with disrespect and contempt because of his pride: He believed he was a superior officer. He gained respect for Richardson when his innovative missile tactics enabled them to sink the Japanese sub in the Bongo Straights. In the final scene, when the Captain is buried at sea, Bledsoe honors him sincerely, saying before all the crew, “Let no one … ever say we didn’t have a Captain.” Bledsoe realized that Richardson (an older man) had knowledge, wisdom, and experience he did not have. He overcame his pride and learned humility.


  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “honor,” accessed September 28, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honor
  2. Merriam Webster, s.v. “dishonor,” accessed November 10, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/dishonor%5Bverb%5D


  1. A younger actor like Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood should have played Captain Richardson.

    Burt Lancaster was also far too old to play a lieutenant.


  2. Mark, nowhere in “Run Silent, Run Deep’s” (58′) dialogue does it STATE the actual age of Clark Gable’s Richardson character! (23 or your estimation of nearly 60!) The “Real Life” character was adapted from the 1955 best-seller by Capt. Edward L. Beach, president Eisenhower’s Navy aid. “Run Silent, Run Deep” is famously known for the realistic submarine interiors which were loaned out by the United States Navy themselves! Granted, just like any film, if you look for “Real Life” inconsistencies… you WILL find them! We ALL have to remember… that it is ONLY A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE! Not “Real Life”!!! Yes, in your defense, Clark Gable “looked” somewhat “old” to be a captain of a submarine during wartime… but if you think about it… in “Real Life”… there are many people in their late 30’s/early 40’s who look prematurely years older than they actually are! Not everybody ages gracefully my friend! With that being said, I am really sorry that the casting of Clark Gable may have got in the way of you fully enjoying Robert Wise’s FANTASTIC MOVIE “Run Silent, Run Deep”! In the end, this is just my OPINION, which in reality means Diddley squat! Thanks for your patience and time on this debate my fellow Classic Film Fan. CHEERS! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gable was far too old to play a submarine captain in wartime. He was nearly 60 and looked it. The real captain his character was based on was 23.


  4. Thank you, RJ, for your encouragement on my post. Honoring others is a lost virtue in North America. I enjoyed Burt Lancaster in Separate Tables, also released in 1958. Clark Gable was good in It Happened One Night (1934).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robert Wise’s “Run Silent Run Deep” 1958 has always been one of my very favorite classic Films! One of his BEST in my humble opinion. Nice insight as always about the nature of Honor within the context of the film! P.S. I respectfully disagree with MARK above… I don’t have the opinion that “Clark Gable ruined the film because he was far too old.” The funny thing is… that I am not a really big Clark Gable fan. Anyway, AWESOME job on Run Silent, Run Deep (58′) post. It’s just one of the many great films that Robert Wise directed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice post! I like the idea of honour/dishonor both in the film itself and the offscreen relationships with Lancaster and Gable (who, in my opinion, is perfectly cast here).

    Liked by 1 person

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