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`Those that go DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.' Psalms 107: 23, 24
Filmed on location in and around the old sailing center of New Bedford, Massachusetts, here is a silent film with exciting drama & action. The production values are excellent and the necessary romantic elements do not intrude on the swift flow of the plot. With kidnapping & murder, mutiny at sea & hungry sharks, the pace never slackens.
Marguerite Courtot is the pretty heroine who pines at home after her lover, sturdy Raymond McKee, is abducted and spirited off in a whaler. She is given little to do except play with her dolls and fend off a lecherous knave, but Mr. McKee is plunked right into the thick of things, engaged in all the most dangerous tasks which a whaleman must accomplish - and it is obvious that the actor is placed in some jeopardy as well.
(Beautiful Miss Courtot & handsome Mr. McKee were both popular players during silent days. They married a year after the release of DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS. She ended her film career in 1923, while his did not survive the coming of talkies. They remained married for 61 years, until his death in 1984 at the age of 91. She died in 1986, aged 88.)
The film is also notable as providing the breakout role for 16-year old Clara Bow, playing the spunky niece of Miss Courtot, who becomes a stowaway on the whaler in order to be near the young cabin boy on whom she dotes. Clara is feisty and full of fight & fun and it's easy to see how this film helped make her a star. (She would enliven the rest of the silent era, but her movie career would be over before her 30th birthday. She died in 1965 at the age of 60.)
Patrick Hartigan, as a bestial seaman and J. Thornton Baston, as a half-caste Asian disguised as a Quaker, make very fine villains.
The film offers interesting insight into the lives of the New England Quakers of the 19th Century. There is also much to be learned about whaling operations and the authentic footage of the capture and dissection of a sperm whale will either fascinate or repulse the viewer. The film's opening credits give special commendation to the brave cameramen who risked their lives to photograph the thrilling footage at sea.
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