In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp. Ashore in New Bedford, he ...
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Captain Ahab's descent into madness destroys everyone around him. This powerful character drew John Barrymore, Orson Wells and John Huston. This film has been called the best, most authentic version of Herman Melville's MOBY DICK.
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Ernest B. Schoedsack
In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp. Ashore in New Bedford, he meets and falls for Faith Mapple, daughter of the local minister and beloved of Ahab's brother Derek. Faith herself quickly returns Ahab's love, as Derek is drab and ignoble. On his next voyage, however, Ahab loses a leg to the monstrous white whale Moby-Dick. When upon his return to New Bedford he mistakenly believes Faith wants nothing to do with him because of his disfigurement, Ahab returns to sea with only one goal in mind -- to find and kill the great white whale. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Although the film was initially recorded on Vitaphone and intended for disc accompaniment, by the time of its release, so many theatres had opted for sound-on-film, that the opening credits had to be redone, and the image had to be cropped off the left side, in order to accommodate the sound-on-film system track, which was, by then, replacing the soon to be obsolete Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, and required a slightly narrower picture image as a result. See more »
While the credits state that the film is based on Herman Melville's novel, the first page of the novel shown onscreen right after the credits is entirely written by one of the screenwriters; it has absolutely nothing to do with Melville's original, and even leaves out Melville's classic opening sentence, "Call me Ishmael". See more »
A bit of little Melville, a little bit of whale, but lots of Barrymore.
This is a remake of the 1926 film THE SEA BEAST. John Barrymore stars in both of them. The movie is actually based on a stage play which explains a great deal about why the plot was changed so, dare I say it?, dramatically. Herman Melville contributed the title and a studio scriptwriter added everything else.
48 year old Barrymore plays 20-something Ahab Seeley, a happy go lucky sailor who is also a hard drinking woman chaser. We first see him doing acrobatic stunts from the crows nest of a ship (John is doubled by action film star Richard Talmadge). Ahab also has a brother named Derek (Lloyd Hughes) who stays on land and works in the local church. Plot complication 1: Ahab and Derek both fall for the same girl, the ministers daughter Faith (Joan Bennett). She rejects dull brother Derek for the more adventurous Ahab. ("But I'll always be putting out to sea." he says. "And I'll always be waiting for you." she says. Isn't love wonderful?)
Plot complication 2: On his next voyage Ahab gets his leg bitten off by (wait for it) a giant white whale named Moby Dick. At least they used something from the novel! Plot complication 3: When Faith Mapple sees Ahab with his peg leg she screams and runs off. This drives Ahab insane and he swears vengeance on the white whale.
Years pass and Moby continues to elude Ahab. He buys his own boat and becomes a skipper even more hated than Captain Bligh. His crew jumps ship leaving only his brutal First Mate Stubbs (Walter Long) and Ahab's only true friend Queequeg (Noble Johnson). Stubbs visits bars and brothels to shanghai a crew and accidentally grabs Derek Seeley who apparently has been drinking his troubles away since Faith rejected him (hmmm, should I make that plot complication 4? Oh never mind). During a storm at sea Derek tries to kill his brother but loyal Queequeg breaks his back. Oh and what about Moby Dick? Don't worry we haven't forgotten him; he finally shows up again so we can tie up all these loose ends. What happens? I won't spoil it for you; this movie runs now and then on TCM so you can "sea" for yourself (bad pun, I admit it).
John Barrymore overacts but what else is new? He loved his "mad" scenes and this time he gets to be looney for half the picture. After he goes insane his character begins to resemble Mr. Hyde, whom he played 10 years earlier. He even seems to be trying to re-create the Hyde character by stomping around the deck in a top hat and flowing cloak.
Noble Johnson is surprisingly good as Queequeg. He is constantly beating a drum to placate the sea gods and he is fiercely loyal to his captain. (When this movie was remade in 1956 German actor Friedrich Ledebur played the role and the character was expanded even more.) Lloyd Hughes is best remembered (by me anyway) for the 1925 version of THE LOST WORLD where he played reporter Ed Malone. Joan Bennett had a long career in movies and TV and is probably best remembered now for the terror/soap opera "Dark Shadows". Watch for silent film actor Nigel de Brulier as Elijah, the mad "prophet" who predicts trouble for Ahab early in the film.
I like this movie, now I wish I could see that 1926 version. Anyone know if it still exists?
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