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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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 this title was among more than 700 Warner Bros. productions sold to Associated Artists in 1956 for re-release and/or television broadcast, this one, along with The Mad Genius (1931) and Svengali (1931) remained in litigation until April 1959 because of their involvement with the estate of the late John Barrymore who had a financial interest in them when they were original produced. By this time, the remake Moby Dick (1956), had already made its rounds in the theatres, and was beginning to pop up on local television, so this earlier version was rarely shown until the 1990s when it showed up first on Turner Network Television and, finally, on Turner Classic Movies, where it now receives an occasional airing. 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 Prequel, A Sequel & an original story all wrapped up in one
This film & it's silent predecessor, "The Sea Beast"(1926), both starred John Barrymore. Some have said while the films' took liberties with Melville's text, the visualizations were superb on these two films, particularly the silent version. In fact John Barrymore created the very personification of Captain Ahab and to many was more of what Melville envisioned than Gregory Peck's fine but (Lincolnesque) Ahab 26 years later. The success of "The Sea Beast" was a huge hit for Warner Brothers in 1926 and when talkies arrived they, like other Hollywood studios ie MGM, carted out recent previous silent successes for sound remake. Douglas Fairbanks Jr once said that between "The Sea Beast" & "Moby Dick", that "The Sea Beast" was the superior movie and that he had seen it numerous times. Audiences agreed with Fairbanks Jr at the box office and this made the silent version of the Melville story, butchered though it may be, a likely candidate for an early talkie remake. Barrymore is obviously older in the talkie after having been more svelte in the silent The Sea Beast. His face is now beginning to take on it's 1930s jowlish appearance due to the effect of his continuing alcoholism. He had recently been very ill after a cruise with wife Dolores(who costarred in The Sea Beast)on their yacht. This film offers Barrymore an opportunity to use his marvelous voice to impart the character of Ahab but denies him the opportunity to get to do some really outlandish 'mad-man' makeup as he had done in "The Sea Beast" and other silent films lke "Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde". The Moby Dick prop used in this remake is superior and way more convincing than in the silent film. But it's still not on a par with John Hustons 1956 whale prop filmed in believable muted colors.
Since this is a rearranging or reinventing of what Melville intended it would be fun to speculate if he would get a chuckle out of showing Ahab as a young man with both legs intact as well as having a female love interest. Purists don't like this tampering of Melville text but 1920s audiences were either ignorant or just didn't seem to mind good storytelling through the medium of motion pictures. Thus the part of Moby Dick concerning Ahab's dallying as a young man and his love for this girl Esther is enough to fill a prequel book or movie leading up to the famous encounter with the Great White Whale. The last part of the movie after they kill Moby Dick and Ahab lives and arrives back home to Esther is a far fetched sequel story in itself. I think Melville & everybody would disagree with the fact that Ahab lives but it would still be enough for a separate story and possibly leaving enough future story open for Ahab to perhaps hunt down and kill 'the son of Moby Dick'. In this age of Sequels & Prequels we live in , a surviving Ahab killing Moby's son is not pablum but perhaps just good fantasy story telling.
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