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Alcoholic newspaperman Steve Bramley boards the San Capador for a restful cruise, hoping to quit drinking and begin writing a book. Also on board are Steve's friend Schulte, a private detective hoping to nab criminal Danny Checkett with a fortune in stolen bonds. Steve begins drinking, all the while observing the various stories of other passengers on board, several of whom turn out not to be who they seem to be. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Actor John Gilbert's career was waning by the time he was hired by 'poverty row' studio Columbia for this picture. Gilbert's lucrative contract option had been dropped by the larger and richer MGM studios because his voice had tested higher than suited his masculine screen image. With his career in shambles, Gilbert had begun to drink heavily, but thanks mainly to the support of his friend Lewis Milestone, Gilbert was hired by Columbia for this picture...with the sole condition that he remain sober throughout the production. Unfortunately, Gilbert by this time was an alcoholic unable to stay away from drinking for very long, particularly among such heavy-drinking cast members as Walter Catlett and Victor McLaglen. Keeping the cast sober proved impossible, even while filming at sea. In a rage at the mounting expenditures, Columbia president Harry Cohn telegraphed director Milestone, 'Return to studio. The cost is staggering.' Milestone wired back, 'So is the cast!' See more »
The 'Hard to Starboard' command by the Captain isn't a goof at all, as his very next command is 'Both engines slow astern'. In other words he's reversing the vessel and in that case starboard is the correct direction. See more »
Walter Connolly applies his curmudgeon-with-a-heart screen persona to the character of a ship's captain whose hatred of the sea stems in part from the bad behavior of most of the passengers he encounters. After establishing this fact, we witness the trajectory of a huge number of characters during the course of a voyage from New York Harbor to an unnamed Latin American destination and back again. The cast list alone tells you almost all you would need to know: Besides Connolly there is Leon Errol, John Gilbert and Walter Catlett as a trio of mutually enabling tipplers, bossy harridan Alison Skipworth and sourpuss Charles Gillingwater, Wynne Gibson and Helen Vinson as two very different kinds of requisite pretty young things, Victor McLaglen as a private detective, a very mannered Arthur Treacher as an English major, and the little- known darkly handsome Fred Keating as a rather wimpy crook who resembles various other, better known performers like George Raft or even Russ Columbo, but then you find out he is actually Fred Keating. Added to the mix are Donald Meek as a solitary traveler whose long beard becomes the peculiar obsession of the captain, Akim Tamiroff as a Latin-American revolutionary and even the Three Stooges, playing it straight for a change, as the musicians of ship's dance band! (One of the numbers they play is identical to a number from "Horses' Collars," one of their Columbia short subjects released the following year.)
Sprinkled throughout are some marvelous bits of dialogue, including a series of witty remarks made by Gilbert who keeps rationalizing why he needs to take another drink. For example (and I paraphrase), "This is no time to be drinking and no time to stop either." Some of the camera setups are also imaginative. When Gilbert, standing at a bar, is punched to the floor by John Wray, we next see him at ground level through a small door under the bar. When characters stop to chat in a ship's corridor, we hear the echo of their voices as we would if we overheard their conversation in that kind of space. When a woman jumps overboard we see her fall from multiple points of view, including vertically through the frame to the shock of people one deck below her leap.
The main thread of the plot, as in Grand Hotel, has to do with people needing money and what they will do to get it, including breaking the law. Subsidiary plots touch on various human foibles and all are touched with humor at one point or another.
If I didn't know better I would bet that Frank Capra or his oft-used screenwriter Robert Riskin had a hand in this effort because the casual yet detailed approach reminds me of their work.
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