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 ... See full summary »
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>
Director Lewis Milestone needed to persuade Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn to hire actor John Gilbert for this picture. At the time it was generally believed that Gilbert's voice recorded higher in pitch than suited his masculine silent screen image, but Milestone believed that Gilbert's voice recorded higher in pitch because of the actor's anxiety at having to test for MGM as a means of defending his exorbitant salary there. Gilbert agreed to submit to a new voice-test for the role as a means of persuading Cohn that his casting in the picture was a viable investment. With his friend Milestone directing the test for the Columbia picture his voice recorded perfectly and John Gilbert was hired for the role. 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 »
Lewis Milestone, ace director-for-hire, seems to have been having a terrible year in 1934: between the fascinating train wreck of HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM and this one, he seems to have, temporarily at least, lost his way.
Anyway, this picture is another fascinating failure because while there are many wonderful performers and performances in it -- Jack Gilbert, who would die shortly, was not the only actor whose career was on the slide and thus available on the cheap: Victor McLaglen and Wynne Gibson undoubtedly did not command as much money as they would have a few years earlier. Everyone gives fine performances, but they never quite come together as a whole, the way GRAND HOTEL does with its sense of fatality. THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA remains a series of vignettes linked by location. Perhaps too much landed on the cutting room floor.
Others have commented on Gilbert, so let me note one of my favorite talents behind the camera: Joseph August. In a third of a century as a director of photography, from William Hart westerns in the 'Teens through PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, he showed you beauty with every shot, and never -- or rarely -- so that you noticed the work that went into it. His traveling shots moved only to tell a story, his compositions focused your attention where it should be, his lighting let you see peoples' faces -- take a look at the Three Stooges, away from the flat light that they worked in for all their shorts. They are suddenly human beings for their few scenes here -- and August was one of the masters of framing. If you have the patience for a second viewing, notice how windows, plants, people, every detail changes the effective shape of the frame, often to superb psychological purpose.
To sum up, this movie as a whole does not work -- normally I would rate it a five out of ten, as another mediocre, derivative work. But the talent on display makes it substantially better than average.
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