6.9/10
532
9 user 7 critic

Souls at Sea (1937)

Passed | | Action, Adventure | 3 September 1937 (USA)
Cooper and Raft save lives during a sea tragedy in this story about slave trade on the high seas in 1842.

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Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Captain of 'William Brown'
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George Martin
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Gaston de Bastonet
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Captain Martisel
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Violinist
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Storyline

Cooper and Raft save lives during a sea tragedy in this story about slave trade on the high seas in 1842.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Men Against The Sea ! Stark Drama No Fiction Can Equal ! See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 September 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Almas en el mar  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

An opening prologue states that the "story was inspired by a trial for mass murder on the high seas [which] a century ago made legal and maritime history." According to the pressbook, the trial is recorded in the Philadelphia Public Ledger and is based on an incident that occurred on 19 Apr 1841 when the William Brown struck an iceberg and capsized. After crew and passengers got into the two available lifeboats, leaving thirty-one aboard the ship to drown, "seaman Alexander William Holmes assumed command and dumped excess [persons] overboard." A HR news item noted that Jo Swerling was to write "epilog scenes" for this film. Swerling's contribution to the final film has not been determined. A news item in HR noted that Frances Farmer was considered for the lead role. Additional news items in HR reveal that George Raft terminated his contract with Paramount in Nov 1936 due to a dispute over the roles he was given, including his role in Souls at Sea . Although production was scheduled to begin in late Oct, it was postponed due to the threat of a strike by the Pacific Coast Maritime workers, according to HR , and by Paramount's search for another co-star. HR noted that Lloyd Nolan was first considered, but later Anthony Quinn was selected to replace Raft. At this time, however, Raft and Paramount amended their rift, Raft's contract was renewed and he accepted the role of Powdah. Production was scheduled to resume on 21 Nov 1936. Press releases claimed the following about the production: Paramount constructed a special set with a huge tank of water and the quarterdeck of a ship for shipboard scenes. For further authenticity, the studio chartered sailing ships for ocean shots and dock scenes, and the square-rigger Star of Finland was used as the William Brown . Grant Leenhauts hired sailors who knew how to work a square-rigger to appear aboard ship. Some scenes were filmed off Santa Catalina Island, CA. According to modern sources, the film was originally intended to rival M-G-M's Mutiny on the Bounty and to be released as a road-show, however, the plans were scaled down, as was the film. Although an actress portraying Queen Victoria is credited in the CBCS, modern sources note that the scene of Queen Victoria's court was one of many deleted from the film before its general release in theaters. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Assistant Director, Hal Walker; Best Interior Decorations, Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson; and Music (Best Score), Paramount Studio Music Dept., Boris Morros, head score by W. Franke Harling and Milan Roder. Also based on a similar story is the 1956 British film Seven Waves Away , known in the United States as Abandon Ship! , directed by Richard Sale and starring Tyrone Power, Mai Zetterling and Lloyd Nolan. (American Film Institute) See more »

Quotes

Powdah: I'm cheap. I'm no good. I'm nothin'. I even stole a piece of poetry to tell you you was beautiful.
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Saps at Sea (1940) See more »

Soundtracks

Polka Time
Written by Unknown
Performed by Virginia Weidler
See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting Historical Drama
4 April 2012 | by See all my reviews

I was hoping for a melodrama instead, but the emphasis here is on the narrative rather than on action. But I am pleased to report that my headline is accurate, because "Souls At Sea" is a very interesting story about a subject barely touched upon in Hollywood's long, colorful history. Reading through other reviewers takes on the film, it qualifies more accurately as a semi-historical drama, although not the first story Hollywood has taken liberties with. The temptation is to call "Souls At Sea" a 'seafaring yarn', but, as I said, it is heavy on talk and light on second unit work.

In any case, this offbeat movie has Gary Cooper faced with a moral dilemma as an abolitionist involved in the slave trade in the middle of the 19th century. His sidekick is George Raft, in as sympathetic a role as he ever had and one of his best acting jobs (never one of his strong points). Frances Dee is an ingenue on board the ship in question, and George Zucco plays a good guy for a change. Particularly effective is the background music which won an AA nomination for composer Milan Roder. Henry Wilcoxon is an effective bad guy and Olympe Bradna, whose film appearances were too few, is touching as a maidservant and love interest for George Raft.

Very well done, as is the norm with a Henry Hathaway picture. The story is so absorbing that the viewer nearly forgets about the lack of action scenes, and is well worth my rating of seven.


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