After their state-of-the-art steamship the Gigantic sinks minutes after being launched, the MacIver brothers of Liverpool begin to plan for the future of their company. David takes a ...
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After their state-of-the-art steamship the Gigantic sinks minutes after being launched, the MacIver brothers of Liverpool begin to plan for the future of their company. David takes a business-like approach and eventually joins forces with former rivals but decides the expensive gamble of steamships is not they way to go. Charles embarks on a different course -- sailing on a doomed ship to America to forge an alliance with Samuel Cunard. Eventually brothers are reunited in their bid to gain the mail contract from the British government, although their relationship might not last since each is in love with Mary, the daughter of one of their backers. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
The struggle to establish steamship communication across the Atlantic
This is one of the 55 films directed by Walter Forde, who also directed ALIAS BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1935, see my review) and SALLOON BAR (1940, see my review). Jack Clayton was an uncredited second assistant director on this film. It was the last film he worked on until the end of the War, when he directed (uncredited) a 15 minute documentary about fighting in Italy for the Ministry of Information, resuming his British film career only in 1947, when at last he got a screen credit as assistant director on Anthony Asquith's film of a Terence Rattigan play, WHILE THE SUN SHINES (which is unavailable today and unreviewed on IMDb). This film (also known as SONS OF THE SEA) is rather unsatisfactory. There was a great deal of trouble with the story and script, as three screenwriters including Emeric Pressburger were unable to come up with something that worked. The episodes of the film are stitched together by several lengthy cards of text telling us what happened between times, which is hardly a successful dramatic device. Since two men named MacIver are credited with the story, which concerns the attempts by the MacIver family to establish an Atlantic steamship trade in partnership with the Canadian Sam Cunard, I presume they were descendants of the 19th century men seen in the film, and that the story was a true one which they were able to tell. The film is interesting despite being cinematically inferior. Valerie Hobson plays the female lead, but she has little to do except look pretty in a somewhat artificial way and make two fiery speeches which are only partially convincing. This film was certainly not one of Miss Hobson's high points. Michael Redgrave is the male lead, but Redgrave has never struck me as being at all convincing on screen when he pretends to have an interest in women, as it is well known that he was gay. He is just about as frigid a lover as any woman could imagine. Redgrave could in those circumstances be so remote in spirit from the camera that his closeups effectively become long shots. At times he seems to convey a hatred for the female sex which he can barely restrain or conceal, and ice forms on his brow rather than sweat when proximity to a woman threatens him. The story of this film certainly has a great deal of historical importance, being a genuine saga of the high seas. And the section of the film early on in which ruthless men are taking the money of desperate people to be shipped across the Atlantic as emigrants in horrible conditions, so that many of them die on the way, is all too relevant to today, what with the evil doings of the people smugglers which we read about in the press every day now. This film certainly is no cinematic triumph, but if you are interested in how steamships got going on the Atlantic against all the odds, you will want to see it. Some of the thumping speeches about British-American friendship which recur in this film are clearly motivated by wartime propaganda concerns, and that detracts from the film's dramatic force, of which there is little, for it is the roaring sea which has all the force here.
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