38 user 14 critic

The Sea Wolf (1941)

Approved | | Drama, Adventure | 21 March 1941 (USA)
Humphrey van Weyden, a writer, and fugitives Ruth Webster and George Leach have been given refuge aboard the sealer "Ghost," captained by the cruel Wolf Larsen. The crew mutinies against ... See full summary »



(novel), (screen play)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Sea Wolf (1997)
Action | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.7/10 X  

Thrown overboard while conducting an environmental investigation, Humphrey Van Weyden is as good as dead. But before he can meet his watery doom, he is plucked up by the crew of the ... See full summary »

Director: Gary T. McDonald
Stars: Alejandra Cruz, Rick Dean, Zaina Juliette
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The City Editor of a sleazy tabloid goes against his own journalistic ethics to resurrect a twenty year old murder case... with tragic results.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, H.B. Warner
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

True story of the doctor who considered it was not immoral to search for a drug that would cure syphillis.

Director: William Dieterle
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Gordon, Otto Kruger
Juarez (1939)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Louis Napoleon III takes advantage of the American Civil War to circumvent the Monroe Doctrine and expand his power by helping Emperor Maximillian Hapsburg to add Mexico to his empire. of Mexico.

Director: William Dieterle
Stars: Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Brian Aherne
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Action | Adventure | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Geoffrey Thorpe, a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I to nag the Spanish Armada. The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains
Black Legion (1937)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

When a hard-working machinist loses a promotion to a Polish-born worker, he is seduced into joining the secretive Black Legion, which intimidates foreigners through violence.

Directors: Archie Mayo, Michael Curtiz
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Dick Foran
The Sea Wolf (TV Movie 1993)
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Jack London's brutal Wolf Larson brings a shipwrecked aristocrat and a con woman aboard his doomed ship, the Ghost.

Director: Michael Anderson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Catherine Mary Stewart, Marc Singer
Larceny, Inc. (1942)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Three ex-cons buy a luggage shop to tunnel into the bank vault next door. But despite all they can do, the shop prospers...

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford
Dodge City (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A Texas cattle agent witnesses first hand, the brutal lawlessness of Dodge City and takes the job of sheriff to clean the town up.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan
Viva Villa! (1934)
Biography | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

In this fictionalized biography, young Pancho Villa takes to the hills after killing an overseer in revenge for his father's death. In 1910, he befriends American reporter Johnny Sykes. ... See full summary »

Directors: Jack Conway, Howard Hawks, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Wallace Beery, Fay Wray, Leo Carrillo
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Dr. Michael Lewis treats Jane, a mysterious woman claiming to be a British secret agent on the run from German spies. Ultimately convinced, Michael helps Jane escape and with her attempts ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Florey
Stars: John Garfield, Nancy Coleman, Raymond Massey
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Members of a family witness two murders, but the gang uses threats, violence and kidnapping to try to keep the members from testifying.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Walter Huston, Frances Starr, Grant Mitchell


Complete credited cast:
Dr. Prescott
Stanley Ridges ...
Young Sailor
Francis McDonald ...
Howard Da Silva ...
Frank Lackteen ...


Humphrey van Weyden, a writer, and fugitives Ruth Webster and George Leach have been given refuge aboard the sealer "Ghost," captained by the cruel Wolf Larsen. The crew mutinies against Larsen's many crimes, and though van Weyden, Ruth, and George try to escape Larsen's clutches, they find themselves drawn inexorably back to him as the "Ghost" sails toward disaster. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Jack London's great novel of terror afloat.


Drama | Adventure


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 March 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Seewolf  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(video) | (original) | (TCM print) (edited)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Warner Brothers paid David O. Selznick $15,000 for the screen rights to the Jack London novel. See more »


Actually, until the era of the 1st World War, the practice on-board a ship was to call orders for the helmsman to actually move the "tiller", either to port or to starboard. So calling "hard a-port" meant moving the tiller to port, which means the rudder, and the vessel, will then move to starboard. With wheel steering, putting the helm/tiller to port, means spinning the wheel to starboard. Ships no longer use this system - these days helm directions refer to the desired turn of the rudder/vessel. The James Cameron movie The Titanic also contained a similar scene, which generated a lot of puzzlement. It IS a bit confusing at first, unless one is a sailor and is familiar with tiller steering. See more »


Humphrey Van Weyden: What is you philosophy then Wolf?
'Wolf' Larsen: I held that life was a ferment, a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live, and that living was merely successful piggishness. Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins ...
See more »


Remade as Barricade (1950) See more »


Ma Blushin' Rosie
Music by John Stromberg
Lyrics by Edgar Smith
Played on piano and sung by Jeane Cowan in the bar
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

"There is a price no man will pay for living"
1 December 2006 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

It's amazing what a really good actor can pull off. In the Jack London novel on which this film was loosely based, Wolf Larson is tall, blond, Scandinavian, an "ubermensch" flaunting his invincible strength and power over other men. Edward G. Robinson was very short and dark, almost gnome-like with little stubby hands, a homely face and nasal voice. Yet somehow he fills this improbable role, making Larson at once larger than life and credibly human.

Larson is, of course, the "sea wolf" of the title, captain of the Ghost, a mysterious, perpetually fog-enshrouded schooner. Manned by a crew of brutal and brutalized men, the ship is ostensibly hunting seals, but its real destination is a show-down with Wolf's brother, the even more colorfully named Death Larson. We never learn much about this sibling feud, or about the backgrounds of the major characters. Aside from Larson, there is George Leach (John Garfield), who signs on with the ship to escape a prison rap, and two passengers rescued from the wreck of a ferry in San Francisco harbor: Ruth (Ida Lupino), an escaped convict, and Van Weyden, a well-bred writer who becomes, as observer and interpreter of the action, the film's central consciousness. Larson refuses to put the two castaways ashore, seemingly out of pure spite. Leach plots to escape the ship, and the threat of mutiny hangs in the air.

As this summary suggests, the movie's plot is as foggy as its atmosphere, but this doesn't matter very much. The atmosphere, at once raffish and eerie, and the beautifully drawn characters provide plenty of interest, and there is also a serious and compelling theme. Larson's motto (from Milton) is "better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." Van Weyden, who becomes the secretly intellectual captain's confidant, realizes that Larson is afraid to leave his ship because only as its captain can he enjoy absolute power; on shore he would be forced to compete with his equals and betters. His sport is humiliating his victims and stripping them of dignity and self-respect. He gratuitously insults and torments all those who attempt to challenge him: in addition to Leach and Ruth, there is Louis (the excellent Gene Lockhart), a broken, alcoholic doctor who tries to recover his dignity after saving Ruth's life with a transfusion of Leach's blood. Larson won't let him, of course, and his desperate response prompts the writer's comment, "There is a price no man will pay for living." Larson even turns against Cookie (Barry Fitzgerald), his most loyal crew-member. Fitzgerald is spectacularly loathsome, shrieking with laughter and scuttling around his galley like a demonic leprechaun.

John Garfield, to his credit, was never reluctant to take supporting roles in films he admired. His part here, while secondary, is a pip: a defiant young roughneck, smarting with wounded pride, looking terrific in a tattered sweater and fisherman's cap. He gets a great introduction in the first scene, walking into a waterfront dive where he brushes off a pickpocket ("If you find anything in there, brother, I'll share it with you") and knocks out the recruiter who tries to slip him a mickey. On board the Ghost, he's the only one of the sailors who rebels against Larson; when ordered to address the captain with respect, he manages to make "sir" sound like a four-letter word. "Don't worry," he says before the transfusion, "This kind of blood never cools off."

Ida Lupino is wonderful (when was she not?) as the convict who has lost her spirit; her pathetic lady-like act keeps giving way to flashes of anger and underlying sadness. She and Garfield make a perfect couple, and their romance, which could have seemed like a sop to the box office, is deeply touching. Like Garfield, Lupino regularly played tough, resentful hard-luck kids. But her pale, waif-like delicacy and wistfulness contrast nicely with Garfield's rough-hewn sturdiness and combustible temper. They have three good scenes together: one where she finds him huddled like a whipped puppy in the ship's hold (he has been beaten after assaulting the captain) and they smoke cigarettes together. Initially hostile—he tells her scornfully that he only stood up for her because "I can't even stand to see a dog beg, much less a human being"—they quickly bond. He urges her to keep fighting and boasts that Larson can never break his spirit, while she wearily responds that nothing makes any difference to her anymore. Later they talk in a doorway, Ida in her nightgown, and he touches her arm, realizing that his own blood is running through it. They don't kiss, but their chemistry is palpable. Finally they play a love scene on either side of a locked iron door, whispering to each other with their lips touching the wall between them.

Eventually Larson's invincibility starts to crack, as he suffers from crippling migraines and hysterical blindness. He remains too vicious to arouse any pity, but Robinson makes him a fascinating monster. He conveys such a dominant, overpowering will that you hardly notice he's not physically imposing; his sneering voice, nasty laugh and devious intelligence make him genuinely scary. The intense performances of the whole cast knit together this unusual blend of boy's-adventure-story entertainment and serious drama, a classic of the Warner Brothers' minor-key style.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Larsen and Nazism? olesker
Released soon on DVD? bkutach
Discuss The Sea Wolf (1941) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: