In one of his final film appearances Lionel Barrymore dusted off his crusty sea captain character from Captains Courageous in playing Bering Joy, master of a whaling ship in the late 19th century.
Bering Joy is a whole lot like Disko Troup from the earlier film. He's a man immensely proud of his profession and the knowledge he's acquired over decades to be the best at what he does. His other love is his grandson, Dean Stockwell.
But the lad for want of a better term isn't doing so good with home schooling being provided on board a whaling vessel. And Barrymore isn't real happy with the new younger first mate being imposed upon him. That would be Richard Widmark who's college educated. But he solves a problem with the New Bedford educational system by giving Widmark the additional duties of tutoring Stockwell.
Down to the Sea in Ships is a generational clash of three generations with all three developing real affection for each other during the long whaling voyage.
This was Richard Widmark's first film with first billing and the first film in which he wasn't a bad guy. I'm sure that this was a role he wanted and fought for. How many little old ladies can you throw down a flight of stairs and maintain a maniacal giggle in every film? In many ways this film made him a star more than Kiss of Death.
Henry Hathaway directed some really good action sequences involving whaling, a search for a lost long boat, and the finale when the vessel gets stuck on an ice flow. And he assembled a fine group of players like Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, John McIntire as the ship's crew. I particularly like the performance of Cecil Kellaway as the ship's cook who is both Barrymore's confidante and offers some sage advice to Widmark on the voyage.
Barrymore's chemistry with Stockwell is similar to what he had with Freddie Bartholomew and Mickey Rooney in Captains Courageous with Richard Widmark being at first a most reluctant Manuel. Young Stockwell gets quite an education on this whaling voyage and the viewers will get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?