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Moby Dick (1956)

 -  Adventure | Drama  -  27 June 1956 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 11,980 users  
Reviews: 111 user | 38 critic

The sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby Dick.

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(novel), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: Moby Dick (1956)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
The Manxman
Noel Purcell ...
Edric Connor ...
Mervyn Johns ...
Joseph Tomelty ...
Francis De Wolff ...
Philip Stainton ...
...
Seamus Kelly ...
Friedrich von Ledebur ...
Queequeg (as Friedrich Ledebur)
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Storyline

This classic story by Herman Melville revolves around Captain Ahab and his obsession with a huge whale, Moby Dick. The whale caused the loss of Ahab's leg years before, leaving Ahab to stomp the boards of his ship on a peg leg. Ahab is so crazed by his desire to kill the whale, that he is prepared to sacrifice everything, including his life, the lives of his crew members, and even his ship to find and destroy his nemesis, Moby Dick. Written by E.W. DesMarais <jlongst@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In all the world---in all the seas---in all adventure, there is no might like the might of [Moby Dick] See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 June 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Herman Melville's Moby Dick  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Over the years, John Huston and Gregory Peck, among others, have talked about how during filming on the Irish Sea, the company lost one - some say as many as three - rubber white whales; the assumption being that the special effects people built complete 60-foot leviathans from head to fin. However, cinematographer Oswald Morris, in his autobiography, "Huston, We Have a Problem," said that no full-length model whale was ever built. He claims the film company trolled the sea on the Pequod with a props barge nearby. The barge carried various parts of the whale's body (tailfins, hump, etc.), which were used as needed. The only complete whale bodies were different-sized miniatures that were filmed in a special tank designed by special-effects whiz Augie Lohman at Shepperton Studios. Likewise, all the shots of the whale's head were filmed indoors (as they couldn't make the jaws, eyes and other components work on the open sea). According to Morris, the "lost" whale was a 20-foot-high cylinder of the middle section which broke away from its tow line and floated away (he doesn't say if Peck was on board when the prop was lost), but he implies that it was the only whale "casualty" in the entire production. See more »

Goofs

During the scene when the masts and Ahab's harpoon are covered with St. Elmo's fire, the luminous phenomenon was shown as a green glow. Physically, St. Elmo's fire is a bright blue or violet glow, appearing like fire in some circumstances, from tall, sharply pointed structures, so the color of the phenomenon is incorrect. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ishmael: [voiceover] Call me Ishmael.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Gunshy (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Hill An' Gully Rider
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Edric Connor
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

There's Majesty For You!
14 July 1999 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

"We are all killers, on land and on sea," wrote Herman Melville more than 100 years ago. But the artistic failure of a recent television adaptation of his greatest work shows that some are killers, too, on screen. Movie makers. Butchers. Their guts are now gorged with Moby Dick.

"Majestic" raved "TV Guide" about USA Network's production of Melville's book. Reading that review I had a fantasy where Captain Ahab, with his sublime limp, walks into the magazine's office, shoves director John Huston's 1956 film of Moby Dick into the VCR, points to the screen and defiantly exclaims:

"There's majesty for you . . . "

. . . in the faces of men. Huston's film benefits from its intelligent casting of the seamen. The actors in the recent production are just pretty-boy imports from Los Angeles, rabble-rousers lacking the dignity that is gained from a lifetime of duty. But that dignity is plainly visible on the rugged faces of the men in the earlier film. One rarely sees that anymore.

. . . in the faces of women, too. The images of the women suffering as they watch their men go off to sea are utterly devastating, they hold so much emotional depth, so much beauty. The attention to detail in Huston's film is striking: the hairs on the chins of the old women, the tired, thick-skinned expressions of the wives and widows, the heavy shawls covering their heads.

. . . in the performances. Over 40 years ago when Orson Welles gave his performance as Father Mapple (a role which only a person with a special kind of magnificence could successfully take on), Gregory Peck might have been busily preparing for his role as Captain Ahab in the same film. What a testament to Peck's stature as one of our leading actors that throughout his career he could play not only Captain Ahab but also, in the recent production, Father Mapple.

. . . in the color. Huston's film is in Technicolor, a technique which produced colors not even seen in nature. The sky is now blue now red now green. The water is brown, pink, gray. Colors blend. Colors clash. By comparison, how banal the colors of our post-Technicolor world!

. . . in the mouth. The seamen have the exquisite mouths of pipe-smokers. The upper lip tight and stiff after so many hours pulled down in the puff.

. . . in the eyes. My favorite scene is where Peck as Captain Ahab famously proclaims: "Speak not to me of blasphemy. I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." The lighting, the acting, everything here is superb. The camera is focused tightly on Peck's face. The stark appearance of his eyes -- the tense, black irises all surrounded by gleaming white -- seems to reveal the subtext of the story. His eyes electrify!

John Huston's film says more in its two hours than USA Network's says in four; it suggests a lot and explains little, whereas the latter tries to explain a lot but says nothing. A great film, it doesn't butcher Melville's Moby Dick but adds to its power.


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