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Moby Dick (1956)

Unrated | | Adventure, Drama | 3 October 1956 (Portugal)
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.

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Captain Ahab's descent into madness destroys everyone around him. This powerful character drew John Barrymore, Orson Wells and John Huston. This film has been called the best, most authentic version of Herman Melville's MOBY DICK.

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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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Moby Dick (1930)
Certificate: Passed Adventure | Drama
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In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp. Ashore in New Bedford, he ... See full summary »

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Stars: John Barrymore, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Hughes
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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The Manxman
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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:

From the immortal adventure classic...of whaling men, their ships, and the sea! See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

3 October 1956 (Portugal)  »

Also Known As:

Herman Melville's Moby Dick  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Richard Basehart's Ishmael is walking into the Youghal location of New Bedford in the opening scene, the first shot is from the top of Poweescourt waterfall, a mere 251 kms up the road! See more »

Goofs

The way the ship was moved away from the pier was incorrect. The crew is shown hauling a line from the pier. This would not make the ship move forward. To move a ship out of the harbor it is therefore necessary to provide something to pull against. A special anchor, called a kedging anchor, is carried as far from the ship as possible by the longboat and then dropped to the seabed. The remaining crew pull the ship out to it winding the line around the capstan or winch, and then it is hauled up and the process repeated as many times as necessary. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ishmael: [voiceover] Call me Ishmael.
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Soundtracks

We're All Bound To Go
(uncredited)
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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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