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Ship of Fools (1965)

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A varied group of passengers boarding a ship bound for post-war Germany represents a microcosm of 1930s society.



(novel), (screenplay)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Siegfried Rieber (as Jose Ferrer)
Pepe (as Jose Greco)
Karl Glocken
Capt. Thiele
Julius Lowenthal (as Heinz Ruehmann)
Frau Hutten
Amparo (as Barbara Luna)
Alf Kjellin ...
Lizzi Spoekenkieker


1933: An ocean liner belonging to a second-rate German company is making a twenty-six day voyage from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany. Along the way it will stop in Cuba to pick up a large group of Spanish farm laborers who are being shipped home and who will be housed like cattle in steerage. There it will also pick up La Condesa, a Spanish countess. It will stop in Tenerife, where the farm workers will disembark and where La Condesa will be sent to a German-run prison for her "traitorous" activities in Cuba. This voyage will be the last of three for the ship's doctor, Willi Schumann, who has a serious heart ailment and who thought he could find some meaning to his life through this job. Willi and La Condesa fall in love, with the ship's Captain Thiele, who is Willi's closest friend on board, believing the drug-addicted La Condesa is only using him to get her fixes. Willi and La Condesa have to figure out if there is a future for them after the voyage, as Willi's life also ... Written by Huggo

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Release Date:

October 1965 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Das Narrenschiff  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This was Vivien Leigh's final film before her death on July 8, 1967 at the age of 53. See more »


Although set in 1933, the hairstyles and costumes are decidedly mid-sixties. See more »


Jenny Brown: I think that David thinks a woman should follow three paces behind with slippers.
Mary Treadwell: Men usually do.
See more »


Referenced in Prince of the City (1981) See more »


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Written by Ernest Gold and Ned Washington
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User Reviews

Messy Soap Opera about Impossible Love, Prejudice and Other Things
30 January 2015 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In 1933, a German passenger vessel leaves Veracruz, Mexico to navigate to Cuba, Tenerife, Spain and Bremerhaven, Germany as final destination along twenty-six days. The Captain Thiele (Charles Korvin) is a good friend of the ship's doctor Wilhelm Schumann (Oskar Werner), who has a serious heart problem. The first-class passengers are the lonely American Mary Treadwell (Vivien Leigh); the bigoted Siegfried Rieber (Jose Ferrer) that woos the futile Lizzi Spoekenkieker (Christiane Schmidtmer); the rude American player Bill Tenny (Lee Marvin); the aspiring painter David (George Segal) and his girlfriend Jenny (Elizabeth Ashley) that financially supports him; the gypsy dancer Pepe (Jose Greco) and his troupe of prostitutes posing of dancers; the dwarf Karl Glocken (Michael Dunn); the Jew Julius Lowenthal (Heinz Ruehmann); the German Freytag (Alf Kjellin) that was married to a Jewish woman; and a weird couple that treats their dog as a son.

In Cuba, Spanish sugar farm laborers embark to travel to Tenerife and are left in steerage. La Condesa (Simone Signoret) also embarks accused of treachery and soon Dr. Schumann and she fall in love with each other. Along the journey, the best and the worst of each passenger is disclosed.

"Ship of Fools" is a messy soap opera about impossible love, prejudice and other things. The story has several senseless subplots, most of them boring or silly, basically trying to show the basis of the Nazi Party. The outstanding cast deserved a better screenplay. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "A Nau dos Insensatos" ("The Ship of the Unwise")

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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