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The Whales of August (1987)

Not Rated | | Drama | 19 August 1987 (France)
It's August. Like they have most summers, elderly widowed sisters Libby Strong and Sarah Webber, who live in Philadelphia, are staying together in the family's summer cottage on an island ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (play)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Joshua Brackett
Frank Grimes ...
Mr. Beckwith
Frank Pitkin ...
Old Randall
Mike Bush ...
Young Randall


It's August. Like they have most summers, elderly widowed sisters Libby Strong and Sarah Webber, who live in Philadelphia, are staying together in the family's summer cottage on an island off the coast of Maine. The cottage, which now belongs to Sarah, has been in their family most of their lives, it which was the family's summer getaway from Philadelphia when they were younger. There are a few people who have been half-century friends or acquaintances on the island, including the outspoken Tisha Doughty who is like a bossy third sister, and Joshua Brackett, who has long done any of the handy work around the cottage. Someone relatively new at least to Sarah's social circle is Mr. Maranov, a former Russian aristocrat for who chivalry is just a way of life. His stay on the island is however threatened when his landlady, Hilda Partridge, passes away. Sarah and Libby have come to the realization that they are in the respective twilight of their lives, largely regarding issues directly ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


You're never too old to see things anew. See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »


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Release Date:

19 August 1987 (France)  »

Also Known As:

As Baleias de Agosto  »

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(flashbacks)| (TVC)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Actress Tisha Sterling played a character, the young Tisha Doughty, who had the same first name as her own. See more »


When Libby takes her souvenirs box from the vanity drawer, she picks up the box with her right hand and closes the drawer with the left one. In the following shot she is holding the box with her left hand. See more »


Mr. Maranov: I have once again been set adrift.
Sarah Webber: Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Maranov.
Mr. Maranov: Oh, you needn't be, my dear. I have often been adrift - but I have always stayed afloat.
Sarah Webber: But all these years, what have you done?
Mr. Maranov: [pauses to reflect] I have spent my life... visiting friends.
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Featured in All About Bette (1994) See more »


Roses of Picardy
Music by Haydn Wood
Lyrics by Frederick Edward Weatherly
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User Reviews

The waning days of one last summer on the coast of Maine
18 May 2009 | by See all my reviews

This 1987 film is truly remarkable in its own small way. The film centers on a beautiful and simple story about the bonds of sisters, the disappointments of life, and the waning days of one last summer on the coast of Maine.

The legendary, and I mean LEGENDARY, Lillian Gish stars here at age 93 as Sarah. Having appeared in about 120 films over an incredible span of 75 years (1912-87), Gish goes about her business of being an actress with great dignity and skill. There are several quiet scenes in which she talks to old photographs as she cleans or fixes up her hair and makeup. She's truly enchanting.

The legendary Bette Davis doesn't fare quite as well playing the harsh Libby. Davis (post- stroke) is certainly easy to believe as the flinty sister who is blind and bitter. Davis was almost 80 here and had also racked up about 120 films, dating from 1931.

As Tisha, Ann Sothern (more than 100 films) earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination as the nosy, pushy friend who hasn't quite given up on life. Sothern started as a dancer in films in 1927 as a delicate blonde beauty. Vincent Price (almost 180 films from 1938) plays the charming drifter (and foreigner) who may be looking for a new place to live. And Harry Carey, Jr. (son of Harry Carey, a cowboy star in silent films) plays the fixit man who wants to install a picture window.

There's little action here as the sisters squabble about daily routines and long-ago events in their lives. Gish is ever hopeful while Davis is always mistrusting. The 4 stars work well together although the age differences are apparent. Davis uses her usual Boston voice; Sothern tries out a pretty good "down east" accent. Price plays a Russian émigré, and Gish speaks in her own voice.

The feeling of 50s Maine is just right. The house, perched on a small cliff looking out to sea, looks right. The island (this was filmed in Casco Bay) is gorgeous and captures the simplicity of old Maine just perfectly. The atmosphere is windy and overgrown and rocky. It's the Maine of my childhood.

This marks the final film appearance of Gish and Sothern. While Sothern was the only one to win an Oscar nomination, she, along with Gish and Price, won Independent Spirit nominations. What a pity that Gish did not win Oscar recognition for this role and for her astonishing longevity in film. Gish earned only one Oscar nomination (for DUEL IN THE SUN) and an honorary award in 1971.

Gish did win the best actress award from the National Board of Review.

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