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I Cover the Waterfront (1933)

Approved | | Drama , Romance | 19 May 1933 (USA)
An investigative reporter romances a suspected smuggler's daughter.


James Cruze


Max Miller (book), Wells Root | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Ben Lyon ... H. Joseph 'Joe' Miller
Claudette Colbert ... Julie Kirk
Ernest Torrence ... Eli Kirk
Hobart Cavanaugh ... One Punch McCoy
Maurice Black Maurice Black ... Ortegus
Purnell Pratt ... John Phelps
Harry Beresford ... Old Chris
Wilfred Lucas ... Randall


Reporter Joe Miller is sure that fisherman Eli Kirk smuggles illegal Chinese immigrants into the country, but can't obtain enough evidence to satisfy his editor. Chance plays into his hands in the lovely form of Kirk's daughter, Julie, whom he catches swimming in the nude and pumps for information. But she's fiercely loyal to her dad, and may be too attractive for Joe's own good. Racy pre-Code sexual situations. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

19 May 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A la sombra de los muelles See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Edward Small Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »


The news items about a woman giving birth in a water taxi, and the Empress of Britain docking that Joe reports over the telephone to the reporter at the news desk, had already appeared in print under his byline in the newspaper shown in the preceding sequence. See more »


[first lines]
Joe Miller: [on the phone] Hello, Thelma, this is Miller. No, I don't want the desk. I want to talk to Phelps.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown as parts of a newspaper. See more »


Version of Secret of Deep Harbor (1961) See more »


Music by Johnny Green
Played during main title and quoted in the score
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Not Tonight, Josephine
11 April 2010 | by wes-connorsSee all my reviews

On the San Diego coast, hard-nosed reporter Ben Lyon (H. Joseph "Joe" Miller) suspects nasty seafaring Captain Ernest Torrence (as Eli Kirk) is part of a smuggling racket. Indeed, Mr. Torrence is cleverly shipping illegal Chinese immigrants to California. But, neither Mr. Lyon nor the local Coast Guard can catch him in the act. And, Lyon's editor wants him to cover stories like the report of a nude woman swimming in the ocean. Wearing only a bathing cap, but conveniently posed behind a large rock, the naked woman turns out to be beautiful Claudette Colbert (as Julie). When Lyon learns Ms. Colbert is Torrence's daughter, he decides a quick romance with the attractive Colbert might net him the proof he needs to bag the crook.

This story, while flawed in a couple of important ways, is full of clever touches. The opening credits are noticeably well-done, in a "newspaper" style, they explain "I Cover the Waterfront" will be about, "The unique and personal experiences of a newspaper reporter covering a Pacific waterfront." Lyons and Torrence contribute fine, dependable characterizations. Colbert isn't entirely believable as Torrence's salty daughter; but, this could have been fixed with some slight script revisions. For example, Colbert could have been reconnecting with her father, after a long absence. Still, Colbert looks great from any angle.

Director James Cruze handles his players marvelously, with the most delightful scene occurring when Lyon takes Colbert on a date to the torture chamber of the "Prison Ship Santa Madre" and engages in her some bondage. "I can take it!" says a satisfied Colbert. Not so successful is the moment when Lyon slits a shark open to reveal an immigrant inside, which defies credulity. Sly innuendo is provided by "One Punch" Hobart Cavanaugh (as McCoy), Lyon's drunken companion. When Lyon pokes him in bed, Mr. Cavanaugh sheepishly catchphrases, "Not tonight, Josephine!" (remember, Lyon's character is named "Joseph"). "Women are all alike," he says later, "When you need them most, they are conspicuous by their absence." Credit writers Max Miller, Wells Root, and Jack Jevne.

******* I Cover the Waterfront (5/19/33) James Cruze ~ Ben Lyon, Claudette Colbert, Ernest Torrence, Hobart Cavanaugh

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