After being fished out of the sea by a sailer, three fugitives find themselves prisoners of the ship's brutal skipper who refuses to put them ashore and they hatch an escape plan during a crew mutiny.


Michael Curtiz


Robert Rossen (screen play), Jack London (novel)
2,838 ( 16,207)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Edward G. Robinson ... 'Wolf' Larsen
Ida Lupino ... Ruth Brewster
John Garfield ... George Leach
Alexander Knox ... Humphrey Van Weyden
Gene Lockhart ... Dr. Louis Prescott
Barry Fitzgerald ... Cooky
Stanley Ridges ... Johnson
David Bruce ... Young Sailor
Francis McDonald ... Svenson
Howard Da Silva ... Harrison
Frank Lackteen ... Smoke


1900. Each coming into the situation under different circumstances, George Leach, Ruth Brewster, both who are trying to evade capture by the authorities, and writer Humphrey Van Weyden, from a refined background, somewhat reluctantly are on their first of the latest sailing of the Ghost, a sealing schooner, out of its home port of San Francisco. The Ghost is skippered with an iron fist by "Wolf" Larsen, who will not tolerate any question of his authority, and whose cruelty has turned his crew into a hardened lot. In that cruelty, he will often turn his adversaries against each other to his own end of that total control. While all three would like to get off, George and Ruth someplace other than San Francisco, they are being held somewhat captive by Wolf both in not interacting with any other ships and not making land until its ultimate return to San Francisco. Humphrey can see and discovers that Wolf is a mass of contradictions as the Ghost's true nature, which has to do with Wolf's ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Jack London's great novel of terror afloat. See more »


Adventure | Drama


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Did You Know?


This film's earliest documented telecasts took place in Columbus Friday 27 July 1956 on WTVN (Channel 6), in Tucson Thursday 2 August 1956 on KDWI (Channel 9), in Cincinnati Tuesday 7 August 1956 on WKRC (Channel 12), in Los Angeles Sunday 26 August 1956 on KTLA (Channel 5), in Salt Lake City Friday 14 September 1956 on KUTV (Channel 2), in Boston Tuesday 18 September 1956 on WBZ (Channel 4), in Portland OR Tuesday 20 November 1956 on KOIN (Channel 6), and in Phoenix Monday 26 November 1956 on KVAR (Channel 12). See more »


Actually, until the era of the 1st World War, the practice on-board a ship was to call orders for the helmsman to actually move the "tiller", either to port or to starboard. So calling "hard a-port" meant moving the tiller to port, which means the rudder, and the vessel, will then move to starboard. With wheel steering, putting the helm/tiller to port, means spinning the wheel to starboard. Ships no longer use this system - these days helm directions refer to the desired turn of the rudder/vessel. The James Cameron movie The Titanic also contained a similar scene, which generated a lot of puzzlement. It IS a bit confusing at first, unless one is a sailor and is familiar with tiller steering. See more »


Humphrey Van Weyden: What is you philosophy then Wolf?
'Wolf' Larsen: I held that life was a ferment, a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live, and that living was merely successful piggishness. Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins ...
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Alternate Versions

The film was cut by approximately 12 minutes down to less than 90 minutes for re-issue. The deleted footage consisted of little, but integral, moments throughout the story which added considerably to the quality of the film as a whole. For many years, the only known existing print of the original 99-minute theatrical version was a 16mm print which belonged to the film's star, John Garfield. However, Warner Brothers studio recently discovered a 35mm print of this original version at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It was subsequently restored and used for distribution on DVD and Blu Ray. See more »


Edited into The Sea Wolf (1993) See more »


Ma Blushin' Rosie
Music by John Stromberg
Lyrics by Edgar Smith
Played on piano and sung by Jeane Cowan in the bar
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User Reviews

Warner Bros. on All Eight
29 May 2008 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

The London classic has been filmed many times, but never better than here. It's Warner Bros. operating on all 8 cylinders, from casting, to directing, to art department and special effects. So who better to play the maniacal captain than Edward G, Robinson at his snarling prime, or the rebellious ex-con than John Garfield at his defiant prime, or the downtrodden girl than Ida Lupino at her soulful prime. Together they're a dynamite cast, and even the snobbish Alexander Knox manages his literary role in fairly sympathetic fashion. It's atmospheric the whole way with the aptly named Ghost slipping through one fog bank after another.

The Robert Rossen adaptation is less philosophical than others. Robinson's Wolf Larson acts more out of psychological compulsion than philosophical principle. His battle of wits with Knox's Humphrey van Weyden is more about Freudian ego than the merits of a Nietschean superman. Larson desires power to prove his own self and not to prove a larger point about ruthlessness and the struggle to survive. I suspect that had the movie been made a few years later, Hitlerian comparisons would have been drawn. Then too, when there's talk of the ship's "downtrodden" crew being freed at last, it's likely the leftish Rossen has more than a ship's crew in mind. Too bad that the commanding Howard deSilva doesn't have a larger role which would have made the outlaw ship even more hellish.

Note the informal wedding vows exchanged between Lupino and Garfield at movie's end. The lines are rather clumsy and out-of-step with the rest of the script. I suspect the censors required some such vows before the couple were allowed to live together on a deserted island after leaving the ship. Even though this seems a reach, I gather censorship concerns could indeed reach to such an implied level. Be that as it may, the Robinson performance is powerfully riveting and not to be missed. All in all, the movie remains a fine example of ensemble film-making and a tribute to Hollywood's old studio system.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

21 March 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sea Wolf See more »


Box Office


$1,013,217 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


(re-release) | (original) | (TCM print) (edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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