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Two Years Before the Mast (1946)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 22 November 1946 (USA)
The playboy son of a wealthy shipping magnate discovers at first hand the desperate privations suffered by the crew of one of his fathers ships when he is unwillingly pressganged aboard.


John Farrow


Seton I. Miller (screenplay), George Bruce (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Alan Ladd ... Charles Stewart
Brian Donlevy ... Richard Henry Dana
William Bendix ... First Mate Amazeen
Barry Fitzgerald ... Terence O'Feenaghty
Howard Da Silva ... Captain Francis A. Thompson
Esther Fernández ... Maria Dominguez
Albert Dekker ... Brown
Luis Van Rooten Luis Van Rooten ... 2nd Mate Foster
Darryl Hickman ... Sam Hooper
Roman Bohnen ... Macklin
Ray Collins ... Gordon Stewart
Theodore Newton ... Hayes
Tom Powers ... Bellamer
James Burke ... Carrick
Frank Faylen ... Hansen


Charles Stewart, the "Pilgrim" owner's playboy son, finds himself shanghaied on his father's ship commanded by cruel Captain Thompson. When scurvy breaks out he leads a mutiny and is slapped in irons. Floggings and torture abound. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


All the Lassies Love this LADD See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


According to Howard Da Silva in Alan Ladd's biography, Ladd and William Bendix did not talk to each other although they were friends. Between the scenes every one went in separate ways. See more »


Captain Francis A. Thompson: Mr. Foster, remove his shirt.
2nd Mate Foster: Aye, aye, sir.
Charles Stewart: Never mind. I'll take it off.
See more »


Referenced in The Four Seasons (1981) See more »


Take Back the Heart
Written by Claribel (Charlotte Arlington Barnard) and Mrs. G.R. Gifford
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User Reviews

A fair movie about the mistreatment of seamen but NOT 'Two Years Before the Mast"
20 May 2017 | by robertguttmanSee all my reviews

This is a pretty fair movie about the mistreatment of seamen during the early 19th Century. However, it bears almost no resemblance to "Two Years Before the Mast". For a start, the credits say that the film is "based upon the novel by Richard Henry Dana". That, alone, is a pretty clear indication that nobody involved in the production of the movie had ever read the book because it was definitely NOT a novel. Dana was a college student at Harvard who took a sabbatical to ship out on a vessel belonging to the father of a friend of his in order to regain his health. The book was an account of his experiences, and it was NOT a work of fiction. There was no mutiny nor was anybody on board murdered. As a matter of fact, Dana did not even return on the ship started out on but on another ship that was homeward-bound, because the ship he sailed over on remained in California. Dana returned to Harvard, where he completed his studies and became a lawyer. During the course of his career he not only became an outspoken advocate not only for the rights of seamen, but for freedmen and fugitive slaves as well.

For the benefit of those who may wonder about the peculiar title, the term "before the mast" is an old term used on merchant ships to denotes sailing as a member of the crew, rather than as an officer or a passenger. The officers and passengers lived aft, in cabins. The crew lived up forward , not in cabins but in a single compartment that was originally called the "fore castle", but which was generally shortened to "focs'l". The "focs'l" was located at the forward end of the ship, forward of the masts, so that to sail "before the mast" was to be a seaman. Incidentally, although modern seamen live in individual staterooms, to this day many still refer to their stateroom as their "focs'l". Of course, none of the above applied to Navy ships, in which the officers lived in a "wardroom" and where there was no such thing as a "focs'l".

As a swashbuckling adventure movie "Two Years Before the Mast" compares favorably with others of that genre. However, those interested in the contents of Dana's book would be recommended not to take anything from this movie as representative of it.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

22 November 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Two Years Before the Mast See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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